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Flashcards in Morphology Deck (30)
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A non-distinctive variant of a morpheme, e.g. -keit and -heit in German (Heiterkeit, Schönheit) which vary according to the final consonant of the base to which they are suffixed but share the same grammatical function of nominal derivation.



A grammatical word — or affix — used to specify a noun as definite or indefinite. It may vary for gender and case in languages with gender distinctions and a formal case system such as German.



In a general sense any form which cannot occur on its own. Both lexical and grammatical morphemes may be bound, but the number of the former is very limited, e.g. the first part of raspberry in English which does not occur independently.



An inflection which indicates the relationship of a noun to other elements in a sentence, e.g. the dative in German which broadly indicates the beneficiary of an action: Sie hat ihm versprochen, nach Hause zu kommen. There are, however, many instances in which case requirements are not semantically motivated, e.g. gratulieren, imponieren with the dative as opposed to beglückwünschen, beeindrucken with the accusative.


closed class

A term which refers to any linguistic level whose elements form a relatively small number which is not altered by the individual speaker. For instance phonemes, grammatical morphemes and syntactic structures are a closed set but the lexicon is definitely an open class as it is continuously expanding.



A term which refers to the inflections of nouns, pronouns, adjectives, i.e. of nouns and the elements which can qualify them. The set of inflections is called a nominal paradigm. The term declension can also be used for classes of nouns which conform to a certain paradigm. It is the equivalent with nouns of the term conjugation with verbs.


definite article

A grammatical word which marks a following noun for definiteness. Not every language has such an element, though it is more common for the indefinite article to be missing. Languages furthermore vary according to whether they demand the definite article when nouns are used generically. This is a major difference between English and German, cf. He is interested in philosophy. Er interessiert sich für die Philosophie.



A relational specification which is found with adjectives and adverbs. There are three degrees: 1) positive as in small, 2) comparative as in smaller and 3) superlative as in smallest.


empty morph

In some morphological analyses, an element which is posited as the carrier of a grammatical category but not present on the surface, for instance the word sheep could be said to contain an empty plural morph: sheep + Ø.


function word

A word which serves the purpose of indicating a grammatical category or relationship. It contrasts explicitly with a content word which has lexical meaning.



An alteration made to a word to indicate a certain grammatical category, e.g. number and case with nouns or person, number and tense with verbs. The number of inflections in a language can be taken as an indication of its type, a large number being characteristic of synthetic languages. Diachronically inflections arise from clitics which become unseparable from the lexical bases to which they are attached.



A form which can be regarded as an exception to a given pattern or rule, e.g. the plurals formed with a stem vowel change in Modern English, man : men, tooth : teeth.



Any item of language which cannot be broken down any further without a loss of meaning. A morph usually realises a morpheme, the unit of grammar on an abstract level, e.g. /ʌn/ in undoable but also /ɪm/ in impossible.



The smallest unit in a grammar which can contrast with another and which carries meaning. A morpheme can be an inflection, e.g. /ri:-/ in rewrite or a lexical word, house, tree, sick. A morpheme is an abstract unit and is realised by a morph; it is the approximate equivalent of a phoneme on the level of phonology.



The level of linguistics which is concerned with the structure of words, both from the point of view of inflections and of word-formation. It is traditionally located between phonology (the level of sounds) and syntax (the level of sentences).



One of the major parts of speech which refers to objects in the non-linguistic world or to notions which are regarded as forming entities parallel to real-world objects, e.g. by showing the property of countability.



A grammatical category which refers to quantity, usually along a binary axis, singular vs. plural, although some languages have other number distinctions involving a dual or a paucal category (referring to a few items).



A grammatical distinction which applies to the speaker, addressee or person talked about in verbal systems. Normally there is a distinction between singular and plural as well. There are more distinctions available than just those found in European languages, for instance languages may distinguish between a personal form for 'we' which includes the addressee and one which does not.


personal pronoun

A grammatical form which refers to the speaker, addressee or person talked about and which occupies a position immediately next to the verb. In discourse it is used to avoid repetition of a name which has already been mentioned.



A category in the grammar of all languages which refers to more than one object. All languages have a particular means for expressing this category, frequently by using a characteristic inflection.



A grammatical element which refers to a noun previously mentioned; as such it has a deictic or anaphoric function as in The lecturer was here and he spoke to us on a special topic.



A grammatical category which indicates a single occurrence of something. This is taken as the unmarked or normal instance in language, the plural, or even more so the dual, being marked forms, usually with special inflections characterising them.



A part of a word to which prefixes and/or suffixes can be added. It is normally unalterable, though some morphological processes, such as umlaut in German, may change it. It is usually used synonymously with root.



Any element attached to the right- hand side of a stem. Suffixation in one of the major operations in morphology and is undertaken to indicate grammatical categories as in stone : stone-s where the -s is a plural marker suffix.



A form in a paradigm (a set of morphologically related elements, such as the forms of a verb or noun) which etymologically comes from another source, e.g. the past tense form went in English is not formally related to the verb go.



One of the two major lexical categories — the other is that of nouns — which is used to express a state or an action. The set of inflectional forms of a verb is termed a conjugation (parallel to declension with nouns). Verbs are usually distinguished for person and number along with tense and mood and frequently for aspect as well.


word class

A group of words which are similar in their grammatical characteristics: the kinds of inflections they take, their distribution in sentences and the relations they enter with other sets of words. Typically word classes are nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions.



A general term for a morphological form which is internally stable, can stand on its own and which in principle can be moved to a new position in a sentence. In a synthetic language like German inflected words tend to be morphologically complex whereas in an analytic language like English these are usually simpler in structure.


zero derivation

The transfer of an element of one word class into another without any formal alteration. This is particularly common in English today, e.g. breakfast (noun) > to breakfast (verb). Another name for this phenomenon is conversion.



the study of the words as they express grammatical categories.