Talk:Morphology (linguistics)

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Complete rewrite 2005[edit]

I am wondering if there is a mistake here.

Someone wrote: "examples are in past tenses of verbs: "I have walked", "I have eaten", "I have drunk": one"

But, a sentence like "I have eaten" is not past tense. Past tense would be "I ate". Here, "walked", "eaten", and "drunk" are past participles, not past tenses.

Shouldn't this be changed to something like "examples are in the pluperfect (to have + past participle)".

Can someone check this?

Right at the beginning is says: "Normally a dictionary would list derived words, but there is no need to list "makes" in a dictionary as well as "make"." Isn't this rather an example for inflection than for derivation? I think this should be made a bit clearer.

I've completely rewritten this page, in order to make it far more systematic and organized. I think there's still a way to go with it, though. Here's some things I think are needed:

  1. More examples, and from a wider variety of languages. I've only used English, partly out of laziness, but partly because readers of this page will be familiar with English. I think English should have a strong role in this article, but other languages will be needed to make it more representative.
  2. Odds and ends. There's a lot of little ideas and terms that were in the previous version of the page, which I just nuked, because it read like a random shopping list.
  3. The section on lexical morphology is really short. I know hardly any lexical morphology, that's why.
  4. I think that my organization into sections is actually a good springboard for splitting this out into separate articles.

Comments welcome. Sacundim 4 July 2005 07:48 (UTC)

Examples would be very welcome. That's what I came here to say, but see it's already said. I don't know anything about this, apart from bits of language, and found this very confusing. Bits aren't explained that need to be, or are mentioned in passing, and have no examples. Please informed people, make this lovely. 16:44, 28 September 2005 (UTC)

The analysis of the word 'depend'[edit]

User:Corvun and me (User:Sacundim) have had a minor edit war here. Corvun edited the article a couple days ago to analyze the English word depend as a derived lexeme, with root pend.

This analysis is fundamentally wrong. There is no regular morphological rule in English that relates the words pend and depend. There is a relationship between them, but it is purely historical; they have the same root in Latin, not in English. English got the Latin derivatives as borrowings from French and Latin, but it did not thereby borrow the morphological rule that allowed Latin to form those derivatives.

I would be willing to accept Corvun's claim if he can actually state a set of derivational rules for English that successfully relate both the forms and the meanings of the words depend, appendix and pending, and can actually generalize to other derived words in English. This means that he must be able to state:

  • a single meaning for his proposed root pend;
  • a rule that takes the proposed root pend and its meaning, and yields the word depend with its common meaning ("be controlled or determined by"), and is also applicable to some other English root + derived word pair;
  • a similar rule that relates the proposed root pend to appendix ("a section or table of additional matter at the end of a book or document"), and also generalizes to other roots;
  • a third generalizable rule that relates pend to pending ("awaiting decision or settlement"; "about to happen, imminent").

Sacundim 06:10, 4 October 2005 (UTC)

Reverting edits by[edit]

The user at has made some quite questionable edits to this article as of October 3, 2005, which I'm now going to revert.

There is one thing about the edits that I think is very valuable, which is the fact that they bring in the distinction between productive and non-productive processes, which is missing from the article. I certainly agree that a section on this topic ought to be included. However, the one that's been added is completely misplaced within the article, has removed very important material, has grave errors of fact, and is not very well written.

The edits in question, to start with, are just plain misleading. edits the introduction to the article to say that "this article [now] discusses morphology in computational linguistic terms"; however, (a) there is nothing specifically computational about what he writes, (b) computational morphology is not the mainstream of morphological theory, and as such, a discussion of morphology from that perspective belongs rather in a subsection separate from the main body of the article, and/or in a separate at-depth article.

The worst part of it is that the author has entirely removed from the article the whole notion of inflection vs. derivation, claiming, in his own words, that:

Early linguists used the terms inflection and word-formation to describe morphological processes. The distinction between inflection and word-formation was not at all clear-cut. There are many examples where linguists failed to agree whether a given rule was inflection or word-formation. That is why these terms to distingiush morphological processes are no longer used.

