GATE (Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering) Linguistics: Questions 1 of 47

Question MCQ▾

Which of these is the smallest identifiable grammatical unit?

Choices

Choice (4)Response

a.

Stem

b.

Phoneme

c.

Word

d.

Morpheme

Edit

Answer

d.

Explanation

  • The term morpheme was coined in the late nineteenth century by the Polish linguist Jan Baudouin de Courtenay, but it was not always used in the modern sense. That modern sense was established by the American linguist Leonard Bloomfield in the 1930s.
  • The word ‘unhappiness’ is clearly built up from three smaller pieces: the prefix un-, the stem happy and the suffix -ness. Each of these pieces is a morpheme of English, and not one of them can be broken down.
  • Morphemes are of different types. A lexical morpheme is one which has dictionary meaning: we can provide a definition for it. E. g. happy. But the -ly of happily is different: this is a grammatical morpheme, which performs a strictly grammatical function — in this case, that of turning an adjective into an adverb.
  • The word ‘happy’ is also a free morpheme: it can stand alone to make a word, as it does in the word happy. But the prefix UN-and the suffixes -ness and -ly are bound morphemes: they can never stand alone, but must always be attached to at least one other morpheme within a word.
The Morpheme