LINGUIST List 9.714

Thu May 14 1998

Disc: Complex Morphemes

Editor for this issue: Julie Wilson <>


  1. Larry Trask, Q: the term `morph'

Message 1: Q: the term `morph'

Date: Wed, 13 May 1998 17:27:57 +0100 (BST)
From: Larry Trask <>
Subject: Q: the term `morph'

This is a search for a term. Suppose I tell you (truthfully) that
the Basque noun <mendi> `mountain' has an inflected form <mendietan>
`in the mountains'. The noun-stem is perfectly visible, but I want
to talk about the stretch of material represented by <-etan>. Since
the morphological analysis of this material is obscure and
controversial, I just want to cite <-etan> without committing myself
to any particular analysis of it. What do I call it?

Throughout my career, I have used the term `morph' for this.
However, some of my colleagues have queried this usage, on the ground
that `morph' is traditionally only used for a stretch of phonological
material clearly representing a *single* morpheme.

A term like `ending' will not do, since the kind of thing I have in
mind need not be word-final. For example, since <-n> happens to be
the usual Basque locative ending, I might choose to extract this from
<-etan> and then to ponder the remaining stretch of material <-eta->
from the same point of view.

Any advice?

I note, by the way, that the American structuralist terms `empty
morph' and `portmanteau morph' appear to adumbrate the usage of
`morph' I am thinking of here, since each of these terms denotes a
stretch of phonological material which is most emphatically not a
single morpheme.

Larry Trask
University of Sussex
Brighton BN1 9QH
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue