How are words structured? This is the domain of linguistic morphology, the study of how words are formed by languages.

Every language has words, but the way words are formed can vary dramatically across languages. For instance, some languages appear to have little or no morphology, and others can have word-formation processes so rich that an entire sentence can be conveyed with a single word. Some languages make heavy use of prefixes, others rely on suffixes, and there are even some languages that insert word parts into the middles of words, rather than placing them at the edges.

In addition to this rich crosslinguistic variation, we will also explore issues having to do with the shape of related words. Why is dogs the plural of dog, but the plural of child is children? How do we have knowledge that inaudible, impossible and inconceivable all have the same initial word-part, even though they are all pronounced differently? What is responsible for the pronunciation differences between related pairs of words like electric vs. electricity? Do novel words behave like we would expect, given the structure of the language, or do they behave in a special, or unique way? How do we "create’"new words?

A related issue has to do with the different morphological categories and strategies available to languages. Why do some languages make extensive use of compounding as a word-formation strategy, while others rely on lexical affixes, and yet in others the distinction between phrases and compounds is unclear? Why does one language treat a particular category as inflectional, while another language treats it as derivational?

Finally, a driving question for the course will be: How does morphology interface with the syntax, semantics, or phonology of a language?

This course will explore all of these issues, and all of these questions, giving students a thorough background in linguistic morphology.

Availability 2022

Semester 2


Coordinator(s) Dr Keith Montgomery
Lecturer(s)  John Middleton


LINGUIST 324: 15 points


LINGUIST 100 or 103