Types of Morphemes Free & Bound

Types of Morphemes: Free and Bound Morphemes

The post, Types of Morphemes: Free and Bound identifies and examines the two major morpheme types that we have in English. There are basically two of them and they also have their subdivisions. They are:

Free Morphemes

Bound morphemes

Let us examine each of these severally:

Free Morphemes

A free morpheme is one that can stand by itself as a single word. In other words, it can exist independently without any obligatory association with other morphemes. Examples include: open, boy, door, team, dance, teach, house, look, break, sad, come, when, if, to, for, teach, say, me, you, girl, car, native, name, cook, etc. Another name for free morphemes is the base word or stem word or root word. We can further subdivide Free Morphemes into two segments. Let consider this as we break down the concept of morpheme into comprehensible bits of knowledge.

Categories of Free Morphemes

There are two categories. These are Lexical morphemes and Functional morphemes.

Lexical Morphemes

These morphemes carry ‘content’ of messages we convey. In other words, lexical morphemes are content words. A content word is a word that is semantically meaningful; a word that has dictionary meaning. Examples of these words are nouns, adjectives verbs and adverbs. They are words that belong to the Open Class of the Parts of Speech or Word Classes in English.

Functional Morphemes

These morphemes consist mainly of the functional words in the English language and they include words that belong to the Closed Class of the Parts of Speech or Word Classes in English. Examples are conjunctions, prepositions, pronouns and articles. Functional words or grammatical words do not contain meanings on their own except when used alongside content or lexical words. They have no dictionary meaning and only perform a grammatical function.

Bound Morphemes

Bound Morphemes are the opposites of Free Morphemes. They are morphemes that cannot stand alone, that is, they cannot exist independently without being joined or added to another morpheme. Examples include: -ish, -ness, -ation, -tion, -ism, -al, -er, -s, -en, -ed, etc. When you look at the following words, they are combinations of both free and bound morphemes: foolishness, bookish, naturalisation, farmer, does, bags, taken, expected, etc.

Bound Morphemes are called Affixes in English. Affixes are also Bound Morphemes. The word ‘undressed’ has two affixes, ‘un’ and ‘ed’ joined to the free morpheme ‘dress’. The same thing goes for the word ‘carelessness’ which has two affixes, ‘less’ and ‘ness’ attached to the base or root word ‘care’.

Types of Affixes in English

There are two types of affixes in the English Language specifically. They are the Prefix and the Suffix or Postfix. Prefixes are affixes that come before the base word; they are attached to the frontal position of the root words while suffixes are attached at the final position of the root words. Infixes are attached in between the root words, but they do not exist in English. Other languages like Yoruba have Infixes or Interfixes. E. g.

Omokomo – omo-ki-omo (bad child)

Isekuseise-ku-ise (lewd conduct)

Iwakiwa – iwa-ki-iwa (bad behaviour)

Ayeraye – aye-re-aye (everlasting)

Ilenle – ile-ni-ile (bare floor)

alakala – ala-ki-ala (nightmarish dream)

However, some scholars consider words like therm-o-dynamics, therm-o-meter, bar-o-meter, etc. in English as containing the infix ‘o’, but like we said, it is not an established phenomenon in English.

Other Related Posts

4 Definitions of Morphemes: Types and Examples

Prefix: Definition, Types with Examples 

Bound Morphemes: Types and Examples

Suffix: Definition, Types and Examples 

Derivational and Inflectional Morphemes: Differences 

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  1. Good morning
    is ‘messiness ‘ split up in
    mess + Bound morpheme ‘I’ Bound morpheme’ Ness’
    and Multimillionaires
    Multi +million+air +Bound morpheme ‘es’


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