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Review of  The Grammar of Words

Reviewer: Alexandra Galani
Book Title: The Grammar of Words
Book Author: Geert Booij
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Linguistic Field(s): Morphology
Book Announcement: 16.2337

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Date: 05 Aug 2005 11:04:30 +0100
From: Alexandra Galani <>
Subject: The Grammar of Words: An Introduction to Linguistic Morphology

AUTHOR: Booij, Geert
TITLE: The Grammar of Words
SUBTITLE: An Introduction to Linguistic Morphology
SERIES: Oxford Textbooks in Linguistics
PUBLISHER: Oxford University Press
YEAR: 2005

Alexandra Galani, Department of Language and Linguistic Science,
University of York.


This textbook is an introduction to morphology. It is a guide of the
morphological concepts to unfamiliar students. The book, nevertheless,
further examines a variety of theoretical issues and introduces the
fundamental methods of morphological analysis. Specifically, it is divided
in to five main sections covering not only a great range of purely
morphological phenomena (e.g. derivation, compounding, inflection) but
also the interfaces between morphology and phonology, morphology and
syntax as well as morphology and semantics. Additionally, it discusses the
role of morphology in psycholinguistics and language change. A overall
structure of the book followed throughout the chapters, is the following:
most of the issues which are discussed and the points which are made, are
exemplified in a clear and coherent way in the majority of the work. Each
chapter concludes with a summary of the main points raised, and is
followed by a set of ten questions/exercises and finally references for
further reading. Complete lists of typographic conventions (p. viii),
abbreviations and symbols (p. xi), figures (p. xii) and tables (p. xiii),
references (pp.290-302), language (p.303) and subject (pp.304-308) indexes
are also available. Section I: What is Linguistic Morphology? (pp. 1-48)
The first section presents an overview of what morphology is all about and
introduces the fundamental morphological concepts and processes.

Chapter 1: Morphology: basic notions (pp. 3-26) The first chapter opens
with a presentation of the concepts surrounding morphology, such as
morphology, inflection, derivation and compounding. The author then moves
on to discussing paradigmatic and syntagmatic morphology, offering
definitions such as simplex/complex/polymorphemic words, morphemes and
morpheme versus lexeme-based morphology. Students are further introduced
to the functions of morphology (labelling, recategorisation,
coreferentiality) before engaging in to the relation that holds between
morphology and the lexicon: lexicalisation, borrowing, univerbation, word
creation and lexical integrity are some of the aspects discussed. The
chapter concludes with a short reference to the goals of morphology. As
for the ten exercises, the students are invited to identify suffixes and
stems in a given set of data, discuss cases of blending and bacronyms as
well as give the morphological structure of words, amongst others.

Chapter 2: Morphological analysis (pp. 27-48) The second chapter focuses
on the atoms of words, morphological operations and aspects of typology.
The definitions of stems, zero endings, affixes, cranberry morphemes,
allomorphy, suppletion, underlying forms, obstruents, reduplication,
category-changing, internal modification, transposition, polysynthetic
versus agglutinative languages, morphological, implicational and
markedness universals are some of the phenomena which are discussed and
exemplified in the present chapter. The exercises mainly shed light on the
identification of morphemes and the formulation of morphological rules
that account for the formation of the sets of data given by the author.

Section II: Word-Formation (pp. 49-96) The second section of the book is
devoted to word-formation as seen in derivational and compounding

Chapter 3: Derivation (pp. 51-74) Chapter 3 sets off with a reference to
category-determining processes, such as nominalisations and
verbalisations. Williams' (1981) Right-hand Head Rule and the Non-
Redundancy Constraint (Ackerman and Goldberg 1996) are explored here
alongside inheritance tree and constraints on derivation (e.g. prosodic,
stratal, based-driven). Issues of productivity and affix ordering are
discussed briefly in the two final sections of the chapter. Students are
asked to discuss whether sets of data impose problems for a percolation
account, for instance, what determines selection of allomorphs and whether
certain morphological patterns can find an explanation along the lines of
iconicity. Chapter 4: Compounding (pp. 75-96) Compounding is the topic
of chapter four. Types of compounds, the distinction between compounds and
phrasal expressions, the differences between compounds and derived words,
interfixes and stem allomorphy as well as synthetic compounds and noun
incorporation are examined. The exercises aim to test the students'
understanding on giving the morphological structure of compounds,
formulating the restrictions imposed on possible combinations of
categories with English compounds, stating the processes which are
involved in the formation of compounds and identifying compound types.

Section III: Inflection (pp. 97-228) In section three, attention is paid
on issues surrounding inflectional morphology, ranging from the
morphosyntactic categories represented in nominal and verbal inflection to
the ways inflectional phenomena are accounted for theoretically.

