Glossary: morphology


Morphology is the study of the internal structure of words.

A word’s morphology is its internal make-up in terms of root words and suffixes or prefixes, as well as other kinds of change such as the change of mouse to mice.

Morphology may be used to produce different inflections of the same word (e.g. boyboys), or entirely new words (e.g. boyboyish) belonging to the same word family.

  • dogs has the morphological make-up: dog + s.
  • unhelpfulness has the morphological make-up: unhelpful + ness, where unhelpful = un + helpful and helpful = help + ful

A word that contains two or more root words is a compound (e.g. news+paper, ice+cream).

Morphology looks at how words can be made up from smaller parts, e.g. bright + -er gives brighter; white + board = whiteboard; study + -ed = studied.

Word structure: Derivation

Derivation is the process of creating new words. The technical term derivational morphology is the study of the formation of new words. Here are some examples of words which are built up from smaller parts:

Word structure: Inflection

Inflection is the process by which a single word takes different forms. For example, if we have the noun cat, we can add a plural ending to it to create cats. This is known as inflecting a noun and the ending we add is called a suffix.

What are the plural forms of the following nouns?


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