4 Definitions of Morphemes Types & Examples

What is A Morpheme? Definitions Types & Examples

This post provides 4 definitions of Morphemes: Types & Examples. It also explains the subcategories of morphemes with copious examples. Morphemes play a crucial role in the word formation process in English and the field that studies morphemes is morphology.

Morphology is the branch of language study that examines morphemes, especially the form and structure of words in a particular language, the various patterns of inflexion, combination, blending, derivation and change that we can observe and classify and other related matters. An expert who specialises in the study of morphemes is called a morphologist. See more in the post Branches of Linguistics.

The English Grammatical Units – Rankscale

Rank scale in English refers to the hierarchical ordering or arrangements of the grammatical elements that make up the structure of Language. The English Rankscale ranges from the smallest grammatical unit, Morpheme to the largest, Sentence. The hierarchical arrangement could be from the smallest to the largest or from the largest to the smallest. The English Rankscale includes:

Morpheme

 Word

 Phrase/Group

 Clause

 Sentence

Here we will consider each of these five (5) grammatical units severally in other posts but our focus will be on morphemes.

Four (4) Definitions of Morphemes

Smallest Unit

A morpheme is the smallest unit of speech that has semantic or grammatical meaning.

Minimal Unit

If we look at morpheme from another perspective, we can say it is a minimal unit of meaning or grammatical function.

Indivisible Unit of Meaning

Just like the definition of an atom given in secondary schools (though we now know better) a morpheme is the smallest indivisible unit of meaning.

Minimal Building Blocks

We can also define a morpheme as the minimal building blocks of words.

Note

We should, however, stress at this point that not every word counts as a morpheme. How do you identify a morpheme? A quick test: Understand that if there is no meaning, then there is no morpheme!

More Readings

Types of Morphemes: Free and Bound 

Prefix: Definition, Types with Examples

Bound Morphemes: Types and Examples

Suffix: Definition, Types and Examples

Derivational and Inflectional Morphemes: Differences

Check other posts on the other Grammatical Units in the English Rankscale. Kindly share with your friends.

6 Comments

  1. Please what are the criteria for identification of morphemes and how do I identify number of morphemes in words that are
    suppletion like sing sang sung?

  2. Hi sir,
    Please I want you to shade more light on word splitting / morpeme
    Eg Accuracy can it be splitted into 2 morpeme ACCURA CY,

    1. Thanks KaybeeMarshall for your question. Morpheme is different from syllable. Morpheme is the smallest MEANINGFUL grammatical unit while a syllable is a bit of utterance. For example:
      UNDERSTANDING has 4 syllables while it contains only 2 morphemes because you cannot further break it down (maybe into ‘under’, ‘stand’ and ‘-ing’). In addition, the word UNDERSTANDINGLY has 5 syllables but 3 morphemes. The same goes for TEACHERS; it has only 3 morphemes but 2 syllables.

      Read these for more clarity:
      https://akademia.com.ng/types-of-morphemes-free-and-bound/
      https://akademia.com.ng/prefix-definition-types-with-examples/
      https://akademia.com.ng/bound-morphemes-types-and-examples/
      https://akademia.com.ng/suffix-definition-types-and-examples/
      https://akademia.com.ng/derivational-and-inflectional-morphemes-differences/

      1. Please I strongly repudiate that UNDERSTANDING has one morpheme.

        It can be broken into morphemes as follows:
        UNDERSTAND / ING

        UNDERSTAND has a meaning so likewise UNDERSTANDING.

        Therefore the word UNDERSTANDING has two morphemes sir.

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