This is plainly, demonstrably false, and can be verified very easily by just consulting the books in the article's very own bibliography at the end. For example, it's possible to look at the table of contents for the Spencer and Zwicky's Handbook of Morphology in Amazon. The first three chapters of the book are titled Inflection, Derivation and Compounding, respectively. This is a contemporary graduate-level reference book for theoretical linguists, edited by leading scholars in morphology. The very first thing the book covers is the distinction between inflection and word formation, which in the quote above, claims is "no longer used"! Examining other references will only confirm this further.

Furthermore, the text that has added is not very well written. The fact that it contains many misspellings is the least of my concerns. The biggest concerns are that it's not well integrated with the rest of the entry, and that it says things that presuppose knowledge which the article ought not to presuppose. For example, the edited article states: "produtive [sic] morphology is believed to take place in the syntax." What does this mean? (I do know what it means, but I have a graduate degree in linguistics. I also know that the quote is wrong in two ways: (a) the idea that some processes that are traditionally labeled "morphology" actually occur in the syntax is controversial, so the "is believed" part has NPOV problems; (b) the people who actually have that idea believe that inflection takes place in the syntax, and that word-formation doesn't, but says "productive processes," and his examples include some word-formation processes here. The idea is usually attributed to Chomsky, and he explicitly rejected analyzing derivation and compounding in the syntax back in 1972.)

There's more objections I could make to those edits, but I think I've made myself quite clear already as to why I'm reverting them. Again, I'd welcome a discussion of productivity in this entry, but not at the expense which it has paid in this iteration. Sacundim 07:08, 4 October 2005 (UTC)

natural morphology[edit]

I suggest adding information about Natural Morphology. peace – ishwar  (speak) 23:03, 28 November 2005 (UTC)

I don't accept this suggestion. This article should not be an explanation of every single pet theory of morphology that's been proposed by somebody in the last couple of decades. Natural Morphology should be a separate entry. Sacundim 01:54, 10 December 2005 (UTC)

An addition. And the deletion of unfounded criticism of Item and Arrangement[edit]

I wrote the subsection on the prosodic word. I will go back and supply a book reference, P. H. Mathews, Morphology.

I deleted two paragraphs of criticisms of the Item and Arrangement model for their theoretical and historical shortcomings, which are as follows.

1. (a) The contributor proposed that I & A is satisfactory for prefixes and suffixes, but logically unsatisfactory for infixes. This is an illogical objection. There is no logical or geometric problem with *infixes*, whose existence is widely accepted among linguists. There is nothing in the sheer dictionary denotation of "arrangement" that precludes infixes or stumbles over infixes. Thus the mentioned null morpheme solution to goose/geese is *not* an inevitable result of the I & A model.

(b) Not only is the idea of an infixed morpheme easy to defend, but infixing is famously the major morphological process in the Semitic languages, and most instances of it are compound! sa7ala 'ask 3sg masc perfective active', su7ila 'ask 3s masc perfective passive'. The final -a is the personal marker. Evidently for this lexeme (in fact, for the great majority of transitive verbs), the morpheme for "perf act" is { __ a __ a __ } while that for "perf pass" is { __ u __ i __ }. Granted, there are morphologists who challenge this analysis, but it's the obvious solution and widely held.

2. Historically, the blatant absurdity (blatant to most academically minded persons) of this exact null morpheme proposal was quickly debunked by Eugene Nida when Bernard Bloch applied it to English irregular verbs. This exchange of articles occurred about sixty years ago and was included in Readings in Linguistics, edited by Martin Joos. If there are indeed linguists in modern times who can't see the absurdity of this line of reasoning, there is little danger that the proposal will gain ground.

3. The contributor fails throughout their explication of models of morphology to cite any literature or name any names. Indeed, this is a flaw in the whole article, which only had two notes (one a footnote, the other in the body of the article) until my revisions just now.

Remarks 2 and 3 taken together lead one to suspect that the writer is setting up a straw man. Hurmata 05:30, 9 December 2006 (UTC)

The need to start from scratch[edit]

Now that I read the article through, I see it is poorly informed. The writer(s) have not digested all the fundamentals; they don't try too hard to explain the fundamentals even to the limited extent possible such a forum; they lack discernment between what is established teaching and what is trendy and possibly ephemeral; they are biased toward extreme Chomskyan approaches.

