Linguistics

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Write about "morphemes" in detail.

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Payal Khullar eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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A morpheme is a minimal linguistic unit that has a form as well as a function or some semantic basis (basically, a meaning). Let me explain this linguistic terminology. Traditionally, it was thought that “words” were the smallest structural and functional units of any language. But it was soon realized that even words could be broken up further into meaningful parts. And these parts into which words could be further broken down were called morphemes (Just to add, the study of internal structure of words or morphemes is called morphology).

To have a better understanding of morphemes, we will have to examine some words (well, linguistics is less theory and more field work!). For our purpose words like- “boys”, “finished”, “going”, “normally” and “capitalization” will be of good help. Although at first it looks like these words are single units, a careful observation will reveal a different picture.

The word “boys” = boy + -s

So the word “boys” has 2 morphemes, i.e. boy and -s

In this case, “boy” is a lexical item with a clear meaning that we all know. It falls under the grammatical category of noun. The second morpheme, i.e. –s also has a meaning. Any native speaker of English will easily tell you that –s is a plural marker or, in simple words, has a function of making singular nouns into plural.

Note that the two linguistic items (boy and -s) cannot be further broken down (smallest units) and have a function or meaning associated with them. So they are called as morphemes.

Similarly,

Finished= finish + -ed

(The entire section contains 525 words.)

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