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With examples from various languages briefly what do you understand by the following morphological concepts.

Word, Lexeme, Allomorph, case, mood, aspect, root, stem, base and stem extender.

Morphology refers to the study of internal structure of word (Katamba1993). This means that word structure can be studied by using the concept of morphology as the branch of linguistics.

According to Yule, G. (2010), morphology is the branch of linguistics which deals with the study of internal structure of words. In morphology we study the morphemes as the constituents of the word structure.

Morphology examines meaning relationship between words and looks at how grammatical relationships between words are marked. Example meaning relationship is swim-swimmer and grammatical relationship is think, thinks, thoughts. From the concept of morphology it is better to understand that the most basic morphological concept is the word.

Thus, morphology studies the structure and functions of unit in the language system. These units can be meaningful or they can carry grammatical functions. For stance play and plays, so “-s” shows grammatical form of tense but play is a meaningful unit.

The following below are the morphological concepts which are used in the concept of morphology as;

Word is a single distinct meaningful element of speech or writing, used with others (sometime alone) to form a sentence and is shown with a space on either side when written or printed(English Oxford Living Dictionary 2018). Examples of words used alone in various languages are like;

English             Swahili             Sukuma                       Fipa                 Ha

Come               njoo                 nzugu               nguna               ingo

Sing                 imba                imbaga             lunda               lilimba

Farm                shamba                        ngunda             kuvyaloumulima         

Examples of words used with others to form sentences in various languages are like;

English; I prefer language subject

Swahili; Napendeleamasomo ya lugha

Sukuma; Natogilwemasomoga lugha

According to Bloomfield quoted by Katamba (1993), word is a minimum free form, means that word is the smallest meaningful linguistic unit that can be used on its own. It is a form that cannot be divided into any smaller units that can be used independently to convey meaning. Foristance “child” is a word, we cannot divide it up into smaller units that can convey meaning when they stand alone, contrast with the word “childish” which can be divided into “child- and –ish”, here childish is a word because it provide meaning while –ish is not a word because does not provide meaning rather is attached to other word. But according to Oxford English Dictionary “-ish” means something like having the qualities of; this childish means having qualities of child. For stance in various languages this can be proved as;

English Swahili Sukuma           Haya                Masai               Ha

Child    mtoto               ng’wana           omwana           engerai             umwana

Childish           utoto                bhunegene       obwana            engeraie           ubwana

Therefore words are divided into major word classes and minor word classes, major word classes include nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs. Minor word classes have grammatical meaning, they are functional words sometimes they are called closed word classes whereby no new words are introduced in. foristance of minor or minor parts of speech in language. Foristance minor parts of speech in English are preposition auxiliaries, pronouns, determines, conjunctions, complementizers, article, infinitival to and others.

The lexeme is to be understood as an abstract grammatical unit. The term lexeme can be clearly defined as an abstract morphological unit in linguistics that roughly corresponds to a set of forms taken by a single word. Forexample the word forms of run, runs, running, ran are forms of the same lexeme RUN.

According to Leskowski (2008), the term lexeme defined as maximal set of lexeme (grammatical words) which fulfills the following major conditions. First the identity of lexemic meaning, second two or more lexes (grammatical words which belong to the same lexeme with the same lexical meaning. The only possible distinction between them is the distinction of their inflection and lexeme indicated by using capital letters.

The lexeme sometimes can be defined as a word or key word in the dictionary, is the word that exist in dictionary before using it in a sentence or other syntactical element, when lexeme used in a certain syntactical content it become a word form. Forexample;

Verb form                                tenses

Run                                          runs, ran, running

From that example, the words runs, ran, running are word forms of the same lexeme RUN. Other examples are from Kijita as;

Present tense                            Past tense                     Future tense

Abhilima(running)                   abhilimile (run)            kajokubhilima.

These words which are verb form belong to the same lexeme KUBILIMA (RUN).The important things to note here is that, lexeme denote the more abstract when is in dictionary which can be occurred in different inflectional forms according to the syntactical rules involves in the generation of sentences. It is lexical unit and is entered in dictionaries as the fundamental element in the lexicon of language.

Another morphological concept is allomorph. Allomorphs aremorphs which realize the same morpheme or refer to different realization of same morpheme. Morph is any physical form that represent a morpheme for example –ish, -less, -er, re-, ex- and un-.Morphological analysis begins with the identification of morphs, which is a form that carries some meaning or associated with some grammatical function.

Example; The infinite article has more than one allomorph in English which are ‘a’ and ‘an’ whereby ‘a’ is used in words which start with consonant sounds and “an” is used in words start with vowel sounds like in the following words an egg, an apple, an axe, a cat and a bullet.

