As you can easily infer from the video sequence of Mary Poppins above, human language is both creative and motivated. Human beings are able to produce an infinite number of words, ranging from spork to thatcherism, from politicide to boomerangst, from bambification to othering , and from modem to supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

These words are not formed arbitrarily but rather according to certain patterns or rules -- these rules of word formation as well as the analysis of the internal structure of words per se will be in the focus of the following section.

Take for instance the adjective inflammable:

  1. Can we subdivide the word inflammable into any further meaningful parts?
  2. Are there any rules within the English language that predetermine possible and impossible combinations?
  3. How can we analyze the internal structure of the adjective inflammable?
  4. How and according to which rules are new words formed or even invented in general?

The linguistic description of language as such is conveniently subdivided into five major fields: syntax, semantics, pragmatics, phonology and morphology. Yet, this distinction between these five major sub-disciplines is not to be seen as clear-cut but as fuzzy and constantly overlapping -- this holds particularly true for morphology and its neighboring linguistic disciplines.

A thorough study of morphology can, therefore, never be self-contained, that is, rigidly separated from the other linguistic levels; in contrast, morphology as we will see interacts not only with phonology, syntax but also with semantics and can thus not be examined in isolation.

The following section on morphology may help you to either rehearse what you have learnt so far in your seminar or to prepare for it. As you freely navigate through this section on morphology, you will be able to test your analytical skills and enhance your linguistic knowledge of words according to your own interests and specific needs.

Categories: Glossary

All modules of General Linguistics are divided into 3 areas: focus and content, exercises and tools & extras. Use the various short texts and attached exercises in each module in addition to your textbooks and make use of our extensive annotated reading lists and tools to improve your knowledge according to your needs. All subfields in the area focus and content are linked to several exercises, designed for the respective topics in three degrees of difficulty. You can either work through the texts and attached exercises in the given order or you can move on directly to the area exercises to improve your skills where necessary.