In this session Mr Gibbon was back to talk about morphology.
We were told that English words consist of a stem plus an inflection. On the one hand a stem carries lexical meaning, on the other hand an inflection has grammatical meaning and relates a word to its syntactic and semantic contexts.
Further we took a closer look at inflexions. In the English language suffixes or stem vowel changes are used to adapt a word to person, number or case. Other languages contain prefixes (e.g. many African languages), circumfixes (e.g. German) or superfixes.
Basically there are two kinds of stems to be considered: the simple and the complex variant. The simple one means that the stem is just a root (lexical morpheme). The complex version has three main forms: derivations (a stem plus a derivational affix; e.g. beauty + ful = beautiful), compounds (a stem plus another stem; e.g. foot + ball = football) or both. These constructs are called synthetic compounds (a derivation plus a stem; e.g. steam(stem) + roller (derivation) = steam-roller).
In the course of the session Mr Gibbon introduced the three different kinds of compounds to us:
- endocentric compound: consists of a head which carries the biggest part of the semantic meaning and determines the grammatical category of the compound plus a specifying word; e.g. armchair (chair is the head and arm the specifier)
- bicentric compound: there is no head, both parts are equal; e.g. whisky-soda
- exocentric compound (also called bahuvrihi): refers to something that is not specified by any of its parts by themselves; e.g. redskin (the term does not refer to a red skin but to an Indian)
Mr Gibbon explained that roots and affixes are morphemes. Morphemes are defined as the smallest meaningful parts of words. They can be divided in two main types. Lexical morphemes (content morphemes, roots) are an open set including free words like boy, girl, man, etc. Grammatical morphemes (structural morphemes) are a closed set and either free (prepositions, conjunctions, auxiliary verbs) or bound (affixes in word formation and inflection).
Finally we talked about allomorphs. Allomorphs means that one morpheme is realized in different variants. As an example we chose the plural morpheme of nouns. In this case the same morpheme can be realized for example with an -s (e.g. dog -> dogs) or -en (ox -> oxen) or a stem vowel change (man -> men).