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I think there are 2 views here that are being combined in this entry. There are linguists that would only include as morphemes, a unit of "grammatical meaning," like plural markers, past tense markers etc. Others would include as morphemes, any unit of "meaning," like "find," "book," etc. In introducing "meaning" into the concept of morpheme, one also introduces a subjective element and context-sensitive element.

I am not sure that one can combine these approaches.

Dictionary definitions are rarely helpful here. —Preceding unsigned comment added by RoseParks (talkcontribs) 15:06, 15 May 2001

  • I'm also very leary of combining Morphological analysis and Lexical analysis, as is implied by saying morphemes combine to form lexemes. We are definitely treading too far from the Neutral Perspective in that statement. I know linguists (non-Chomsky to be sure) who would read this and consider it an aberration. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Conversion script (talkcontribs) 15:43, 25 February 2002

This The morpheme plural-s has the morph "-s" in cats ([kæts]), but "-es" in dishes ([diʃɪz]), and even the soft s, [z], in dogs ([dogz]). These are the allomorphs of "-s". It might even change entirely into -ren in children. is from Spencer, morphology. FlammingoHey 09:45, 15 May 2007 (UTC)

The current english example says that able is a bound morpheme while it is clearly free: able to be broken <=> breakable. -- 04:01, 23 June 2007 (UTC)

Wrong. 'able' is a free morpheme, yes. It means "capable of doing something". But '-able' is a bound morpheme, in fact meaning the opposite - it means "capable of having the preceding action done to it". Hence, "breakable" means "able to BE broken", not "able to break". The bound morpheme reverses the voice and describes the passive action, not the active. ghostmoonEVPhauntings 02:19, 12 June 2008 (UTC)

Serious Review Required[edit]

This encyclopaedic entry cannot be considered accurate unless outstanding issues have been addressed. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Jp adelaide (talkcontribs) 14:45, 7 October 2007 (UTC)

Definition needs more detail[edit]

Include the root of the word Morpheme (New Testament Greek?) and the linguistics schools it applies and does not apply to. Include links to other linguistic topics based around morphemes and the philosophy of linguistic study. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Jp adelaide (talkcontribs) 14:53, 7 October 2007 (UTC)

Able a free or bound morpheme?[edit]

In the article the morpheme "-able" in the word "unbreakable" is described as a bound morpheme. I would suggest that isn't the case: the morpheme "able" is a free morpheme such as "break", as it can be a word of its own, a synonymous of "capable". manu3d (talk) 15:10, 7 January 2008 (UTC)

The connection between the adjective suffix (often spelled "-ible" and never stressed in normally-connected speech) and the separate word "able" is somewhat remote in modern English... AnonMoos (talk) 01:55, 25 November 2012 (UTC)

!This article conflicts itself it claims suffixes are both free and bound morphemes. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:31, 11 March 2008 (UTC)


Bound_morpheme and Free_morpheme should both be merged into this article. It's not very long as-is, and the free and bound pages are both stubs. Nyoro n (talk) 19:49, 14 June 2008 (UTC)

Words a subset of Morphemes?[edit]

is the set of all English words W a subset of all English morphemes M? In other words, is ? Are there any words that are not morphemes? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:22, 24 September 2008 (UTC)

(Sorry, I don't know how to indent. If another editor who reads this does, please indent what's to follow, and delete this parenthetical comment.) No. According to a morpheme-based analysis, "kid" is one morpheme, and "kids" is two (the first morpheme is "kid", and the second is "-s"). Each of these, though, is only one word. (talk) 08:13, 10 January 2009 (UTC)
You put colons in front of it. No, as some words are not morphemes:words, for. Meanwhile, some morphemes are not words:un- anti- dis- -ism, etc24.17.191.208 (talk) 02:55, 11 February 2009 (UTC)

Morphological Analysis Must Be Drastically Modified[edit]

I would actually delete it, only I don't want the header deleted. It would be nice to include a description of what morphological analysis is in this article. Unfortunately what is currently under the header "Morphological Analysis" is a description of a few very specific computational analysis systems employed by what looks like one or two Asian universities. If this has a place in Wikipedia, it's not here. (talk) 08:17, 10 January 2009 (UTC)

please give me the meanings[edit]

arch- -ette tele- -ity male- dis- uni- -tion kilo- bene- (talk) 10:36, 19 February 2009 (UTC)

The meaning of "-ity" is conversion of an adjective to a noun. AnonMoos (talk)

Introduction too confusing[edit]

The introduction is too confusing. I did not understand what a morpheme was until I read the Wiktionary definition: -- (talk) 05:55, 13 December 2009 (UTC)

Really? because they're worded very similarly. — Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɻɛ̃ⁿdˡi] 06:01, 13 December 2009 (UTC)

I'm sorry, I think I skipped over the last part of the introduction before writing that. My bad. -- (talk) 20:19, 13 December 2009 (UTC)

COMPLETE rewrite required.[edit]

It is ironic that a page on a linguistic theme is written in so mediocre and awkward a style. Here are my criticisms: If no one objects, I will return and fix the page up later (unless someone else does it in the interim, which might be a good idea, because I am not an expert in this field).

