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English Inflectional Morphemes

English Inflectional Morphemes

admin / January 30, 2019

Inflectional system of English is regarded as quite “poor” since it has quite “little inflectional morphology” as compared to other languages (Denham & Lobeck 158). Thus, there are only eight inflectional morphemes which show whether a word has the plural, comparative or possessive form, and whether it is a past or present tense. These inflectional morphemes are:

-s – is an indicator of a plural form of nouns

-s’ – marks the possessive form of nouns

-s – is attached to verbs in third person singular

-ed – is an indicator of the past tense of verbs

-ing – indicates present participle

-en – marks past participle

-er – is attached to adjectives to indicate comparative form

-est – is an indicator of superlative form of adjectives/

It is worth mentioning that inflectional morphemes do not create new words, they only change the form of a word indicating “grammatical function” of a word (Denham & Lobeck 69). Thus, certain morphemes serve their certain purpose to create specific forms of the word. Due to the peculiarities of the English language morphemes indicating plural form and past tense form can vary in pronunciations. So, some morphemes can have several allomorphs.

For instance, the choice of allomorph may depend on phonetic or grammatical conditions (Brinton & Brinton 91). Phonetically determined allomorphs are indicators of plural forms and present tense form [s], [z], [iz], and indicators of past tense form [t] and [d].

For example, when a word ends in a voiceless consonant or a fricative (cat, map) the speaker should choose allomorph [s], whereas for words ending in voiced consonants or vowels it is necessary to use allomorph [z], in case a word ends in affricate allomorph [iz] should be used.

As for grammatically conditioned allomorphs some of them are: fish, sheep, mice, children, oxen, criteria, stimuli. They are formed by not productive endings which are “linguistic fossils” or borrowings (Brinton & Brinton 92).

Morphological Composition

In terms of the concept of morphemes it is also important to single out the concept of morphs. According to Brinton and Brinton morph is “the concrete realization of a morpheme”, i.e. it is the way the word is actually pronounced (Brinton & Brinton 83).

For instance, such words as fish or sheep, do not have the definite realization of plural form, they are written and pronounced in the same way as in singular. However, it is clear that the word is used in plural form (due to context). In this case words have zero morphs, which do not have phonetic or written realization.

Basically, there are two types of morphs, free and bound. Bound morphs cannot occur as separate words, they can be only components of a word, whereas free morphs can be a separate word, they are usually roots. It is necessary to point out that a morph can contain several morphemes. Thus, a simple word can have quite complicated morphological composition. This can be illustrated by the morphological analysis of the words me and his:

Morph Morphemes

me 2 morphemes { I } + {accusative form}

his 2 morphemes { he } + {possessive form}

Thus, there are no inflectional morphemes and no allomorphs are used. Instead new stems are created. In this case such change is determined by historical aspect. These forms were developed from the word form from the Old English.

Second Language Phonology

Phonology is one of the first important aspects of the study language (Brinton & Brinton 11). It is the study of sounds of the language. Reputedly, the range of sound which people can produce is very large. In fact, people do not use in their native language every sound they can produce; the scope of sounds in each language is quite limited.

Thus, in different languages occur sounds not used in other languages. For instance, such sounds like [?] can be quite confusing for learners of English as the second language, especially when there is no such sound in their native language. The sound [?] is often substituted by [d]. It can be explained by the parallel distribution of these sounds.

Thus, [?] is produced at the upper teeth, and [d] is produced at the upper gum. This can be an explanation why these sounds are often substituted by each other. For instance, such sets of words can illustrate this phenomenon: that [dat], dog [d??], head [h?d], leather [l???] leader [li??].

Other examples of commonly substituted sounds are the following: [s] and [?]. This set of sounds can be also characterized by parallel distribution; both sounds are produced approximately likewise, at the upper gum. These sounds confusion may be exemplified by the following sets: sing [???], sat [sat], loss [l?s], fish [f??], miss [m??], push [pus].

Of course, native speakers differentiate easily between these sounds and, in fact, such sounds can be characterized by complementary distribution for them. However, a learner for English can confuse these sets of sounds due to their similar place of articulation, especially if there are no such sounds in the native language of this learner.

In case if similar sounds occur in the native language a learner of English will differentiate between these sounds as well, and they be in complementary distribution for this learner. However, if there is no such sounds in the native language the pairs [?] and [d], [s] and [?] will be in parallel distribution and, for example, such pairs as [?] and [b], [s] and [k] will be in complementary distribution.

Thus, for such learners (not accustomed to such sounds) the following words will be pronounced as follows: Daddy [d?di], either [aid?], loathe [l?ud], ship [sip], pass [p??], dish [di?], usher [?s?].

Phonological Processes

There are several major phonological processes in English. One of the most common phonological processes is assimilation. Assimilation is a process when one sound influences the other sound. This rule can be illustrated by the influence of nasal consonants on vowels.

For instance, the sound [?] (like in words cat [k?t], sat [s?t]) will be pronounced like [a] before nasal sounds: Pam [pam], Sam [sam], pan [pan]. Another important phonological process is aspiration. In English voiceless consonants are aspirated when they occur in the beginning of the word, or in the end of the word.

It is necessary to point out that such consonants are not aspirated when they are preceded by s. Thus, the pattern /t/ – [t?] / ___# is an illustration of this phonological process. This process can be exemplified by the following words sat [sat?], let [le t?], met [me t?].

Of course, many words can be characterized by several phonological processes. For instance, such set like /t?npe??z/ – [t??mp?e???z] displays such processes as assimilation [n] – [m], aspiration [t?], deletion [?z] – [?z]. Another phonological process, exchanging syllable onsets, is often displayed in children English (Denham and Lobeck 118).

For instance, the word elephant can be pronounced as [?f?l?nt]. Another phonological process is determined by dialectal varieties. For instance, in African American Vernacular English final voiced consonants are often devoiced (Yavas 62). This process can be illustrated by the following examples: [h?p], [pik]. One more dialectal variety is Southern English which is characterized by substitution of [e] by [i] before nasal consonants (Yavas 82).

Parameters of English Consonants

A. 17 is between both 3s, 11 is vibrating and 8-9 is closed. Sound: [?]

B. 16 is completely touching 5, 11 is vibrating and 8-9 is closed. Sound: [r]

C. 16 is close to 5, 11 is open and 8-9 is open. Sound: [l]

D. 14 is completely touching 8, 11 is open and 8-9 is closed. Sound: [k]

E. 14 is completely touching 8, 11 is vibrating and 8-9 is open. Sound: [g]

F. 2 on the bottom is close to 3 on the top, 11 is vibrating and 8-9 is closed. Sound: [v]

G. Both 2s are completely touching, 11 is open and 8-9 is closed. Sound: [p]

H. Both 2s are completely touching, 11 is vibrating and 8-9 is open. Sound: [b]

Works Cited

Brinton, L.J. & Brinton, D.M. The Linguistic Structure of Modern English. Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2010.

Denham, K. Linguistics for Everyone: An Introduction. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning, 2009

Yavas, M.S. Applied English Phonology. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2006.

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