IA901 2012 Session Three. Neologisms and word class Morphology : the study of word structure Morphology and phonology. A word about your assignment. TUTORIALS Please email me to book a tutorial when you have chosen an essay question (but don’t rush your essay choice).
When reading texts on this module, ask yourself:
Discuss what you read!
Which parts of the chapter on Morphology are most relevant to you as a teacher?
In 90 seconds, list as many words as you can think of which contain the three letters C-A-T together.
Now tick the words on your list that are related in meaning to
And what about: catlike, catfish, catnap, catnip, catwalk
Or: cat’s eyes, cat food, catkin, cat-o-nine-tails
Or even: a game of cat and mouse
Do the hyphens in cat-o-nine-tails make it just one word?
Some people might write “cat food” as two words, some as one? Who’s right?
In spoken English, in the statement “we’ve run out of cat food”, will we hear a boundary between “cat” and “food”? What about when “cat food” appears in an exchange like “No, not dog food. I need cat food!”? Should this affect its status?
Would it help a learner to think of “a game of cat and mouse” as one word?
What do you think of Katamba’s definition of a word as “the smallest unit that syntax manipulates”?
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.
That a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife is a universally acknowledged truth.
It is a truth lysaluniverseacdknowledge, that a single man in possioness of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.
It is a truth d universe acknowledge al, that a single man in ion possess of a good fortune must be in ly want of a wife.
Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
Pinker, S. (1999) Words and Rules : The Ingredients of Language. Phoenix, pp.24-51
Morphemes can be FREE or BOUND
CATS – 2 morphemes (morphs)
cat = FREE s = BOUND
Here’s something interesting (maybe):
fox, dog, sheep – 3 FREE MORPHEMES
But consider the plural forms:
2 foxes, 2 dogs, 2 sheep
-es and -s in foxes and dogs are BOUND MORPHEMES. They both denote that these are plural nouns. –es and –s are therefore ALLOMORPHS.
Is it helpful to think of the plural form of SHEEP having a ZERO MORPH?
-s and –es have SIMPLE EXPONENCE at the end of nouns. The morph realises a single morpho-syntactic feature (plural)
But consider the following:
-s in The fox wants to eat the sheep. The dog wants to protect the sheep. The sheep wants everyone to leave it alone.
What features are realised by –s in this examples?
The –s has CUMULATIVE EXPONENCE. It realises THREE features…what are they?
(third person, present tense, singular)
internal change (apophony)
How are the mophs –s and –es pronounced?
Scott Thornbury (2005) Unovering Grammar : How to Help Grammar Emerge. MacMillan, p.18
One researcher, for example, found that learners pass through a stage when they tend to attach the ending –ing to action verbs, irrespective of tense. They seem to be using –ingsimply to mark the presence of a verb: I going work by bus; I eating every day Burger King, etc. Clumsy as this may seem, it marks an important step from using purely lexical means to using more grammatical ones. At first the -ingending is applied indiscriminately to all verbs. But over time, the learners in the study started to restrict the use of –ing to certain contexts, and mainly as a marker of ‘pastness’: Yesterday I no working. Other favoured contexts for –ing were in subordinate clauses (He the man who I talking him) and verbal complements, ie constructions where one verb follows another, egI want working and I can doing any job.
Why –ing? The researcher hypothesized that, of all the possible word endings in English, -ingis the most easily identified: it is a whole syllable and it is phonetically simple and regular. As grammaring processes start to emerge, -ing is a convenient tool for flagging ‘verbiness’, or, more specifically, ‘action’. At first, all verbs are flagged. Then the learner starts to discriminate between varying degrees of distance: present and past. The later use of –ing in the more relatively specialised contexts of pastness, subordinate clauses and verbal complements suggests learners are aware of the more grammaticized nature of these contexts and nee dto flag them accordingly. Not yet aware of how these specialized meanings are signalled, they use the all purpose –ing, as if to say “here be grammar”.
In morphology, we can work out the meaning of words we haven’t met before. However, we need to be careful. What’s the meaning of the following words:
- Seeker, writer, driver, cooker, looker?
Noncompositional words are therefore problematic. Consider the unfortunate wording of this sign in a Chinese hotel:
Because conversion is common in English (nouns become verbs and vice versa), syntactic make-up may not reflect syntactic category, e.g. hoover, upmarket
Below are examples from essays by international students in response to a question about the differences between choosing a subject for undergraduate study, and choosing a subject for postgraduate study:
For Pinker, there is no correct answer – “how people pluralize an expression depends on how they tacitly analyse it: as a word or as a phrase”
Can phonology help us to explain the morphological features of English at work in these examples?
How can we classify the morphemes from which these words are formed? How helpful is this classification?