Allomorphs of the same morpheme are said to be in complementary distribution which mean they do not occur in identical context that is they cannot be used to distinguish meaning. Forexample in Swahili the causative morpheme has two allomorphs which are –ish- and –esh- in words like cheza           chez-esh-a, imba          imb-ish-a which show that the verb was caused to be done by someone else. Also applicative morpheme has two allomorphs which are –iki- and –eke- in words like; soma          som-ek-a, pika pik-ik-a. Which shows that something was done as it was planned?

Case is another morphological concept which refers to the grammatical analysis thatare attached to the noun in order to mark different grammatical function. The number of cases differs from one language to another. Example there are languages with two cases like Esperanto, four cases like Germanic and Icelandic, six cases like Turkish, Latin and Russia, seven cases like American, Czech, Polish, Ukrainian and Lithuanian, eight cases like Hungarian. English has largely lost its case system, although personal pronoun still have three cases, that are simplified from the nominative, accusative and genitive cases that are used with personal pronouns like;

Subjective case                                    objective case                          possessive case

I kicked the ball                                   John kicked me                       John’s car

Latin language sentence

Canis hominem mordet – Dog bites man

Canem homo mordet – man bites dog

It illustrates that different case ending express different function form of noun in Latin language. Japanese language in the following sentence case is indicated by the case markers “ga”, “ni” and “o” like;

Rumoliga Mary nihon O Yatta. (Rumoli gave Mary a book)

Rumoli -           Nominative

Mary-               Dative case


Therefore, there are different numbers of cases between languages but the mostly common encounter cases are nominative, accusative, dative and genitive cases.

Also another morphological concept is mood. Mood refers to a verb category which indicates how a speaker feels about what is being said. There are various types of mood including; Indicative mood, Imperative mood, Subjunctive mood, Conditional mood and Infinitive mood

Indicative mood express statements of fact like stating fact, asks a fact and denying a fact. For exampleJuma is a boy; cat is not an insect, JumaniMvulana “in Swahili”.

Imperative mood is used in giving commands or instructions in writing sentence with zerosubjects.Example; Tell him to come!Shut up! And bring me some chalks!

Also subjunctive mood is used to show something hypothetical or contrary to fact. It might be a wish, a desire, doubt or an imaginary situation. Example, I wish school were over. A subjunctive verb form is made from third person present singular without “s” ending. The sameform used whether the context is past or present. Example,I suggest he wait till Monday

In most formal English constructions, the subjunctive is formed with the word “that” and with verbs such as; suggest, demand, insist, recommend and others, in expressing demand or recommendation.

Example, It was suggest that there will be no school the next day

They demanded that the Prime Minister resign immediately

Subjunctive is often used in clauses beginning with “if” or “I wish”.

Example, If I were you I wouldn’t have been born in Tanzania

I wish I were your father.

Something to note about subjunctive mood is that, the subjunctive mood of the verb “to be” is be in present tense and “were” in the past tense regardless of what the subject is.

Also conditional mood shows under what condition something might happen. Conditional mood uses the following modal verbs to show under what conditions something might happen; “could”, “might”, “should” and “would”.

Example, I might be able to rich him if I call his phone

She could pass the exam is she put some more efforts.

Finally infinitive mood express an action or state without reference to any subject. Infinitive forms are not the fully functioning verb.When we speak of the English infinitive, we usually mean the basic form of the verb with “to” in front like “to sing”, “to read”, “to cry”.

Example, He likes to read novels

They love to sing

I like to stay alone.

In Swahili language subjunctive mood is marked in past tense and future tense using affixes such as ‘-nge-, -ngali-, -ngeli- (in past tense) and –ki-’ (in future tense).

Example, Angekujaangemkuta



Example of future tense subjunctive –ki-



Moreover aspect must also be considered in morphology but it is better to make clear that Speakers of any language convey a large amount of information about situation and time. They can represent a given action as ongoing or as completed. They can represent it as having taken place once or as being repeated or as being habit. We can locate a situation in past, present or future time.

Whether a situation is going on or completed, repeated or habitual comes under the heading of “Aspect”.

According to Sidney G & Nelson G Aspect is a grammatical category referring to the way that the time of a situation is viewed by the speaker or writer. In English language there are two aspects. These are the perfective aspect and the progressive aspect.

The Perfective Aspect of a verb combines a form of the auxilliary have with the “ed” participle of that verb. The auxiliary has two present form has/have and one past form “had”. Forexample the present perfect of close is “has closed” or “have closed’ and the past perfect is “had closed” in Swahili language. Present perfect is expressed by using “me” example; Amelima, means he/she has cultivated, amecheka means he/she has laughed andwamelia means they have cried.

The progressive aspect, this indicates that situation is in progress, it may therefore also imply that it lasts for only a limited period and that is not ended.

