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  • So let’s talk about positions. Knowing who you are and where you belong, what your role

  • is in life, makes everything feel a lot easier. And it’s not any different for language -

  • all the pieces that make up our words have their own work and their own places, and they're only

  • really happy when theyre filling those positions they were

  • born to hold. So let’s take a look at what those jobs are! I’m Moti Lieberman, and

  • this is the Ling Space.

  • So today were going talking about different kinds of morphemes. Morphemes are

  • the smallest pairings between sound and meaning, what you get when you can’t cut away any

  • more sound without changing what the meaning is.

  • We made a video about that already, so if you click here, you can go give yourself a

  • refresher if you need one. Last time, we talked about what a morpheme is, and what it means

  • for them to be free or bound.

  • But whether a given meaning bit can stand on its own, or whether it has to attach to

  • something else, is far from the only thing you need to know to ID a morpheme. Another

  • big thing is what kind of meaning those sounds attach to.

  • Let’s say you have some big, strong meanings: nouns like detective or dog, verbs like arrest or snoop,

  • adjectives like clever or short. All of these have meanings that are associated

  • to real characteristics out there in the world.

  • They tell you what things youre talking about, what those things are like, and what

  • theyre doing. All that together is the heart of what youre communicating - without

  • those parts of speech, we’d be just flailing about talking about emptiness. We call these

  • kinds of super contentful bits root morphemes.

  • If youre thinking about English, you probably feel like these root morphemes are always

  • able to stand on their own. After all, when you think of things like camera or corrupt,

  • you know you can always get them out of your head and into the real world

  • without having to attach anything to them.

  • And it’s true, pretty much all the roots in English are free, but it’s not quite

  • all of them. Think about something like the huckle in huckleberry.

  • It’s definitely telling you what kind of berry it is, but it’s not like you can

  • use it on its own, like, “My favorite kind of berry is huckle.”

  • Or you can inflate or deflate a tire, but good luck flating anything. In some other

  • languages, roots always need to be bound to something.

  • Sometimes, that’s because the language calls for all of the morphemes, roots and not roots,

  • to be bound up together into one big word, like in Yupik or Chukchi.

  • So to say in Chukchi that you have a terrible headache, you’d use this whole sentence-y

  • word: t-ə-meyŋ-ə-levt-pəɣt-ə-ɹkən. But in many other languages, even if you don’t

  • bundle everything together, you still need to attach your root to something in order to get it pronounced.

  • Take a look at Japanese and its needy verbs. Verbs in Japanese are too shy to escape from

  • your mouth without bringing some friends along. Look at the verb fortake”, as in take a picture.

  • The root is [toɾ], but good luck finding that out in the world.

  • No, you get 撮る [toɾɯ] for take in the present tense, [toɾanai] fordon’t

  • take,” and [toɾe] for the command form, “take!” There’s always something attached

  • on the end; it’s never left all lonely by itself. Or take Arabic. In Arabic, the verb

  • roots are usually just a combination of consonants.

  • So the root for enlighten, for example, is just [nwr]. That’s not something you can

  • really pronounce easily. If you want to pronounce it, you have stick other vowels and consonants

  • in and around it in templates, which is how you conjugate in Arabic.

  • So you take your [nwr], and you put in some [a]s, and then you can get something like [nawara], “he enlightened”.

  • Or, add an extra [t] for [nawarat], “she enlightened.” Want present tense? That’s a different template.

  • Command? Another template. But you never ever just get the bare root by itself.

  • So weve tiptoed around talking about what the other morphemes are, the ones that aren’t

  • roots. These are the bits that serve other roles: telling us tense and number and gender,

  • or sometimes adjusting the meaning of the roots they attach to. We call these morphemes

  • affixes, and they come in a few different flavors.

  • Affixes are always boundyou mentally glue them onto the roots. And so we break

  • affixes into groups depending on where they go. Let’s start with the ones that come

  • before the root. These are known as prefixes, and there’s a lot of them.

  • Just think of some of your favorites from Englishthentaj] in anti-Lamb, if

  • youre against Lamb; the [sjudə] in pseudonym, to put the fake in fake name; the [dɪs] in

  • disappear, so whatever youre talking about you know is all gone. Even the [pɹi] pre-

  • in prefix is a prefix; it’s the part you fix before the root.