Chapter 5: Inflection (pp. 99-124) The first chapter of this section
examines the sets of morphosyntactic features forms may be inflected for
which also allows the author to introduce the properties of forms, such as
infinitives and gerunds, to students. The roles of inflection in the
construction of sentences are further explored in detail. Here, Booij
explains the differences between contextual and inherent, weak and strong
inflection. The criteria for distinguishing inflection from derivation are
presented in the third section of the present chapter. The discussion
turns to be theoretically driven from this point onwards, as the author
explores the formal representation of inflectional processes and the
component of grammar where inflectional rules apply. The relevant
discussion reveals the different theoretical models which have been
formulated in the literature from the Item-and-Arrangement, to the Item-
and-Process, realisation morphology and Distributed Morphology. The
universal ordering of morphemes finally concludes the chapter. Reference
is made to Bybee's (1985) work and the models of split morphology and
strong lexicalism. The exercises invite students to explore and explain
inflectional patterns in data drawn from English, German, French, Dutch,
Finnish and Russian.

Chapter 6: Inflectional systems (pp. 125-150) Gender, number and case in
nominal systems open chapter six, something which gives rise to the
discussion of the Animacy Hierarchy (Corbett 2000), rules of referral,
inflectional homonymy and concord. The Tense-Mood-Aspect system (TMA) is
presented in detail and further discussed in relation to Bybee's (1985)
typological work. The chapter is rounded off with an equally extensive
reference to autonomous morphology. The exercises focus on identifying
stem forms and further explaining inflectional patterns mainly in relation
to agreement, temporal and aspectual features.

Section IV: Interfaces (pp. 151-228) The nature of the discussion in the
remaining of the book shifts to a more theoretical level. The interfaces
of morphology with phonology, syntax and semantics are explored in the
fourth section.

Chapter 7: The interface between morphology and phonology (pp. 153-184)
This chapter reveals how morphology may influence the phonological form of
a complex word. Optimality Theory, paradigmatically governed allomorphy,
morpholexical and morphologically conditioned phonological rules,
cyclicity and co-phonologies, autosegmental and prosodic morphology are
the central points of attention.

Chapter 8: Morphology and syntax: demarcation and interaction (pp. 185-
206) Aspects around the relation between words and phrases, grammatical
functions and case marking, syntactic valency, periphrasis and
constructional idioms give rise to the discussion in chapter eight which
includes reference to particle verbs, anaphora, Predicate Argument
Structure (PAS), linking rules, passivisation, thematic roles and serial
verbs. The exercises accompanying the present chapter invite students to
explain syntactic valency and explain case marking mainly in passive

Chapter 9: Morphology and semantics (pp. 207-228) The Compositionality
Principle, the differences between meaning and interpretation,
conceptualisation rules and bracketing paradoxes surround the discussion
around the semantic interpretation of morphological structure. The
investigation of syntactic valency of complex words determined by semantic
properties further advances the phenomena covered here before the chapter
concludes with a fairly extensive reference to the domain of polysemy.

Section V: Morphology and Mind (pp. 229-278) The final section of the book
is concerned with the relation that holds between morphology and the
organisation of the human mind as well as with what diachronic changes
have to tell us about a system, how a language changes and how it is

Chapter 10: Morphology and sociolinguistics (pp. 231-254) This chapter
explains the ways morphological structures and rules are represented in
the human brain. Emphasis is placed not only on the properties of the
mental lexicon but also on the acquisition of morphology and, of course,
on the variety of the models of morphological knowledge. A brief reference
to sources of evidence on how morphological information is represented in
the mind as well as the ways according to which morphological information
is stored, is made in a comprehensive way.

Chapter 11: Morphology and language change (pp. 255-278) The final chapter
of the book examines the relation of morphology with respect to language
change. It pays attention to the nature of language change by making
reference to lexical innovation, internal change, language contact, pidgin
and creole languages. The author refers to historic sources of morphology
to discuss desyntactisation, dephonologisation, paradigmatic and
bidirectional lebelling. Booij further illustrates what sort of changes
may occur in morphological rules as well as how changes may affect the
word structure in languages.


