McAfee SECURE sites help keep you safe from identity theft, credit card fraud, spyware, spam, viruses and online scams

The key principles associated with the difference between Morphology and Syntax

In this essay, I will first describe what the fields of morphology and syntax study in order to highlight issues that fall between the two categories. Then, I will intend to give a description of what problems may arise when teaching English to non-native speakers.

Morphology intends to study the internal structure of words. It can be said that words are the smallest units of syntax. For example, a proficient speaker of English can recognize that the words boy, boys, and boyhood are closely related. English speakers are able to recognize how these words are related from their unspoken knowledge of the rules of word-formation in English. They observe that boy is to boys what girl is to girls. Similarly, boy is to boyhood what neighbour is to neighbourhood. Speakers are able to recognise patterns in the way words are formed from smaller units.

An important difference between inflection and word-formation is that inflected word-forms of lexemes are organized into paradigms, and in turn, these are defined by the requirements of syntactic rules. On the other hand, the rules of derivation and composition are not restricted by any equivalent requirements of syntax. Inflection is relevant to syntax, and derivation and composition are not.

For an English learner with a language without a rich inflectional morphology, it will be quite difficult to understand that words require of different word endings depending on their position and role in the sentence. However, for those who are learning English whose first language is a highly synthetic language (that is, it relies on adpositions, affixes, and internal modifications of lexemes to establish relations and roles within the sentence), it will be difficult to come to terms with the fact that English is an analytic language (that is, it relies heavily on word order or prepositions to indicate relations in the sentence). And a further puzzlement will come after being told that in some occasions either a clitic or a preposition can be used for the same thing. That is, a genitive's can be used as well as an of structure to indicate possession. This is of course a result from the fact that Old English was a synthetic language and Modern English is an analytic language, there are still some of the features of Old English remaining (it also applies to personal pronouns).

Related Links
To Top