In morphology we analyze the words in detail. We see how other words can be derived from single word. In many language, there is always a stem like (مصدر) in Arabic. We can derive many words from stem.


While doing analysis of a word, we split the given word into parts. Each part is called a morpheme.

Examples: uneducated –> un + educate + d. so it has three morphemes.

Sub-Types of Morpheme

  1. Free Morpheme

The morpheme which has some meaning individually is called Free Morpheme.


Example. in word “uneducated”, we “educate” is free morpheme as it can be used as standalone.

2. Bound Morpheme

The morpheme which do not have any meaning on its own can not be used as standalone is called Bound Morpheme.

Example. In word “uneducated”, un and d are bound morphemes

Sub-Types of Free Morpheme

Free morpheme has further two sub types

1. Lexical Morpheme

The free morpheme which is actual content of a message is called lexical morpheme. They are usually nouns, adjectives and verbs.

Example: “He is the most educated person.” here “he”, “educated” and “person” are the free morphemes which have the content of the message so these are called lexical morphemes. Whereas the words like “is, the, most” are just helping in some way.

2. Functional Morpheme

The free morpheme which do not contain the actual content of the message rather they help in making sentences some way are call functional morphemes.

Example: “He is the most educated person.” Here the words like “is, the, most” are not the actual content of the message rather helping someway. so they are called functional morphemes.

Sub-types of Bound Morphemes

1. Derivational Morphemes

The bound morphemes which can change the grammatical category of the word are called derivational morphemes. In other words you can say that the derivational morphemes are actually used to derived an other grammatical category from the given category.

Example: help is verb but helper is a noun. care is a verb and careful is an adjective. so here er and ful are derivational morphemes

2. Inflectional Morphemes

The bound morphemes which do not change the grammatical category of the word rather change the state within the given category are called inflectional morphemes.

Example: hard is an adjective harder and hardest are also adjectives but with higher degrees. Here the grammatical category remained the same but the state changed. So er and est are the inflectional morphemes. similarly cook, cooked , cooked. here ed is the inflectional morpheme. student –> students.. here is s the inflectional morphemes.

Types of morphemes
Types of morphemes

For instance, take a sentence “The teacher teaches the class”. we can identify the morphemes as under.

The  –> functional
teach –> lexical
es –> inflextional
the –> functional
class –> lexical

Exceptions to morphological rules in English.

Most of the time when we observe a pattern, we try to make some rule. For example, we see the following forms of verbs

cook, cooked, cooked

fear, feared, feared

help, helped, helped

We tend to think that adding inflectional morpheme ed would make the second and third forms of the verb in English. But there are so many exceptions like “go went gone”, “cut, cut, cut” etc… similarly for singular and plural we see the patters as

lion lions

goat goats

cow cows

bull bulls

This pattern suggests that adding inflectional morpheme s would make the plural nouns. but what about dear and sheep which have same singular and plural nouns.

It is not just in english but we find such exceptions in almost all languages.

Morphs and Allomorphs

Just as we know that phoneme is the theoretically proposed sound and the phone is the actual phonetic realization. Similarly we can conclude that Morphemes are the theoretically proposed and the morphs are the actual phonetic realization. Some time we may have one to one mapping between morpheme and morph and some time one to many mapping. If there are more than one realizations (morphs) for a given morpheme they  are called allomorphs.

Example. Consider the following lexical and inflectional morphemes.

Lion –> Lions    ==> s
Bus –> Buses    ===>es
Sheep –> Sheep  ==> null
Mouse –> Mice –> irregular

if we want to make a generic rule of making plural we may write as following

Noun + PluralMorpheme —> Plural

Now this pluralMorphem may be {e, es, null, irregular}.

Hence. PluralMorphme is a theoretical morpheme having four morphs {e,es,null, irregular} . Since all the four morphs belong to same morpheme, hence they are called Allomorphs.