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Allomorph (also morphemalternante ) is a term used in linguistics and denotes variants of a morpheme that have the same meaning or function or have a similar function . It differs from the morph in that its affiliation to a certain morpheme has been established, it is classified. The determination of which morpheme an allomorph belongs to is based on its similar or identical form on the one hand and on the other hand its same grammatical function or similar or same meaning. Gold and güld (in güld-en ) are therefore two different morphs that realize one and the same morpheme; thus they also represent two allomorphs of this morpheme. Only in inflection are many authors also count those allomorphs in a morpheme that have large differences in form, as is the case with the plural German nouns (see below). The allomorphs -s ( Auto-s ) and -er ( Kind-er ) are completely different in form, but are viewed by many as realizations of one and the same morpheme due to their identical grammatical function.

Examples of allomorphs in German

- From the personal inflection of the verbs:

The morpheme “3. Person singular indicative present “has the two allomorphs -et (in: rechn-et ) and -t (in: geh-t ) in German for weak verbs .

- From the plural inflection of the nouns:

  • Fish - fish e (plural allomorph: -e)
  • Carrier - carrier (plural allomorph: zero allomorph )
  • Father - V like ter (plural Allomorph: umlaut )
  • Forest - W ä ld he (plural Allomorph: umlaut + -er)
  • Voice - voice- n (plural allomorph: -n)
  • Child - child he (plural Allomorph -er)
  • Video - Video- s (plural allomorph: -s)
  • Mouse - M ä us- e (plural Allomorph: umlaut + e)
  • Frau - Frau- en (plural allomorph: -en)

The plural of different lexemes is thus formed with different allomorphs. The meaning of these variants, namely that they mark the plural, is always the same. When there are different manifestations for the same grammatical function, the term grammatical allomorph is sometimes used . A suggestion for dealing with the rules for the choice of allomorphs can be found in Wegener (1995).

On the choice of allomorphs

When choosing the allomorphs, different rules apply:

For example, if you want to use the word topic in the plural, you have the choice between -ta (topics) and -en (topics); with commas you can choose between -ta (commas) and -s (commas). In such cases, which are common with foreign words, the allomorphs can partly be chosen freely: they are in free variation to each other.

For the vast majority of nouns that end in vowels such as "video", only -s is allowed as a possible plural allomorph; the final word determines the choice of the allomorph. These cases are therefore phonetically determined ( phonetically / acoustically conditioned). The above-mentioned case from verb inflection also belongs here, where you have to choose between -t and -et for the 3rd person singular: regn-et and go-t .

For most nouns, however, neither free variation nor phonetic determination applies: the choice of -er for child or -e for fish is fixed; no other plural allomorphs are permitted. But there is also no sound (phonetic) feature in the environment that would determine the choice. In such cases one has to deal with morphological determination ( morphological condition), which means nothing other than that the choice of the allomorph depends on the respective word.

Phonetic determination and morphological determination are summarized under the generic term complementary distribution .

See also


  • Henning Bergenholtz, Joachim Mugdan: Introduction to Morphology. Kohlhammer, Mainz a. a. 1979, ISBN 3-17-005095-8 .
  • Hadumod Bußmann (Ed.) With the collaboration of Hartmut Lauffer: Lexikon der Sprachwissenschaft. 4th, revised and bibliographically supplemented edition. Kröner, Stuttgart 2008, ISBN 978-3-520-45204-7 .
  • Franz Simmler :: Morphology of German. Weidler, Berlin 1998, ISBN 3-89693-304-3 .
  • Heide Wegener: The nominal inflection of German - understood as a subject of study. Niemeyer, Tübingen 1995, ISBN 3-484-31151-7 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Allomorph  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. So Karatas: Morphology. In: Volmert (Hrsg.): Grundkurs Sprachwissenschaft. , 5th edition. (2005), p. 93.