I think it is an exaggeration to conclude that the morpheme has been debunked as the basic construct of morphology. Even assuming so, the article has an awful gap of explanation of the phonetic basis of either lexemes or morphemes.

As I noted when making my latest revision, there are some crude inaccuracies, such as speaking of the "reflexive case". It is hard to believe that the person who wrote *that* has studied linguistics.

Again, aside from any theoretical objections, the lack of copious footnoting is unacceptable. Although the previous writer(s) have compiled a lengthy bibliography, it's not very relevant when they don't say who said what. Linguistics is a young science and relatively little in it is settled. This is not like writing about mathematics. There, you don't have to cite sources for established equations and techniques. Hurmata 09:55, 9 December 2006 (UTC)

I have my biases, and I certainly expect they show through; indeed, I'm not a fan of morpheme-based morphology. I do not object to editing the article to make it more sympathetic to that point of view, and the fact that the article is not so is due to the fact that I am not able to write it so, and I have no problem with admitting that.
I've not yet read through your edits (and am currently too busy to schedule time to do so).
I do recommend that you do not underestimate my knowledge and understanding of this topic. You need to be careful who you attribute each particular word in this article to. While I did once rewrite it from scratch, the edit that made this article talk of the reflexive as a "case" was certainly not me, so I cannot help but object to your claim that "it is hard to believe that [I have] studied linguistics" on the basis of something I did not write.
Certainly it would be good to have more citations here, but let me give you a hint: when I rewrote this article from scratch, I spent just a few hours in one night doing it. If you have the time to spend providing copious citations, then please, be my guest. (And please add copious examples while you're at it, because the article needs them.)
"Chomskyan" is not a term I'd apply to myself, but to each their own. Sacundim 22:12, 26 January 2007 (UTC)
I did NOT attribute all of the points I was objecting to to the same contributor. It *would* be interesting to slog through the history to track exactly who wrote what.

The article as a whole has a smug *tone* (the "five minute" remark being the most prominent manifestation), as if written by a "newly converted believer", apart from being unbalanced at the *objective* level, in its critiques.

Recent Deletion[edit]

Howdy! A large section was deleted from this article and I couldn't find anything that explained the reasoning behind it. If I've missed something, please let me know! --SilverhandTalk 15:46, 8 February 2007 (UTC)

Kwakwala is a bad example[edit]

Using kwakwala as an example is a bad idea since it cannot be written using characters commonly available in an English-speaking user's standard installed fonts. This is the English wikipedia and an article that INTRODUCES the concepts needs to be understandable without installing special fonts. This article either needs another example of prosodic words or needs to explain it without the example. --Wavetossed 23:37, 27 February 2007 (UTC)

Yo, there already *is* another example, preceding the Kwakw'ala one. The entire comment is wrongheaded and provincial. Hurmata 06:57, 7 March 2007 (UTC)
The Kwak'wala example has another problem: If you read it carefully, it actually seems to state that the otter is hitting the man with a stick, because the word for "man" is put into the Accusative case. However much I prefer that situation, it's not an appropriate language example, and is out-of-step with the English translation. User:nealjking 19 April 2015 — Preceding undated comment added 15:08, 19 April 2015 (UTC)
I think using kwakwala is fine but not as the first example. It’s not “provincial” to take into account the background of the average reader and to keep that in mind when developing examples. This is English Wikipedia so we can (and should) assume that the majority of users will be most familiar with English. Start with one or more English examples to explain the basic ideas and then go to more unusual languages to make points that couldn’t be made with English or to illustrate that the concepts aren’t language specific. --MadScientistX11 (talk) 18:16, 13 October 2018 (UTC)

Word Choice[edit]

