Assignment Two

Assignment Two is due Tuesday, Februrary 7, 2017.


Different parts of speech have different variant forms a word can take.

    Noun Singular Plural
      dog dogs
      box boxes
      apparatus ?apparatuses
    Adjective Positive Comparative Superlative
      tall taller tallest
      cheap cheaper cheapest
    Verb Non3rdsgpres 3rdsgpres past past part. present part.
      walk walks walked walked walking
      steal steals stole stolen stealing
      break breaks broke broken breaking

Forms like walk, walks, walked, walking are called the inflected forms of the word. Affixes like -s and -ed are called inflectional affixes. This kind of morphological combination is called inflectional morphology.

There are lots of other affixes that aren't inflectional affixes. For example, un- combines with happy to produce unhappy; un- is not an inflectional affix. The reason is productivity. Almost all nouns nouns have plural forms. Almost all adjectives have comparative forms. All verbs have present participle forms. But not all adjectives have un- forms. We don't say * unhot or * untall. In fact it's easier to come up with an adjective that isn't an un- adjective than it is to come up with one that is. When an affix combines with just about every member of some part of speech we call it productive.

All inflectional affixes have the following two properties: (a) they are very productive; and (b) they don't change the part of speech of a word. The inflectional forms of a verb are verbs. So when you learn how to make the inflectional forms of verbs in a language you've learned an important structural feature about of the language that applies to (just about) all verbs. The affix -ness changes adjectives into nouns (happy and happiness), so it's not an inflectional affix.

We call the affixes that aren't aren't inflectional derivational affixes. The affix -ness is a derivational affix. Just about every affix is derivational: un-, -ity, -tion, -able, and so on. Notice some are prefixes and some are suffixes.

  Adapted from: Bauer, Laurie (1983:20-21): English word-formation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Root and stem are terms used in the literature to designate that part of a word that remains when affixes have been removed, but the two terms involve different classes of affixes.

A root is a form which is not further analysable, either in terms of derivational or inflectional morphology. It is that part of word-form that remains when all inflectional and derivational affixes have been removed. A root is the basic part always present in a lexeme. In the form untouchables the root is touch, to which first the suffix -able, then the prefix ‘ un- and finally the suffix -s have been added. Since compounds are words formed by combining words into new words, they may have two roots. A compound word like wheelchair has two roots, wheel and chair.

The following diagram shows how the root of unfathomable is fathom, much as the root of untouchable is touch.

A stem is of concern only when dealing with inflectional morphology. A stem is what is left behind when the inflectional affixes are removed. In the form untouchables, the only inflectional affix is plural -s, and when that is remove, the stem left behind is untouchable. In the form touched the stem is touch; In the form wheelchairs the stem is wheelchair.


  1. For the following words, decompose them into their morphemes and indicate the root and the stem if it is different from the root.
    • desks
    • payments
    • bottled
    • tree
    • spiteful
    • realizes
    • optionality
  2. Malay Indonesian problem.
  3. Lakota problem.