In linguistics, a morpheme is the smallest component of word, or other linguistic unit, that has semantic meaning.

This should read “of a word”, not “of word”. And, as you are pointing to something, “which” would serve better than “that”.

A morpheme is composed by phoneme(s) (the smallest linguistically distinctive units of sound) in spoken language, and by grapheme(s) (the smallest units of written language) in written language.

I gather “is composed by phoneme(s)” should properly read “is composed of phoneme(s)”, and thus “and by” later in the same sentence would become “and of”. It's a clumsy construction anyway. Perhaps something like: "When a morpheme is spoken, it is called a phoneme, and when written, a grapheme. Phonemes and graphemes are the smallest distinctive units used in language."

The concept of word and morpheme are different, a morpheme may or may not stand alone.

This is a pretty appalling definition! It would confuse any reader who was a novice in this area. How does the second part of this sentence relate to the first? The sentence tells you that “word” and “morpheme” are different concepts, but then goes on to say of a morpheme that it “may or may not stand alone”. This implies that, in the case of “words”, they MAY NOT “may or may not stand alone”, which is nonsense.

A morpheme is free if it can stand alone (ex: "one", "possible"),...

Look, call me an old fuddy duddy, but last time I checked it was the abbreviation “e.g.” which signified that examples were to follow. I should have thought that any aspiring linguist would remember that “ex” means “from”, or “out of”. That is, any aspiring linguist familiar with the use of “e.g., which would include most 12 year olds. Just weird.

It gets better:

Its actual phonetic representation is the morph, with the different morphs ("in-", "im-") representing the same morpheme being grouped as its allomorphs.

Wtf is an “ACTUAL” phonetic representation”? You mean the real one as opposed to some phony interloper trying to pass itself off as one. And in the sentence preceding this one, we were told that words were made up of free or bound morphemes. Now, suddenly they are made up of “morphs” which are their “actual phonetic representations”. Whaaaa? And there is a link from the morph mentioned there to its own page. Great! Try going there. You get a kidult article on the Power Rangers, with a 6 word reference to the linguistic use of the word in the category of Miscellanea, right at the end. And the morph mentioned there is linked to…guess…Yep, to right back here. Someone’s not doing their homework. The sentence then segues into something about allomorphs, but it too is badly phrased and confusing.

The word "unbreakable" has three morphemes: "un-", a bound morpheme; "break", a free morpheme; and "-able", a bound morpheme.

Yep, there would be about two hundred million words with three morphemes the author could have chosen to illustrate the point concerning free and bound morphemes, and the one he chooses is “unbreakable”, which has a meaning to do with being free or bound on an entirely different level. This could well confuse the reader (further) as to whether the word’s MEANING is somehow connected to the word’s linguistic CONSTRUCTION.

"un-" is also a prefix, "-able" is a suffix. Both "un-" and "-able" are affixes.

Ah, no Joe, not "actually"... What you mean is that both prefixes AND suffixes are part of a more general category: affixes. It is only by virtue of that fact, that “un-“and “-able” are affixes. And in any case, is it REALLY necessary to go into this here? Nothing here tells you why this matter is being broached.

Look, there’s lots more, but I’m getting weary of it. Making this list probably consumes more of my time than would just rewriting this alphabet spaghetti farrago from scratch. Like many other WP articles there are just far too many links to associated subjects. Of course, those links should be there somewhere, but it is bad pedagogical practice to point a reader to another, possibly very involved article without trying to give a brief and cogent précis of how it bears on the current matter, that is, a short DEFINITION should be provided in the current article, so that a reader can understand what is going on, and can move to the other pages LATER, not right now. In general, it is good practice to confine most of the links to the end, as “Further Reading”, and restrict one’s remit to providing a brief, succinct and comprehensible outline, one which can largely stand on its own. That’s often difficult, and that is why the natural ability to COMMUNICATE is such an important element in such writing, and why LEAVING A LOT OF STUFF OUT, is another, as is DEFINING STUFF WHEN IT IS FIRST MENTIONED, NOT TWO PARAGRAPHS DOWN, and READING YOUR STUFF WHILE STANDING IN THE SHOES OF THE LAY READER AND MAKING GOOD GUESSES AS TO WHAT MIGHT CONFUSE HIM OR HER, as is observing that wonderful rule THE SECRET OF GOOD WRITING IS REWRITING. Point made?

