The term morphome refers to a function in linguistics which is purely morphological or has an irreducibly morphological component. The term was introduced by Martin Maiden following Mark Aronoff's identification of morphomic functions and the morphomic level--a level of linguistic structure intermediate between and independent of phonology and syntax. In distinguishing this additional level, Aronoff makes the empirical claim that all mappings from the morphosyntactic level to the level of phonological realisation pass through the intermediate morphomic level.
Functions defined at the morphomic level are of many qualitatively different types.
One example is the different ways the perfect participle can be realised in English––sometimes, this form is created through suffixation, as in bitten and packed, sometimes through a process of ablaut, as in sung, and sometimes through a combination of these, such as broken, which uses ablaut as well as the suffix -n. Since these processes, which achieve the same result, are of different categories, it is not possible to call the formation of the perfect participle in English a suffix, so it must be assumed that it exists as an abstract category on the morphomic level.
Another is the division of lexemes into distinct inflectional classes. Inflectional classes present distinct morphological forms, but these distinctions bear no meaning beyond signalling inflectional patterns; they are internal to morphology, and thus morphomic.
Martin Maiden has identified many examples of morphomic stem distributions in Romance languages.
- Maiden, Martin (2004). "Morphological autonomy and diachrony". Yearbook of Morphology (2004): 137-175.
- Aronoff, Mark (1994). Morphology by Itself. Cambridge: MIT Press.
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