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Other Morphemes

November 4th, 2020 by

The morphemes we have looked at so far are called bound morphemes because they have to be bound to a word.  Other bound morphenes are ‘-ing’ and a plethora of prefixes, ‘in-,’ ‘im-,’ ‘un-,’ ‘extra-,’ ‘non-,’ and so that change the meaning of the word they are attached to.  “Credible” becomes “incredible,” “possible” becomes “impossible,” “likely” becomes “unlikely,” “special” becomes “extraspecial,” and “conforming” becomes “nonconforming.”

The words to which they are attached can be morphemes themselves or consist of other morphemes. “Possible” is a morpheme because you can’t break it down further.  However, “likely” consists of “like” and “-ly,” turing the original word into an adverb. “Conforming” is “conform” with an added “-ing.”

In most cases, there is no reason to break the words down in to morphemes. It is useful with “add an ‘s’” because, psychologically, the sound(s) have a meaning to us. We will see how the surrounding sounds influence the phoneme that is used for the plural morpheme and the third person singular.

Now we will learn the tools we need to understand how sounds are made and how they influence each other.

Simple Past “-ed” Morpheme

November 4th, 2020 by

Just as you “add an ‘s’” to form the plural and third person singular, you “add an ‘-ed’” to form the simple past So,

  1. “hate” => “hated”
  2. “love” => “loved”
  3. “walk” => “walked”
  4. “send” => “sent”

As with adding an ‘s,’ if you listen we are not adding the same sound.  “Hate” becomes ‘hate’ – [ə] – ‘d,’ “love” becomes ‘love’ – ‘d,’ and “walk” becomes ‘walk’ – ‘t.’

It’s easy enough to hear the ‘t’ in #4, because it is reflected in the spelling.  But, the vowel sound changes too, so at first hearing it might seem like and irregular verb, but it’s not. The change is entirely predictable

As with the “add an s” morpheme, native speakers of English don’t even hear that they are different sounds, they hear that the word is being changed into the simple past tense.

Plural and Third Person Singular Morphemes

November 4th, 2020 by

If I ask you right now, “how do you from a plural in English?” You’re first thought will be, “this much be a trick question.”

That’s because there are a few words in English, like “ox” that form a plural in odd ways. The plural of “ox” is “oxen.”  I am not trying to trick you, though, so, if I ask, how do you form the plural of a brand-new word in English, say ‘blort?” you would most probably answer “add an ‘s,’” which would be correct.  Sort of.  The plural of ‘blort’ would be ‘blorts.”

But, what about the word, “blord?” Of course, we would do the same, the plural would be “blords,’ when we spell it, but not when we say it.  Let’s listen to two familiar words first, then get back to blort, and blord.  Consider the words, “cat” and “dog.”  The plural of “cat” is “cats” and the plural of “dog” is “dogs,” when you write them, but when you say them, the plural of “cat” is “cats” and the plural of “dog” is “dogz.”

I often hear people that are learning English say “dogs” instead of “dogz.” English speaker might have gone their whole life and never noticed that they were using different sounds. In both cases they are adding an abstract sound that mades the nouns plural, and we call that abstract sound the plural morpheme.

The plural morpheme has another form.  When a word ends with an ‘s’ or ‘z’ sound, there needs to be a short ‘uh’ sound between the ‘s’ or ‘z’ and the ‘z’ sound. An example is  the word “kiss.” The plurals is “kisses” and if you say it out loud it sounds like ‘kiss-UH-z.’  The ‘uh’ sound is the most common sound in English. It’s called a schwa and we will be seeing it a lot. The IPA symbol we use to represent it is looks like an upsidedown ‘e’ [ə]. 

In English, the third person singlular is formed the same way as the plural, by “adding an ‘s.’” The same sound patterns apply.

The patterns are completely predictable and native speakers usually don’t even hear the difference unless it is pointed out.  The sounds they hear added change the meaning of the word to which they are added to a plural, or to a third person singular.

After we have learned a bit more about sounds, I will teach you what the sound patterns are.