What is morphology? Classify the morphemes in detail.

What is morphology? Classify the morphemes in detail.

Morphology is the study of the internal structure of words and is a key part of linguistic studies today. The term morphology is a Greek word. It means a make-up of morph that means shape or form, and -ology which means the study of something. As a sub-discipline of linguistics, the term morphology was named for the first time in 1859 by the German linguist August Schleicher who applied this term to the study of the form of words. 

Inevitable concept of morpheme

A morpheme that is a short segment of language meets three basic criteria: 

  1. It is a word or a part of a word that has meaning. 
  2. It cannot be divided into small meaningful parts without changing its meaning or leaving meaningless residue. 
  3. It has a relatively stable meaning in different oral environments.

Classification of morphemes 

There are two types of morpheme-free morphemes and bound morphemes. “Free morphemes” can stand alone with a certain meaning, for example, do, eat, date, weak. “bound morphemes” cannot stand alone with the meaning. Morphemes are two separate classes or parts which consist of bases or roots and affixes.

The base or root 

A “base,” or “root” is a morpheme within a word that gives the word its original meaning. An example of a “freebase” morpheme is “man” in the word “manly”. An example of a “bound base” morpheme is “al” in the word “national”. 


An “affix” is a bound morpheme that occurs before or after a base or root. An affix that comes before a base is called a “prefix.” Some examples of prefixes are ante-, pre-, un-, and dis-, as in the following words: 

  • antedate
  • prehistoric
  • unhealthy
  • disregard

An affix that comes after a base is called a “suffix.” Some examples of suffixes are -ly, -er, -ism, and -ness, as in the following words: 

  • happily
  • gardener
  • capitalism
  • kindness

Derivational Affixes 

An affix can be either derivational or inflectional. “Derivational affixes” serve to alter the meaning of a word by building on a base. For example, if we add the prefix “un” to the word “healthy”, the meaning of the word will be completely changed. The resulting word means “not healthy.” The addition of the suffix -er to garden changes the meaning of garden, which is a place where plants, flowers, etc., grow, to a word that refers to a person who tends a garden. It should be noted that all prefixes in English are derivational. However, suffixes may be either derivational or inflectional. 

Inflectional Affixes 

There are a large number of derivational affixes in English. In contrast, there are only eight “inflectional affixes” in English, and these are all suffixes. English has the following inflectional suffixes, which serve a variety of grammatical functions when added to specific types of words. For example: 

  • To change a noun from singular to plural inflectional affix – ( s ) is added: Book to Books. 
  • Similarly ( ‘s ) for noun possessive: Rahim to Rahim’s 
  • ( s ) for verb present tense third person singular. 
  • ( ing ) for verb present participle/gerund. 
  • ( ed ) for verb simple past tense. 
  • ( en ) for verb past perfect participle. 
  • ( er ) for adjective comparative and 
  • ( est ) for the adjective superlative. 


Allomorphs are variants of a morpheme that differ in pronunciation but are semantically identical. For example, the English plural marker -(e)s of regular nouns can be pronounced /-s/ (bats), /-z/, (bugs), or /-ɪz, -əz/, (buses), depending on the final sound of the noun’s plural form. 

Final words

The clear concept of morphemes is inevitable for the creativity of language learning and is highly decorative for language acquisition. 

Read More: Discuss the relationship between language and culture.

Mr. Abdullah
Mr. Abdullah

Mr. Abdullah is a passionate love of Literature. Researcher and Lecturer of English Literature and Language.

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