This whole thing finishes with some bullshit about “segmenting sentences” in Japanese, Chinese “and other languages”. What, you mean “other Asiatic languages”? Because, if you don’t, then why would you pick those two? And “segmenting” is one of those weird words in English that can have two meanings, one the EXACT opposite of the other. Something like “husk” it can mean pulling sentences apart, or it can mean putting sentences together. It’s an appropriate way to end this Alice in Wonderland mess. Which is unfair to Alice in Wonderland) which was fun (and which gave us portmanteau). Myles325a (talk) 07:18, 20 November 2010 (UTC)


Carrying neither semantic nor grammatical information, is an interfix (like -o- in speedometer) a morpheme at all? I suppose one could argue that it carries derivation information—"these two words, despite not working well together phonologically, are joined in a compound". If not, is it the only case of a nonmorphemic speech sound? (I just found this) — ˈzɪzɨvə (talk) 18:36, 24 August 2011 (UTC)

In Greek, -o- was a "thematic" vowel associated with certain kinds of stems, but which didn't have any real semantic function (though it could be considered to mark the fact that compounding has taken place). "Empty morphs" have long been recognized in linguistic theories, though there doesn't seem to be anything on Wikipedia about them... AnonMoos (talk) 02:06, 25 November 2012 (UTC)

Morphological analysis[edit]

I'm tempted to remove entirely the section on morphological analysis. It's technically relevant to the general article topic, but it's a very specific offshoot whose details would make more sense if presented in an article about related technology (e.g. in natural language processing). Thoughts? Armadillopteryxtalk 20:36, 25 September 2011 (UTC)

What's a semantic unit?[edit]

"Morphemes are not necessarily semantic units." What does this sentence from the article mean? That morphemes need not bear any meaning (this would go against the very definition of "morpheme" that I learned)? Or is the real content in this sentence hidden in the word "unit"? Only linking to the article "semantics" does not seem very helpful. --Mudd1 (talk) 23:18, 25 March 2013 (UTC)

I don't think it's explained very well in the article, but morphemes are the basic recognizable recurring units in word-formation (inflection, derivation, and compounding), and there's not always a simple correspondence between morphemes and meaning (as with the Greek -o- which occurs between the two members of a compound, discussed above). AnonMoos (talk) 02:38, 26 March 2013 (UTC)
Thanks for the clarification. I still learned that morphemes are the smallest units to carry meaning but that was in German linguistics and maybe outdated. --Mudd1 (talk) 15:57, 23 May 2013 (UTC)
They can be the smallest units to carry meaning, but that doesn't mean that every single occurrence of every single morpheme has an assignable meaning. Linguists of the 1950s spoke of "empty morphs", and the term is still occasionally used today, though there doesn't appear to be anything on Wikipedia... AnonMoos (talk) 14:36, 26 May 2013 (UTC)


Able is a free morpheme. As a suffix, it means capable to be done. As a word, it means the same thing.

The crockery was unbreakable.


The crockery was not able to be broken.

both mean the same thing.

--Deonyi (talk) 06:08, 6 March 2014 (UTC)

Assessment comment[edit]

The comment(s) below were originally left at Talk:Morpheme/Comments, and are posted here for posterity. Following several discussions in past years, these subpages are now deprecated. The comments may be irrelevant or outdated; if so, please feel free to remove this section.

The concept of the morpheme is essential to morphology, and morphology is typically noted as one of the main branches of (theoretical) linguistics. This topic contributes a depth of knowledge to the field of linguistics. Most experts in linguistics will be familiar with it, it is found in most linguistics textbooks, and a significant amount of published research on morphemes exists. Cnilep (talk) 16:18, 20 April 2009 (UTC) The article lacks citations to adequate sources. It provides some meaningful content, but has insufficient discussion of inflectional versus derivational morphology and free morphemes versus affixes. The description of allomorphs as a 'type of morpheme' confuses the understanding of allomorphy. Discussion in the introduction risks confusing morphology with phonology and written language. Cnilep (talk) 03:09, 24 April 2009 (UTC)

Last edited at 03:09, 24 April 2009 (UTC). Substituted at 00:26, 30 April 2016 (UTC)