Example, I was reading a novel last night

They were playing football last Sunday

You were sleeping in the morning

In Swahili language progressive aspect is expressed using “Na”

Examples; Analima (He/she is cultivating)

Wanaimba (They are singing)

Anacheka (He/she is laughing).

Root refers to the one among the elements of the internal structure of the word which forms the core of the word.It is the unit to which other morphemes may be added, it is also what remains when all affixes are pilled away. All roots belong to one of the lexical categories like Noun, Verb, Adverb, and Adjective. Example, Nouns like Bell, child and Adjectives like Big, black. The vast majority of root morphemes are capable of appealing on their own and these called content words.We also have many morphemes which are always kept in bondage. These are the bound morphemes. This leads to the formation of bound roots.

Example          loc - place                    tox – in

loc – al                         tox – ic

            loc-al-ity                      non-tox-ic



In Swahili language free roots are like mama, baba, and safari but bound roots from other verb categories like verbs; pig-piga, lim-lima, chez-cheza.

Another morphological concept is base, therefore any form to which affixes are appointed in word formative is called base. Bases to which affixes are added can be bare roots. Example ‘loc-’ from this word we can get words such as loc-al, loc-um, loc-w. Affixes can be added to the independent words such as govern-governor or government. Also they can be forms which already contain other affixes such as loc-al - local-ity. Most of the roots are bases but not all bases are roots. So affix isany morpheme that appended or attached to the root. Affixes can be attached before or after the base. Exampleusing root ‘polite’ as our base we can form the new lexical items by adding ‘-ness’ to give politeness (property of being polite) or –ly- to get politely (in a polite manner).

The other morphological concept is stem, Shalua (2014:64), defines stem as it is the form of the word before any inflectional affixes are added or is the base with lexical meaning. These inflectional affixes do not change lexical word or word category. In English language most stems qualifies as a word. The inflectional affixes have different grammatical functions like marking comparative and superlative degrees as in word like thinner, thinnest whereby the stem is thin.Showing genitives or possession -s’ like students’, John’s, marking gender like act-or/act-ress, lad-ies, and showing participles like play-ing, blacken-ed, un-screwed. So stem is the form of a word that inflections get added onto. Most of the time this will be the root, moreover stem must have lexical meaning and sometimes stem can be as root as base like video, finger, watch.

In Russian language verb and noun can be used to show different participles which mark the boundary of stem like Sobak-a (dog barking) and Sobak-u (dog barked).

In Latin numbers are marked by –s, -e, and –a like Rege-s (Kings), Regina-e (queens), oppid-a (towns).Generally Katamba (1993:55) argues that inflectional processes assign a stem certain grammatical properties so as to produce grammatical word that can fit in a syntactic slot. Example book-s, nation-al, re-view and sometimes which has two stems that are some and times.

Stem Extender: - According to morphologycuslinguisticus (2011) whom referred Katamba in his book Modern Linguistic Morphology, stem refers to the morpheme that is adjoined to a base and which has no lexical or grammatical meaning. Sometimes these morphemes are called surplus morpheme which has a function. Some languages have word building elements that devoid of content as empty formatives/empty morphs.

In English language empty formatives/ morphs are inserted between the root, bases or stem and an affix. Foristance the irregular plural allomorph-en can be added to stem ox to form oxen directly, but other words need a stem to be expanded so that -en can be attached after attaching -r- to the root, like child-r-en and breth-r-en, hence concept stem extender occurred. This is not arbitrary but can be proved historically whereby stem extenders were used before a particular affix. ExampleOld English use ‘-er’ to form plural nouns, but after a longtime changed into ‘–en’, like Cild (child) Cild-er then cild-er-en. Even in Modern English there is stem extender like fact-u-al problem-at-ic, big-g-er, fat-t-estand others.

Generally Morphology as a branch of phonetics plays great role in any language since it contribute greatly in the formation of the new words which are new in the language to meet the variety of changes which are happening in our society.Example through one of the morphological process called coining new words from scientific discoveries are given names hence become inserted in the language and other morphological processes such as clipping, compound are crucial.Also it increases the vocabulary of any language to a great extent by allowing the users of any language to form new words which were not there at once.


Jim, M. (2002).An introduction to English syntax.Edenburgh University Press.

Katamba, F. (1993).Morphology. London: Macmillan.

Katamba, F. (1994).English words. New york: Routledge.

Leskowski, R. (1987&2008). On the concept of lexeme.Scando-Slavic: Routledge   Publishers.

Oxford University Press (2008). English Oxford Living Dictionary. United Kingdom: World wide.

Shalua, C.E. (2010). New Advanced Level English; A complete package course book. Purely   paper one.

Sidney, G & Nelson, G. (2002).An introduction to English Grammar.Longman Publishers.

Yule, G. (2010). The study of language.(4th edition). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.



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