What is Morphology in Linguistics?

What Is Morphology?

Morphology, in linguistics, is the study of words construction. How new words are formed? What is their relationship to other words in the same language? Morphology analyses the internal structure of words and morphemes, such as stems, root words, and affixes.

Morphemes are the minimal units of words that cannot be subdivided further. There are two types of morpheme: free morpheme and bound morpheme. Free morphemes can stand alone as a meaningful unit while bound morphemes cannot stand alone as a meaningful unit but they must occur with another morpheme to produce meaning.

 An example of a free morpheme is “quick”, and an example of a bound morpheme is “ly.” Free morpheme ‘quick’ has meaning but bound morpheme ‘ly’ has no meaning as a single unit, but when it occurs with another morpheme like quick+ly it become meaningful.

Morphology Deals with Word Formation

There are many ways to form new words such as coinage, compounding, blending, borrowing, abbreviation, backformation, and eponym. Compounds are a combination of two of more words e.g. ice-cream; back-formations are created from removing what is mistakenly considered to be an affix, abbreviations or clippings are shortening of longer words into a shot word e.g. Dr for doctor. Acronyms are derived from the initials of words or phrase e.g. NATO. Eponyms are created from names or any proper nouns, and blending is combining different parts of  different words to make a one word e.g. smoke+fog=smog

Example of Word Formation Processes

  • Compounding: ink+pot= ink-pot
  • Blending: smog from smoke and fog
  • Acronym: CD from compact disk
  • Borrowing: Sofa from Arabic language
  • Back-formation: edit from editor
  • Abbreviation: Mr from mister
  • Eponym: sandwich from Earl of Sandwich