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Leonard Bloomfield


By the morphology of a language we mean the constructions in which bound forms appear among the constituents. By definition, the resultant forms are either bound forms or words, but never phrases. Accordingly, we may say that morphology includes the constructions of words and parts of words, while syntax includes the construction of phrases. As a border region we have phrase-words (jack-in-the-pulpil) and some compound words (blackbird), which contain no bound forms among their immediate constituents, and yet in some ways exhibit morphologic rather than syntactic types of construction.

In general, morphologic constructions are more elaborate than those of syntax. The features of modification and modulation are more numerous and often irregular — that is, confined to particular constituents or combinations. The order of the constituents is almost always rigidly fixed; permitting of no such connotative variants as John ran away: Away ran John. Features of selection minutely and often whimsically limit the constituents that may be united into a complex form.

Accordingly, languages differ more in morphology than in syntax. The variety is so great that no simple scheme will classify languages as their morphology. One such scheme distinguishes analytic languages, which use few bound forms, from synthetic, which use many. At one extreme is a completely analytic language, like modern Chinese, where each word is a one-syllable morpheme or a compound word or phrase-word; at the other, a highly synthetic language like Eskimo, which unites long strings of bound forms into single words, such as [a:wlisa-ut-iss?ar-si-niarpu-ŋa] ‘I am looking for something suitable for a fish-line.’ This distinction, however, except for cases at the former extreme, is relative; any one language may be in some respects more analytic, but in other respects more synthetic, than some other language. Another scheme of this sort divided languages into four morphologic types, isolating, agglutinative, polysinthetic and inflecting. Isolating languages were those which, like Chinese, used no bound forms; in agglutinative languages the bound forms were supposed merely to follow one another, Turkish being the stock example; polysynthetic languages expressed semantically important elements, such as verbal goals, by means of bound forms, as does Eskimo; inflectional languages showed a merging of semantically distinct features either in a sibgle bound form or in closely united bound forms, as when the suffix -ō in a Latin form like amō ‘I love’ expresses the meanings ‘speaker as actor,’ ‘only one actor,’ ‘action in present time,’ ‘real (not merely possible or hypothetical) action.’ These distinctions are not co-ordinate, and the last three classes were never clearly defined. [...]

Translated by Gabriel Ferrater
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