  • Of course, prefixes aren’t limited to Englishthey show up in tons of languages, playing

  • a ton of roles. Look at Japanese againthere’s that [o] that makes the

  • nouns it’s attaching to honorific. So you don’t drink 酒 [sake] for alcohol; you

  • drink お酒 [osake].

  • Same with police officersthere’s that [o] in お巡りさん [omawaɾisan]. In Hebrew,

  • prepositions like in and to show up as prefixes, also. If you wanted to sayin school,”

  • you’d go for [bve:t sɛfɛʁ] בבית ספר. where that [b] is the part that means in.

  • But maybe you want to put stuff on the other side of the root. If you attach an affix to

  • the end of the root, that’s a suffix. Suffixes are actually more common across languages

  • than prefixes, and so it’s not really hard to find a lot of them.

  • That -ness that changes an adjective like dark into a noun like darkness? Or that -ed

  • that takes a verb like watch and lets you put it in the past tense like watched? Those are

  • suffixes. Or we can go looking in other languages, too. Weve already seen some suffixes today -

  • the Japanese examples for [toɾ] were all suffixes.

  • Or let’s say we wanted to say in Spanish, “Veronica ate a small piece of marshmallow.”

  • That would beVerónica comió un pedacito de nube.” That ito there is a suffix - it

  • takes the noun pedazo, piece, and makes it small and cute.

  • Or the suffixes that mark names in lots of Slavic languages, like Czech or Russian. If youre

  • Russian, and your father’s name is Vladimir, then if youre male, your middle

  • name is Vladimirovich, and if youre female, your middle name is Vladimirovna.

  • So morphemes come with these options: before, and after. But what aboutinside? Some

  • languages also have affixes that get stuck right in the middle of the roots theyre

  • working with. These are known as infixes, since they go straight into the word. Take,

  • for example, Tagalog.

  • Let’s say you wanted to say search, like Keith is searching the office for the gun:

  • That’d beHinahanap ni Keith ang baril sa opisina”. That’s with the verb [hanap].

  • But what do you say after the search, once it’s done? Now it should be in the past

  • tense.

  • The past tense morpheme is [in], but it goes in the word after the first consonant. So

  • it’s [hinanap], likeHinanap ni Keith ang baril sa opisina”. So that -in- is an

  • infix. So now youre probably thinking, do we have any of these infix things in English? The

  • answer iswell, we sort of have one, but it uses some profanity. Well tone it down for here, though.

  • This is using swearing as an intensifier, as in Wallace is fan-fricking-tastic at

  • basketball. So clearly, youre sticking this fricking morpheme smack in the middle

  • of the root, fantastic. But the thing is, this does follow a rule - you know where this

  • morpheme should go, even if youve never thought about it.

  • So you know that it’s not fanta-fricking-stic. No, it has to go in right before that main

  • stress there, to make the word flow right. And that’s what this unique English infix

  • looks for. So when were trying to decide what kind of morpheme we have, we need to

  • think about what kind of meaning were talking about.

  • Youve got your full main content, like nouns and verbs, as your roots; and you twine

  • around those roots with the affixes, wherever they go: before, after, or right in-fricking-side.

  • But however youre doing it, there’s more to morphemes than just knowing whether they

  • can stand on their own.

  • So weve reached the end of the Ling Space for this week. If you were affixed to to my

  • morphemes, you learned that roots are the most contentful bits of words; that English

  • roots are mostly free, but other languages have them all bound up; that affixes adjust the

  • meanings of the roots theyre attached to; and that affixes get different names, depending

  • whether they're attached before, during, or after the root.

  • The Ling Space is produced by me, Moti Lieberman. It’s directed by Adèlelise Prévost,

  • and it’s written by both of us. Our production assistant is Georges Coulombe, our music and

  • sound design is by Shane Turner, and our graphics team is AtelierMuse.

  • Were down in the comments below, or you can bring the discussion back over to our website,

  • where we have some extra material on this topic. Check us out on Tumblr, Twitter and

  • Facebook, and if you want to keep expanding your own personal Ling Space, please subscribe.

  • And well see you next Wednesday. Fins despres!

So let’s talk about positions. Knowing who you are and where you belong, what your role

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B1 INT US root attach fricking tense ling bound

Roots and Affixes

Video vocabulary