16 April, 2012


A. Definition of “word”:

Words are genuine linguistics units.
In written texts, words are recognized by the white spaces between them.
In linguistic analysis, we are interested in spoken words.
A word’ is a free morpheme or a combination of morphemes that together form a basic segment of speech” . Norman C. Stageberg
“A word is…any segment of a sentence bounded by successive point at which pausing is possible”   Charles F. Hockett.
Words can be identified by the pauses between them:

B. Simple and Complex Words:
English words may be classified on the basis of the kinds and combinations of morphemes of which they are composed.

1. Simple words consist of a single free morpheme.
EXAMPLES: flea, long, spirit
2. Complex words contain, as their immediate constituents (ICs), either two bound forms or a bound and a free form.
EXAMPLES: televise , telephone.
  • Complex Words contain two Bound Forms:

        tele | vise

  • Complex Words contain Bound and free Forms:
       tele | phone
 eras | er
C. Compound Words:
Compound words have free forms, usually two as their ICs:
_     green | house
_    out | side

A small number of compound words have three or four free forms as coordinate ICs.
spic| and| span

Compounds words resemble grammatical structures in that they imply, though they do not state, a grammatical relationship.

Compound words can be distinguished from grammatical structures in three ways:
1. Compound words cannot be divided by the insertion of intervening materials between the two parts, but grammatical structures can be so divided.
     _She is a sweetheart.
_She has a sweet heart.
2. A member of a compound word cannot participate in a grammatical structure. COMPARE:
hard ball to baseball.
·         hard ball =  modifier + noun
·         baseball =   compound word base | ball.
‘very’ can be added:
_ It was a very hard ball.
_ * It was a very baseball.

3. Some compound nouns have different stress patterns than grammatical structures.

Blúebìrd       &      blûe bírd
Blúebìrd =  Compound Word
blûe bird =  Grammatical Structure

Compound words may take three forms:
a.      an open compound: such as sweet potato.
b.      a hyphenated compound: such as mother- in-law.
c.       a closed compound: such as airtight.
Stageberg, Norman C. and Dallin D. Oaks (2000). An Introductory English Grammar , Heinle, Boston:USA.

LANE 333 - Phonesthemes

P.     Phonesthemes
“The word phonestheme is, a blending of phoneme and esthetic, indicating quite elegantly the tendency of certain sounds to acquire esthetic or emotional connotations.”
(Verbatim: VERBATIM: The Language Quarterly Vol XIII No 3)
Phonestheme : a sound that, because it appears in a number of words of similar meaning, has a recognizable semantic association.
Nordberg (1986) wrote ‘‘Sound symbol or phonestheme ... is the synesthetic combination of a certain sound or sound sequence with a particular notion or a particular connotative content.’’
Jakobson and Waugh (1979) defined sound symbolism as ‘‘an inmost, natural association between sound and meaning’’.
Malkiel (1994) used the term phonosymbolism to mean the same as sound symbolism.
What exactly is the relation between phonesthemes and morphemes?
Are phonesthemes really morphemes or are they something different?

The most common definition of a morpheme is ‘‘a minimal meaning carrying unit’’

Bolinger, 1965 defined the term phonestheme as ‘‘the grouping of similar meanings about similar sound’’.
Åsa Abelin, 1999, used the term phonestheme to mean bound submorphemic.

Phonesthemes are sounds that in themselves express, elicit, or suggest meaning.
_ Example: the meaning of two Chinese words
     ching = heavy
    chung = light
The vowels in these words elicit the meaning.
These vowels are called phonesthemes.
In English, the most common phonesthemes are the pair of high front vowels /i/ and /Ι/, suggesting smallness : peep, squeak, ping, bit.

It is important to note that phonesthemes do not meet all the conditions that qualify a morpheme. Thus, they are considered a different linguistic feature or as Åsa Abelin, 1999, considered “bound submorphemic” .
Stageberg, Norman C. and Dallin D. Oaks (2000). An Introductory English Grammar , Heinle, Boston:USA.


A homophone is a word that sounds like another word but has a different meaning and a different spelling. In morphology, it must be remembered that homophones are different morphemes.
NOTE: In morphology, it must be remembered that homophones are different morphemes.
1. Did you like the meet? /mit/ ( track meet)
2. Did you like the meat ? /mit/ ( roast beef)
Those two homophonous words are two different morphemes.
The same is true for bound forms:
1. Verbal inflectional suffix: It feels /-z/ good
2. Noun plural inflectional suffix: Those frogs /-z/
3. Noun possessive inflectional suffix: John’s /-z/ book
Those three homophonous /-z/ -s are three different morphemes.
• Homophones are words that sound alike but differ in meaning:
          _ heir, air
          _ pare, pair, pear
• It is important to remember that words like these are different morphemes.
• The same applies to bound morphemes:
      _ It feels /-z/ good.
_ Those frogs /-z/
_ John’s /-z/ book
Stageberg, Norman C. and Dallin D. Oaks (2000). An Introductory English Grammar , Heinle, Boston:USA.