1. Education
Send to a Friend via Email




The Grammar of Words: An Introduction to Linguistic Morphology, 2nd ed., by Geert E. Booij (Oxford University Press, 2007)


The branch of linguistics (and one of the major components of grammar) that studies word structures, especially in terms of morphemes. Adjective: morphological.

Traditionally, a basic distinction has been made between morphology (which is primarily concerned with the internal structures of words) and syntax (which is primarily concerned with the ways in which words are put together in sentences). In recent decades, however, numerous linguists have challenged this distinction. See, for example, lexicogrammar and lexical-functional grammar (LFG).

The two main branches of morphology are discussed in Examples and Observations, below.

See also:


From the Greek, "shape, form"

Examples and Observations:

  • "The term 'morphology' has been taken over from biology where it is used to denote the study of the forms of plants and animals. . . . It was first used for linguistic purposes in 1859 by the German linguist August Schleicher (Salmon 2000), to refer to the study of the form of words. In present-day linguistics, the term 'morphology' refers to the study of the internal structure of words, and of the systematic form-meaning correspondences between words. . . .

    "The notion 'systematic' in the definition of morphology given above is important. For instance, we might observe a form difference and a corresponding meaning difference between the English noun ear and the verb hear. However, this pattern is not systematic: there are no similar word pairs, and we cannot form new English verbs by adding h- to a noun."
    (Geert E. Booij, The Grammar of Words: An Introduction to Linguistic Morphology, 2nd ed., Oxford University Press, 2007)

  • The Aims of Morphology
    "Morphology is an essential subfield of linguistics. Generally, it aims to describe the structures of words and patterns of word formation in a language. Specifically, it aims to (i) pin down the principles for relating the form and meaning of morphological expressions, (ii) explain how the morphological units are integrated and the resulting formations interpreted, and (iii) show how morphological units are organized in the lexicon in terms of affinity and contrast. The study of morphology uncovers the lexical resources of language, helps speakers to acquire the skills of using them creatively, and consequently express their thoughts and emotions with eloquence."
    (Zeki Hamawand, Morphology in English: Word Formation in Cognitive Grammar. Continuum, 2011)

  • Two Branches of Morphology
    - "For English, [morphology] means devising ways of describing the properties of such disparate items as a, horse, took, indescribable, washing machine, and antidisestablishmentarianism. A widely recognized approach divides the field into two domains: lexical or derivational morphology studies the way in which new items of vocabulary can be built up out of combinations of elements (as in the case of in-describ-able); inflectional morphology studies the ways words vary in their form in order to express a grammatical contrast (as in the case of horses, where the ending marks plurality)."
    (David Crystal, The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language, 2nd ed. Cambridge Univ. Press, 2003)

    - "The distinction between words and lexemes provides the basis for the division of morphology into two branches: inflectional morphology and lexical word-formation.

    "Inflectional morphology deals with the inflectional forms of various lexemes. It has something of the character of an appendix to the syntax, the major component of the grammar. Syntax tells us when a lexeme may or must carry a certain inflectional property, while inflectional morphology tells us what form it takes when it carries that inflectional property.

    "Lexical word-formation, by contrast, is related to the dictionary. It describes the processes by which new lexical bases are formed and the structure of complex lexical bases, those composed of more than one morphological element. The traditional term is simply 'word-formation.'"
    (Rodney Huddleston and Geoffrey K. Pullum, The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. Cambridge Univ. Press, 2002)
Pronunciation: mor-FAWL-eh-gee
Also Known As: accidence
  1. About.com
  2. Education
  3. Grammar & Composition
  4. Grammar & Rhetoric Glossary
  5. Main Clause - Oxymoron
  6. morphology - definition and examples of morphology

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.