Unique morpheme

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A unique morpheme is a component of a complex word (a morpheme ) which (in today's language) occurs only in a single connection with another word component and which remains as a “remainder” when the corresponding word is broken down (segmented). It is always a bound morpheme .


Well-known candidates for unique morphemes in German are:

  • -last- in -hurt- [en] ,
  • -lier- in -los- [en] ,
  • Chimney in chimney ,
  • Raspberries in raspberry or
  • Bromine in blackberry .

A word like blackberry is broken down because it apparently contains the element -berry , which occurs with the same meaning in the simplex berry and in the clearly separable words strawberry , gooseberry , currant , etc. Brom- must then be a morpheme that modifies the meaning of berry to the special one of blackberry : a blackberry is a certain type of berry. But bromine only occurs together with -berry , so it is unique. It is less clear whether one should regard chimney- as a unique morpheme that only occurs together with -stein , because a chimney can hardly be described as a certain type of stone. Therefore one can advocate not to segment the chimney . It is even less convincing to break down injuries or lose , because here ver has no clear meaning and nothing is actually gained by assuming unique morphemes -last- and -lier- . Derivatives and compounds that contain unique morphemes and words that are similar to derivatives or compounds but can hardly be broken down in a meaningful way are typically based on real derivatives and compounds to which the simplex that was still present in earlier language stages has been lost. Such was blackberry originally a compound to the still existing in Middle High German brame 'thistle' and the verb last of the brothers Grimm is cited nor with the meaning 'damage' in the dictionary.


Web links

Wiktionary: unique morpheme  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations