LINGUIST List 9.791

Wed May 27 1998

Disc: Complex Morphemes

Editor for this issue: Brett Churchill <>


  1. Bertinetto, The Term "Morph"
  2. Beard, Michael, RE: 9.755, Sum: The Term "Morph"

Message 1: The Term "Morph"

Date: Thu, 21 May 1998 21:21:16 +0200
From: Bertinetto <>
Subject: The Term "Morph"

In his recent posting, Larry Trask writes:

>It further appears that there exists a rather mysterious subset of
>linguists, forming no natural class that I can detect, who
>unhesitatingly use `morph' in exactly this sense, even though most of
>our colleagues do not. Why is this happening?

Maybe the natural class is 'European (sorry, Continental) linguists'. I
believe it is current practice for many linguists in this continent to use
'morph' for the concrete slice that one can dissect in a complex word,
reserving 'morpheme' for the abstract unit.
You may find this, for instance, in Dubois et al. "Dictionnaire de
linguistique", Paris 1973. And I am sure one could make the same discovery
in similar works.
Personally, I see no reason to abandon this practice, which I find very
handy. One reason for this is that it provides perfect symmetry with the
corresponding terms 'phone' / 'phoneme'. In any case, the alternatives
proposed in Larry's message do not seem at all better.
Obviously, one could see this particular usage as an instance of European
(pardon, Continental) idiosyncrasy. But then, even discarding it (on the
basis of some fairly confusing statements by Hockett) might be regarded as
American idiosyncrasy...
In any case, I share Larry's feeling that it IS odd that there is no
commonly agreed term for this. Actually, I never realized the problem until
he pointed it out to us.

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Message 2: RE: 9.755, Sum: The Term "Morph"

Date: Thu, 21 May 1998 16:51:45 -0700
From: Beard, Michael <MBeardTucsonElectric.Com>
Subject: RE: 9.755, Sum: The Term "Morph"

			I've been following the discussion with some
interest regarding the issue of the term 'morph' and how to view
'morpheme strings'. I've been reminded of some of my studies in ancient
Greek where early linguistic analysis made such statements as "the
Greeks preferred sound X over sound Y in certain combinations". Now
from a more informed viewpoint (I hope so, anyway!) I can see that the
grammarians were talking about phonological variations, whether from the
generative phonological viewpoint or not.

			Anyway, if these morpheme strings do approximate
phenomena such as epenthesis, then are they more phonological in nature
or do they, in fact, convey morpho-syntactic meaning? Perhaps there are
some subtle semantic intentions conveyed by various phonological
clusters that are not part of the "normal" morpheme nor phonological
inventory. If there is some kind of meta-linguistic content to these
strings, then perhaps you could call them meta-morphs.

			Michael Beard
			(520) 884-3675
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