Wikipedia is meant as an accessible resource for everyone, not just specialists. This article, however, is written in incredible complex and specialized language. As someone with minimal knowledge of, but a keen interest in, linguistics I was hoping that by reading the article on something as basic as morphology I might be able to better understand other articles. Unfortunately, it is nearly impossible to comprehend this article without extensive prior knowledge. For someone who is only just introducing themselves to linguistics it is like trying to wade through five feet of mud. The terminology is specialized and little effort is given to describe the basics of the subject before delving into complicated examples and one of a kind instances (such as Kwakala, a language most people hav enever even heard of). Basically, what I am asking is that the editors of thsi article rewrite the whole bloody thing to make it UNDERSTANDABLE for the lay person. Thank you. Israelite9191 18:37, 28 February 2007 (UTC)

To the preceding two commenters (if they are indeed not the same person). Deleting a passage is not justified by "I myself have no interest or no use for it", nor by "and anyway, there are other deficiencies with the article". Although I sort of agree that the article needs to be more intelligible to the rank newcomer, this subject is going to merit a highly technical discussion, just as do math, chemistry, physics, and many other subjects. Hurmata 06:57, 7 March 2007 (UTC)
I agree with the latter method of example. As the language provided does not even have Western Font synchronization. I would suggest several English words that would provide the same effect without the confusion for an introduced topic to begin with such a difficult mein. If; however, you do choose to keep this obfuscated language, I recommend explaing the issue more in-depth rather than capriciously driving through it.-- 16:09, 13 April 2007 (UTC)
I wholeheartedly agree with this post. I came to the morphology page from a link on the page about the Caracol people, expecting to get an idea of how their dialect is different from other Afro-Caribbean English speakers (apparently mostly in morphology.) I still have no idea whatsoever what morphology means after reading through most of this article, squinting at it, re-reading, scratching my head, etc. I agree with Hurmata that this page should have useful information for linguists, but it should also at least have one paragraph in the introduction that clearly and simply explains to the uninitiated what morphology means. (talk) 03:00, 16 November 2010 (UTC)


This article had notes, but they weren't appearing. I now see them.

They reveal another big problem:

  • "Mémoires Acad. Impériale" What's this, and does the person who put it in really expect us to believe that he/she read it directly or expect us to look at it directly? Where's the secondary source?
  • For lengthy discussion of this issue, see Matthews, 1st ed., chapter 2, "Word, word-form, and lexeme". Presumably this explication is repeated in the 2d ed. First and second edition of what book by "Matthews"?
  • This phenomenon of Kwak'wala was reported by Jacobsen as cited in van Valin and La Polla 1997. Reported by Jacobsen where? I'd guess that "van Valin and La Polla" are Van Valin and LaPolla and that this is their big fat red "textbook", but the latter is one Cambridge textbook I don't have; guesswork is dangerous.

Where does this stuff come from? Please specify as you add it. Thank you. -- Hoary 11:11, 5 March 2007 (UTC)

Hoary, your complaints seem in part self contradictory. First you insist that a secondary source be cited when the primary source seems likely to be accessible practically nowhere; then you complain because somebody cited a secondary source instead of a primary source. I do agree with you that some of the notes are only half done. About citing one "Mémoires Acad. Impériale" from circa 150 years ago as a primary source: you seem to miss the obvious point that citing a source so ancient is not simply -- and maybe not at all -- a bibliographic act, but also (or instead) an act of amusing us and impressing us with bits of historical trivia, namely, just how old the linguistic usage of the term morphology is and that we can (apparently) identify precisely when and where it was coined. Please note that I myself am *not* the one who made the citation in question. Hurmata 06:57, 7 March 2007 (UTC)
Thank you for the reply, Hurmata, and I do note that you're not the perp. Still, I'd like to get one thing straight. You say: you complain because somebody cited a secondary source instead of a primary source. No. The article does not have to depend on some editor's direct access to "Jacobsen": if the access to "Jacobsen" was via Van Valin and LaPolla, then both of these should be specified clearly. I complain because this is an unsatisfactory specification of a secondary source for an unsatisfactorily specified primary source. (Actually this might be easy to clear up, as I can probably get hold of VV&LP's big red book fairly soon.) -- Hoary 07:43, 7 March 2007 (UTC)

