LIN 3010 Spring 2002
How to Do a Morphology Problem:
Addie L. Sayers

1. Look at your data. Don’t worry about any phonological symbols that you
don’t know. Your job is to separate the words into meaningful units - to
do this you must analyze the data together to search for both form and
meaning patterns.

2. Choose two items that have some element of form in common, that is,
two items that share the same sequence of forms. Then, look at the
English glosses and look for the meaning/glossing that the words have in
common. Use the form and it’s corresponding meaning/glossing to make
a preliminary hypothesis of the morpheme.

3. Verify the meaning and form with all remaining items. If your
hypothesis works throughout your data, your hypothesis was correct. If it
does not, start with step two and reanalyze your data.

4. Follow this pattern, making sure that you account for every phoneme of
the data!

5. Write up your answer as follows:
ROOTS { } ‘gloss’ AFFIXES {(-) (-)} ‘gloss’

NOTE: Remember that you as a speaker of English will be working with
the morphological patterns of English and/or your native language(s).
Morphology has a direct link to culture; that is, basic cultural elements are
distinguished in a language’s morphology. In addition, morphology is one
of the most varied and interesting fields of language difference. Sometimes,
meanings and forms may seem ‘foreign’ to you - precisely because they are.
I have specifically chosen problems to illustrate the world’s diversity. For
this reason, you may have some difficulty. Do the best that you can. Keep
in mind, that although English makes a morphological distinction between,
say, singular and plural, many languages don’t; many languages don’t
divide human beings into female and male, she and he in their person
markers, for example. Basically, expect the unexpected - if you are having
trouble with a homework problem, it is probably because there is some
morphological distinction that we don’t have in English.