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The form of a word to which prefixes and suffixes are added to create new words. For example, instruct is the base for forming instruction, instructor, and reinstruct.

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Examples and Observations:

  • "In most situations the user of English has no problem at all recognizing prefixes, bases, and suffixes. For instance, in the sentence, 'They repainted the old car,' the complex word repainted obviously has three elements--a prefix, a base, and a suffix: re + paint + ed. The base paint is the word's semantic core, the starting place for describing what the word is being used to mean in a given utterance. The prefix and suffix add semantic content to that core, the prefix re adding the content 'again,' and the suffix ed adding 'in the past.'"
    (D. W. Cummings, American English Spelling. JHU Press, 1988)

  • "Another classic problem of morphology [is] the case of a complex word with a recognizable suffix or prefix, attached to a base that is not an existing word of the language. For example, among the -able words are words such as malleable and feasible. In both cases the suffix -able (spelled -ible in the second case because of a different historical origin for the suffix) has the regular meaning 'be able,' and in both cases the -ity form is possible (mealleability and feasibility). We have no reason to suspect that able/ible here is not the real suffix -able. Yet if it is, then malleable must be broken down as malle + able and feasible as feas + ible; but there are no existing words (free morphemes) in English such as malle or feas, or even malley or fease. We thus have to allow for the existence of a complex word whose base exists only in that complex word . . .."
    (A. Akmajian, R. A. Demers, A. K. Farmer, R. M. Harnish, Linguistics: An Introduction to Language and Communication. MIT, 2001)
Also Known As: root, stem
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