As a whole, the book is well-organised and -written, coherent and clear.
The author covers a great range of morphological concepts, patterns and
issues which are briefly but nonetheless, concisely explained and well-
exemplified in the vast majority. Evidence is brought forward from a
number of languages and language families, although emphasis is placed on
the Germanic ones. Coherent definitions of morphological terms are
frequently offered. The chapters are generally well-organised and equally
presented in length, although particular attention is paid on chapter 6
(on the inflectional systems). Cross-references are also well managed. The
conclusive notes of each chapter provide a useful and clear summary of the
most fundamental points which have been raised. Furthermore, the
discussion in each chapter follows from the one immediately preceding it.
The references on further reading are not only appropriate but also

The most important aspect of this book's value and strength is the fact
that it presents a nicely outlined way of "how to do morphological
analysis theoretically". A representative example is given on pages 172-
175, when the author discusses the selection of the suffixes -er and -aar
in Dutch. Once the facts have been presented, he briefly refers to a
theoretical principle before he engages in a possible analysis. Reference
is made to previous accounts and he further points out the advantages and
disadvantages of the alternative approach. Generally and even from the
first section in the first chapter of the book, Booij incorporates the
discussion around the fundamental morphological concepts within a wider
theoretical perspective. The exercises force students to approach the data
critically and explain it along the lines of principles previously
discussed in the chapter, instead of simply describing morphological

Nonetheless, the incorporation even of the basic concepts in to a rather
elaborated discussion levels up the nature of the book which makes it
advanced in comparison to other introductory books of morphology in the
literature, as Haspelmath's (2002) for instance. It renders, on the other
hand, more similarities with Spencer's (1991). The author, in several
cases, moves straight to the point of interest and omits giving more
substantial information in relation to the phenomenon he examines or
several points require previous knowledge of the linguistic issues under
examination and specifically those which are concerned with the syntax-
morphology interface. Consequently, what is not clear is the degree of
knowledge of linguistics the author assumes that the students to which the
book is addressed might have. Not all students are familiar with the
particulars of voice or duality and, some explanatory information could
have been further added to. Along these lines, Booij refers to labelled
bracketing before explaining the term (page 9). Similarly, he invites
students to identify the stem forms in the set of data in exercise 5 of
chapter 1 but stems are not discussed until chapter 2. In some instances,
information that makes the discussion rather confusing (again, as it takes
students to a more advanced level than the rest of the book) or could have
been omitted is offered (for example, the IPA chart).

In a couple of cases, additional examples could have been given to
illustrate and accompany the phenomena and issues presented. For instance,
the actual example from Papuan (page 23) could have been offered to make
the discussion clear and the patterns concrete. Additionally, Booij notes
that "... there are many more languages that only use suffixes (Turkish is
an example) than there are languages that only use prefixes". Here, I
guess a very short reference could have been made to a couple of such
languages. Such cases are noted in several parts of the book. Their
incorporation would have stimulated and rouse the students' interest even
more, as it would have allowed them to make comparisons, engage further
with the discipline and challenge them theoretically. This would have also
been along the lines of morphological analysis put forward in the present
work. When the author refers to principles -let's say the compositionality
one- the relevant references could have been given briefly.

A couple of final remarks; The author does not mention the importance of
morpheme-by-morpheme glossing and this is something which is not always
applied in his examples. Consider the Latin example 2 in chapter 5
(slightly reformatted):


A glossary of technical terms could have been added to the extensive
lists, tables and indexes. Finally, there is a misprint on the heading of
1.2 section: "Paradigmatic versus syntactic morphology" where it should
have been "Paradigmatic versus syntagmatic morphology".

The aforementioned points only aim to point out some implementations which
could have been made. I believe that this book can be used as an
introductory one to morphology but it is addressed to students with
previous knowledge of linguistics above the first year of their
undergraduate degree or postgraduates. Some students may also feel that
they need to consult a rather less advanced introductory work.
Nevertheless, the value of the book should not be down-sided by these
points. It presents a diversity of issues, teaches the students how to
analyse morphological phenomena, think theoretically and investigate
morphological patterns not as isolated cases but as closely related to
syntax, phonology, semantics as well as other disciplines of linguistics.


Ackerman, F. and A. Goldberg (1996) Constraints on adjectival past
participles. In Goldberg (Ed.), Conceptual structure, discourse and
language, 19-30. Standford: CSLI.

Bybee, J. (1985) Morphology: A study of the relation between meaning and
form. Amsterdam: Benjamins.

Haspelmath, M. (2002) Understanding Morphology, Arnold Publishers.

Spencer, A. (1991) Morphological Theory: An introduction to word structure
in Generative Grammar, Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Williams, E. (1981) On the notions "Lexically related" and "Head of a
word", Linguistic Inquiry 12:245-274.


Alexandra Galani is a member of the Department of Language and Linguistic
Science at the University of York. She has been working on the
morphosyntax of tense and aspect in Modern Greek within Distributed
Morphology. Her main research interests are: word formation,
syntax/morphology interface, morphology/phonology interface, allomorphy,
suppletion and the lexicon.

Format: Hardback
ISBN: 0199280428
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Pages: 320
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Format: Paperback
ISBN: 0199258473
ISBN-13: N/A
Pages: 320
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