Dr. Johanna Rubba
English Department
Cal Poly State University, San Luis Obispo
© 2012 Johanna Rubba
Last updated 1/19/12

Morphology Exericise


Do a full morphological analysis of each of the following words. Steps:

1. Say how many morphemes are in the underlined word in each phrase, and rewrite the word with hyphens between the morphemes. If the root spelling changes when affixes are added, you can spell it either way.
2. Identify each morpheme in the word as bound or free; root, prefix or suffix; and, if an affix, inflectional or derivational. Any affix that is not in the tables of inflectional affixes on my morphology page is derivational. For inflectional morphemes, identify the category the affix marks (tense, number, etc.), and whether or not the suffix appears in a regular or irregular form. Keep an eye out for bound roots!
3. Remember the most crucial proof that something is a morpheme: it must occur with the same or nearly the same pronunciation AND THE SAME MEANING either in other words (in the case of affixes or bound roots) or when standing alone (in the case of free roots. It is helpful, however, to demonstrate that a free root retains its meaning when affixes other than those in question are attached to it). To the extent possible, give a definition for affixes; minimally, an affix may just change the lexical category (part of speech) of the root. You should definitely note that. For each bound morpheme, give at least two additional examples of words that contain that affix. It's all right to use a dictionary, but be very careful if you are dealing with an affix that takes more than one category of root: be sure to identify which one you're seeing. For instance, English -al can be applied to nouns to make adjectives, e.g., global, central, tropical, but it also makes nouns out of verbs: arrival, acquittal, refusal.


Example: Several Americanisms 4: America-an-ism-s
America: free root
-an: bound derivational suffix; e.g., 'Dominican', 'Republican', 'Asian'
-ism: bound derivational suffix; e.g., 'Communism', 'defeatism'
-s: bound inflectional suffix, regular plural; e.g., 'walls', 'things'


1. An unfortunate error 2. exchanging pleasantries 3. we have misidentified the victim 4. children's clothing
5. They're previewing the slides. 6. her two ex-husbands 7. Which scenario is unlikelier? 8. He unmasks me every time!
9. the safest location 10. the inspector's parking place 11. They are all reactionaries. 12. The play delighted us.

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