LINGUIST List 9.732

Sun May 17 1998

Disc: Complex Morphemes

Editor for this issue: Martin Jacobsen <>


  1. Richard M. Alderson III, Re: 9.714, Disc: Complex Morphemes
  2. Waruno Mahdi, Re: 9.714, Disc: Complex Morphemes

Message 1: Re: 9.714, Disc: Complex Morphemes

Date: Thu, 14 May 1998 16:54:30 -0700 (PDT)
From: Richard M. Alderson III <>
Subject: Re: 9.714, Disc: Complex Morphemes

Larry Trask writes:

>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.

I must disagree with the characterization of a `portmanteau morph' as
"not a single morpheme". My understanding of the term is rather a
single, not further analyzable, morph which bears more than a single
sememe. The canonical example is of course the Latin verb ending
/o:/, which signals all of "1st sg. non- past active indicative", but
is certainly not analyzable into to smaller por- tions phonologically.

As for the original query, I think I'd refer to a `morpheme string',
which will make clear that more than one morph(eme) is involved
without detailing further analysis. But that's just my opinion.

Rich Alderson
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue

Message 2: Re: 9.714, Disc: Complex Morphemes

Date: Fri, 15 May 1998 15:51:04 +0200
From: Waruno Mahdi <mahdiFHI-Berlin.MPG.DE>
Subject: Re: 9.714, Disc: Complex Morphemes

> This is a search for a term......<mendi>...has an inflected form
><mendietan>....................................... ..... 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? ........ A
>term like `ending' will not do, since the kind of thing I have in 
>mind need not be word-final.

To be frank, I've never understood the principle difference between an
"ending" and a "suffix". If we replace the former by the latter, then
we can say "prefix" (in front), "infix" (inside a rootmorpheme), and
"interfix" (between rootmorphemes of a compound) when it is not word-
final, and "affix" for the general case. I have met with the term
"confix" for complex auxiliary (non-root) morphemes, and also
"circumfix" for such which consist of a preposed and a postposed
element (e.g. in Malay _baik_ "good", _kebaikan_ "goodness, kindness",
where we have <ke-...-an>). With a bit of creative imagination one
could perhaps coin further terms: *monofix, *bifix, *trifix,....,
*multifix? Alternatively, on could perhaps simply say "complex
affix"? A true challenge is perhaps the combination of a
word-internal and word-final element. Instances of suffix-induced
umlaut could develope in this direction, I think, e.g. if the umlaut
vowel developed to a diphthong involving the original (pre-umlaut)
vowel and a semivowel or glide.

Best regards, Waruno

- --------------------------------------------------------------
Waruno Mahdi tel: +49 30 8413-5404
Faradayweg 4-6 fax: +49 30 8413-3155
14195 Berlin email:
Germany WWW:
- ---------------------------------------------------------------
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue