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Opinions of Saturday, 2 May 2015

Columnist: Azindoo, Abubakar Mohammed Marzuq

Literary Discourse: Morpheme And Its Relevance To Sentence Construction (II)

By Abubakar Mohammed Marzuq Azindoo, Coordinator of Students and University Relations, University of Applied Management (UAM), Germany – Ghana Campus, McCarthy Hill, Accra and Tamale
Email: Tell: 0244755402


In a previous essay, we started a discourse on MORPHEME AND ITS RELEVANCE TO SENTENCE CONSTRUCTION. Today, we conclude the discourse from INFLECTIONAL AND DERIVATIONAL MORPHEMES. Before we proceed, we recap the learning outcomes.


By the end of this discourse, fellow learners and readers are expected to improve their ability to:
• Understand morphemes
• Know types of morphemes
• Comprehend the relevance of morphemes to sentence construction.


Morphemes can also be classified as INFLECTIONAL and DERIVATIONAL.


This is a suffix that changes the form of a word but does not change the class of the word. This implies that in spite of the additions or inflections the word will experience, it will still belong to its original Word Class in all forms. For example, if the word is a noun, it remains a noun, notwithstanding the additions or inflections. A practical example can be seen in the word ‘BOY’ which remains a noun, when we add the suffix ‘S’ to it to make it plural – ‘BOYS’. Also, when inflectional suffixes are added to the verb ‘ANSWER’ it remains a verb but with changes in forms such as ‘ANSWERS’ (present simple), ‘ANSWERING’ (present continuous), ‘ANSWERED’, (past simple), ‘ANSWERED’ (past participle). So, the INFLECTIONAL MORPHEMES used are: ‘S’, ‘ING’, AND ‘ED.

English has eight inflectional morphemes: s–plural (BOYS) and s– possessive (Kataale’s) are noun inflections; s–3rd-person singular (writes), -ed – past tense (solved), -en–past participle (written), and –ing – present continuous (writing) are verb inflections; -er – comparative (harder) and -est – superlative (hardest) are adjective and adverb inflections. For better understanding, lets us use the morphemes in sentences:
• Boys: The boys in this class are disciplined.
• Kataale’s: Kataale’s car is new.
• Writes: Rosemary writes French books.
• Solved: Atampugre’s suggestion solved the problem yesterday.
• Written: Azindoo and Azinpaga have jointly written a grammar book.
• Writing: Kofi and Abena are writing journalism notes.
• Harder: A stone is harder than a stick.
• Hardest: The iron is the hardest object.


This is a suffix that helps users to derive words from other Word Classes. This means that a derivational morpheme changes the meaning or the Word Class of a word or both. Since derivational morphemes often create new words, they include units like: - FUL, - AL, - TH, - MENT, - ISE/IZE, -ER, -IC, -LY. Derivational morphemes are many in English because of their ability to create new words. Some examples of derivational morphemes are: Drive (verb) + er = driver (noun), learn (verb) + er = learner (noun), resist (verb) + ance = resistance (noun), beauty (noun) +ful = beautiful (adjective), rational (adjective) + ise = rationalise (verb), happy (adjective) + ly = happily (adverb), type (verb) + ist = typist (noun).


There is no doubt that morphemes play important roles in sentence construction. They help maintain unity and coherence in sentences. Besides, mastery of morphemes enhances our understanding of NUMBER and CONCORD, which are fertile grounds of errors to many speakers and writers. Furthermore, morphemes help us avoid AMBIGUITY, FRAGMENTS and RUN-ON SENTENCES – areas of failure to many users of English. Finally, morphemes serve as a guide to proper understanding of sentence structure and usage.


Summing up, we observe that morphemes are seemingly simple but relatively confusing when learners are not very careful. However, one thing about morphemes is clear: they are fascinating when one understands them well. Because morphemes appear confusing, constant revision and breaking long words into FREE and BOUND morphemes are some of the suggested techniques of avoiding the confusion. Fellow learner, you may try to break the following interesting words into FREE and BOUND morphemes: CONSTITUTIONALISM, LIBERALISM, EDUCATION, COMPARTMENTALIZATION, DEMOCRATIZATION, ECONOMICS, EXAMINER, FARMER, INFORMATIVE, RESOURCEFUL, EDITOR, PILOTING, AFRICANS. Good luck!


Greebaum, S. (1991). An introduction to English grammar. Harlow: Longman.
Halliday, M. A. K. (2004). An introduction to functional grammar. (3rd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Wiredu, J. F. (2009). Organised English structure. (3rd ed.). Accra: Academic Publications Limited.