We read: This phenomenon of Kwak'wala was reported by Jacobsen as cited in van Valin and La Polla 1997. Again, I would imagine that this means Van Valin and LaPolla's Syntax. (This is quoted in the bibliography; but as most of the works in the bibliography aren't mentioned in the article, I wonder about the nature of the bibliography.) Neither Kwak'wala nor Kwakiutl appears in that work's index of languages. The book does discuss Nootka, described as a northern Wakashan language and as having been written up in two cited papers by William H Jacobsen. It's unclear what "this phenomenon" refers to, but anyway I can't see anything about Nootka that quite corresponds to what has been recycled here from Foley's paper. -- Hoary 10:26, 8 March 2007 (UTC)

This turns out to have been added at this point in December '06, together with a pile of other stuff, by some IP who hasn't done much that's relevant since.
I suggest removing the bulk of this addition, because it's unreliable and because it throws in a great wodge of material from Foley for no particularly good reason.
And then I hope that a theoretical morphologist can come in and sort out this mess. -- Hoary 10:38, 8 March 2007 (UTC)

MERGE Morpheme-based morphology[edit]

I have merged the content from Morpheme-based morphology into this page, and made that page a redirect to this one. Morpheme-based morphology had no associated discussion. Since the page was UNREFERENCED, I have added FACT tags to the merged material. Cnilep (talk) 15:08, 20 April 2009 (UTC)


What is bibliography? What are the types of bibliography? How are they being use in english language? Pls,you may send your answer to this —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:37, 20 July 2009 (UTC)

Morpheme -s only bound to nouns?[edit]

Ok, I'm no linguist, but this statement in this article seems suspect:"the plurality morpheme "-s," which is only found bound to nouns" what about a phrase like "John runs". In this case run is a verb, yet as far as I can see it's still using the -s morpheme... —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:45, 26 November 2010 (UTC)

Does the 's' make runs plural? —Tamfang (talk) 16:53, 27 November 2010 (UTC)

Origin of the word Morphology[edit]

The article incorrectly states that August Schleicher coined the term morphology in 1859. Unfortunately, the Oxford English Dictionary already cites the word for 1830 (in the usage for biological morphology). It may be that Schleicher was the first to adopt the term (which was probably coined by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in the late 1700s) for usage within linguistics; I do not know the history of the word. At any rate, the article is incorrect as it stands now. Lufiend (talk) 23:37, 23 December 2010 (UTC)

The attribution of the term's coinage to August Schleicher is, indeed, incorrect. Just as Lufiend rightly presumed, Schleicher in fact has been the one who introduced an (at the time) alredy existing term into linguistics, i.e. he was the first who used "morphology" in a specifically linguistical context. The term as such goes back to, indeed, Johann Wolfgang Goethe, who used "morphology" in a much broader context, especially though for the description of "form(s)" and their change over time in biology and botany. Goethe himself, nontheless, did not yet use it in respect to linguistics or language in general. Still, in all probability it was Goethe who actually invented the term. (Consequently, at least most German dictionaries and etymologies generally attribute it to him.) Zero Thrust (talk) 14:59, 13 May 2011 (UTC)
This is an interesting issue. It presumably is a metaphorical use in origin. Morphology is a branch of biology dealing with the form and structure of organisms. Its likely that Goethe or other made that metaphorical connection. I will look deeper to the etymology. Lam Kin Keung (talk) 05:26, 28 June 2011 (UTC)

Morphosyntax article wanted ;-)[edit]

Morphosyntax redirects here to Morphology (linguistics), but this article does not cope with morphosyntax at all. Instead there is a single sentence on the topic, giving a (vague and arguably wrong, it is not a part of morphology) definition:

"The part of morphology that covers the relationship between syntax and morphology is called morphosyntax, and it concerns itself with inflection and paradigms, but not with word formation or compounding."

Note: As far as I know, morphosyntax denotes either morphology+syntax (often, but uninteresting in my view), or their interaction (rarely, but interesting). An exemple of the latter may be when a (semantico-)syntactic schema govern syntactic category, and thus often word morphology as eg requirement for a nominal phrase below:

"Eat-ing in good for health."

denis 'spir' (talk) 13:03, 4 July 2013 (UTC)

me not understand[edit]

Just wanted to note that after reading the introduction of this article, I have less of a clue what morphology as linguistic concept is about, then before.

