Naturally, everything that can be seen has a form, otherwise its shape. Similarly, words have forms. For example, you’ll agree with me that “house help” and “beautiful” are both words in English but with different forms.
While “house help” is a combination of two individual words, “beautiful” combines “beauty” and “ful” to form an adjective. A careful observation will show you that both words were formed through different processes. This is basically what we do when we talk about morphology.What then is Morphology?
Morphology as a word has two parts which are “morph” which means shape or form and”logy” which means study. Therefore, morphology is the study of the form/shape of words.
It also studies the process involved in word formation. When we form words, how do we go about it? This is what morphology looks at. This article will look at key concepts in morphology and also examine the word formation processes.
MORPHEME, MORPH AND ALLOMORPH
Take a look at the word unbreakable. You’ll observe that the word can be separated into segments which are UN-BREAK-ABLE. Unfaithfulness also has different segments that can be represented as UN-FAITH-FUL-NESS. Teachers has three segments which are TEACH-ER-S. These segments of the word are what we call MORPHEMES. By definition, a morpheme is the smallest linguistic unit within a word that can carry a meaning, such as “un-“, “break” and “-able” in the word unbreakable.
A Morph is defined as the physical or phonological representation of morphemes. Syntactically, a Morph is the distinctive sound segment a morpheme takes that is recurrent. For example, drinks (drink+s) and laughs (laugh+s) have something similar in common and that is the recurrent “s” that can be physically represented as /s/ as in /la:fs/ for LAUGHS. That is amorph.
In certain textbooks,morphs are usually interchanged with allomorph but I will draw a slightly variant definition in this article. Also, I will define allomorph from two broad perspectives: Form (Morphology) and Sound (phonology)
In terms of form, allomorph can be seen as the different appearance of the same set of a morpheme. That is, same morpheme or function appearing in different forms. Let me explain. Generally, we know that the plural form of a noun is that noun+s (as in Book+s giving us BOOKS).
However, there are situations where we can still have a plural noun but without -S. Example: houseS, oxEN and SHEEP are nouns in their plural forms. –s in houses, –en in oxen and the zero plural in sheep are all allomorphs of the same plural noun. That is House+S, Ox+S and Sheep+S.
We also have this allomorphic variation in verb tenses and aspects. Grammatically, the past tense and past participle forms of the verb are formed by the addition of ED as we have in kill+ed giving us killed. However, there are some verbs called irregular verbs and they change form or even remain the same to show tense and aspect. Example is TAKE-TOOK-TAKEN/SING-SANG-SUNG. These verbs, morphologically, are written as TAKE+ED and SING+ED.