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What is Morphology? 2nd ed., by Mark Aronoff and Kirsten Fudeman (Wiley-Blackwell, 2011)


In linguistics, a word segment that represents one morpheme in sound or writing. For example, the word infamous is made up of three morphs--in-, fam(e), -eous--each of which represents one morpheme.

While a morpheme is an abstract unit of meaning, a morph is a formal unit with a physical shape.

See also:


From the Greek, "form, shape"

Examples and Observations:

  • The Difference Between Morpheme and Morph
    "The basic unit of grammatical meaning is the morpheme. . . . The unit of grammatical form which realizes a morpheme is called a morph. Generally speaking, the difference between the unit of meaning and the unit of form is theoretical and academic, as in most cases a morpheme is realized by only one morph. Thus, for example, the morpheme meaning table is represented by just one morphological form, the morph table, and the morpheme meaning difficult is realized by only the morph difficult. But in some instances the distinction between morpheme and morph is demonstrably real, that is to say where a single morpheme has several possible morph realisations, depending on the word context. For example, the morpheme meaning 'negative forming' is evidenced in adjectives by the morphs un as in unclear, in - inadequate, im - immoral, il - illegal, ig - ignoble, ir - irregular, non - non-existent, dis - dishonest."
    (George David Morley, Syntax in Functional Grammar: An Introduction to Lexicogrammar in Systemic Linguistics. Continuum, 2000)

  • "The term 'morph' is sometimes used to refer specifically to the phonological realization of a morpheme. For example, the English past tense morpheme that we spell -ed has various morphs. It is realized as [t] after the voiceless [p] of jump (cf. jumped), as [d] after the voiced [l] of repel (cf. repelled), and as [əd] after the voiceless [t] of root or the voiced [d] of wed (cf. rooted and wedded). We can also call these morphs allomorphs or variants. The appearance of one morph over another in this case is determined by voicing and the place of articulation of the final consonant of the verb stem."
    (Mark Aronoff and Kirsten Fudeman, What is Morphology? 2nd ed. Wiley-Blackwell, 2011)

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