An ELT Glossary : Morphemes / Morphology

  • Definition : Morphology is the study of morphemes. A morpheme is a part of a word which has recognisable meaning, and which cannot be broken into smaller meaningful elements.

  • Example : The word unthinkable has three morphemes : un- meaning not; think; and able meaning can be done. 

  • Morphemes may be free (able to stand alone as with think and able) or bound (unable to stand alone as with un-)

  • Morphemes may have a number of variants, or allomorphs. For example, the negative morpheme un- may also be expressed in various other ways : in- ir- il- im- etc

Further reading 

McCarthy, M. 1990, Vocabulary, OUP

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