Technically, a word is a unit of language that carries meaning and consists of one or more morphemes which are linked more or less tightly together, and has a phonetic value.
Typically a word will consist of a root or stem and zero or more affixes.
Words can be combined to create phrases, clauses, and sentences.
A word consisting of two or more stems joined together is called a compound.
It is quite hard to define what exactly a ‘word’ is, because
what is classified as words in different language are different
determining word boundaries in speech is very complex (e.g. short words are often run together and long words are often broken up)
If a word is a unit of language that consists of one or more morphemes, then we need to know what a morpheme is.
A morpheme is the smallest linguistic unit that has semantic meaning
A word can consists of:
one morpheme (simple)
more than one morpheme (complex)
There are 6 main types of morphemes:
Free morphemes can constitute a word on their own:
Bound morphemes must appear with one or more morphemes to form a word:
Words often consist of a free morpheme with one or more bound morphemes attached to it:
In this sort of word, the free morpheme is called the root or stem, and the bound morphemes are affixes
An affix attached to the front of a word is called a prefix
An affix attached to the back of a word is called a suffix
lexical morphemes have lexical (semantic) meanings:
Grammatical morphemes provide grammatical information:
Lexical morphemes tend to be free morphemes:
Grammatical morphemes may be either free or bound:
Inflectional &Â Derivational MorphemesÂ
Bound grammatical morphemes seem to come in (at least) two types:
The precise difference between inflectional and derivational morphemes is hard to define
But the most obvious difference is:
derivational morphemes build new words by changing the meaning and/or syntactic category of the word
inflectional morphemes permit a word to agree with other words in its context by providing grammatical information