Morfologia inglesa

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1. LEVELS OF ANALYSIS IN WORD-STRUCTURE

1.1. Morphosyntactic Analysis

Morphology is the name given to that part of linguistics which is concerned with the study of words, more specifically with the study of the internal structure of words and of the rules by means of which new words are composed out of certain minimal units which we call morphemes. Not all languages - as a matter of factpossibly no one language - make use of all the means which humans seem to have available in order to compose words out of smaller elements, so that in this course we will not be concerned with morphology generally but only with those parts of it which are relevant to the study of word-structure in English.

There are a number of ways in which it can be seen that we need to appeal to elements whichare smaller than words themselves, the elements that we call morphemes, if we want to describe what all of us know about English words. First of all we will see that English words have an internal sturucture and that certain minimal elements are used time and again in the composition of a great number of different words. Examine for a moment the following lists:

1. a. open, opens, opened,opening
b. walk, walks, walked, walking

From one point of view, there are 8 words in (1), 4 in (a) and another 4 in (b). From another point of view, however, there are only 2 words, 1 in (a) and 1 in (b). From this second point of view, the different orthographic forms in (a) are just different forms of one and the same word open. In the same way, from this point of view, there is only one wordin (b), the word to which we give the name walk. Linguists, when referring to words in this latter sense use the techical name lexeme. Combining both points of view, we will say that (1a) and (1b) each contains four different word-forms but only one lexeme. The word-forms that we are dealing with here are orthographic; word forms can also be phonetic as, for example, when we actually say theforms written in (1). When we refer to the phonetic form of a given word we will refer to it here as the phonemic form since what interests us are those phonetic features that would normally be reflected in a broad rather than a narrow transcription. Later we will have to look more closely at the relation between written and spoken forms.

We have just said that (1a) and (1b) each contains differentforms of the two lexemes that, following the conventions of English, we call open and walk respectively. It is very important to realize, from the outset, that in discussing the concept 'lexeme' we are dealing with an abstraction. What we write, see, pronounce and hear are different physical forms by means of which we refer to this abstraction. In the same way it is purely a convention of Englishthat the name given to verbal lexemes corresponds to the infinitive without 'to'; a different convention might have established that we use, say, the third person singular form of the present simple to refer to a given verb. Had this alternative convention been used, we would have referred to the verbs in (1) as opens and walks respectively. We might remember, in this respect, that Latin verballexemes are traditionally referred to by means of the 1st person singular present tense form. Maybe we will understand the notion 'lexeme' more clearly if we ask ourselves what it is that a given set of forms, for example all the forms in (1a), have in common. Looked at in this way, what we do is abstract away from each of the physical word-forms what is common to all of them and so arrive at thelexeme. Clearly, what the set of forms in (1a) has in common is the concept to which we give the conventional name open, while that in (1b) has the concept with the conventional name walk. What is conveyed by the other elements contained in each set has to do notions of tense and person, etc.

We have now seen two different ways in which the concept 'word' can be understood; in the sense of...
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