I actually undertand the word "morphology" as such. But this article is about the morphology of what exactly? And how does this type of morphology relate to basic linguistic concepts such as "syntax" or "grammar"?

I'm not asking for answers here (this not being a Q&A forum) but suggest to consider these remarks during a next edit.

Igor (talk) 13:00, 25 November 2014 (UTC)

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This article seems rather unpolished[edit]

Having reviewed this, it appears as though the page was written at different and times and with little to no cohesion. For instance, the lead in, introduction paragraph is one of the longest portions of the article, but many following sections are brief in ways that the introduction has the potential to be. There is also a distinct lack of clarification of key terms; "morpheme" is not used until the second intro paragraph, and is not defined prior or subsequent to its use. Definitions and clarifications for key terms in several sections, such as the "Prosodic word v. morphological word" section are not provided.

Content-wise, I would like more information on the origin and history of morphology. Why did August Schleicher decided to name and identify this branch of linguistics? Have no major strides or redefinitions been made since 1859?

Construction-wise, where are all of the sources? Entire sections are uncited, and half of my read consisted of going through and asking for citations, a request I may fill at a later date. Dnoelglenn (talk) 15:51, 23 February 2017 (UTC)

Class assignment[edit]

For citation 6 in the article when you click it almost no information pops up, was this intentional or a mistake?

What is the root word of morphology and where did it come from? Casimpson4 (talk) 21:42, 23 February 2017 (UTC)

Class Assignment[edit]

Overall the information was very thorough and it was an interesting read, but it lacked cohesion in some spots. Also, in the section discussing "prosodic vs. morphological", I may have missed it but it seems to have neglected describing what "prosodic" means and how it relates to the subject of morphology. There were many sources cited but for the amount of information given, a few more might be even better. Interesting read, however! I liked the layout of the subject. --Sakuragalaxxy (talk) 08:40, 24 February 2017 (UTC)

I agree, especially with the point about defining prosody before discussing morphology vs. prosody. I think that’s another example of a general issue with the current article, it needs to consider that many readers won’t be familiar with common linguistic concepts and should have some intro text that describes the basics before diving into the details, see my other two comments below. --MadScientistX11 (talk) 18:08, 13 October 2018 (UTC)

Article Evaluation- Violet Walle[edit]

There is a lot of information in this article that has been cited with an appropriate and reliable reference, many of the sources are dated from 2010- 2016, however there are sources that are older and need to be replaced with a more recent source. There is a lot of information (multiple paragraphs) that have not been given citations at all, and information should not be given without citing an appropriate and reliable reference. The information presented is relevant to the topic of the article, unbiased , presented in a clear and consistent manner, and most of the sources are reliable and credible. The links appear to be working; they transport the reader to the desired location. Overall, the article is a good source for people who would like to learn about Morphology. In order to strengthen this article, some of the references need to be updated, and all information presented must be cited with an appropriate and reliable reference.

Violet Walle Vmwalle (talk) 23:25, 15 March 2017 (UTC)

I agree and also think the article could be improved by considering that many users aren’t going to be linguists, I.e., have some more basic discussion and examples before diving into obscure languages and complex issues. See my other comment below. --MadScientistX11 (talk) 17:57, 13 October 2018 (UTC)

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Morpheme vs. phoneme[edit]

I think this article could be improved by having some early (probably in the intro section) discussion of the difference between a morpheme and a phoneme. As it is now it starts talking about “phonological ... modifications” in the third paragraph but without first describing what a phoneme or phonology is. Also, I think the article could be improved by starting with some examples from English first. As it is now the first examples discussed are from a very obscure language called Kwak'wala. It’s good to have these non English examples as well but first starting with the language that all users are familiar with would IMO be much better and make this complex topic more understandable to non linguists. --MadScientistX11 (talk) 17:54, 13 October 2018 (UTC)