Empty Morphemes in Linguistics
Empty Morphemes have phonological shape or physical structure but do not contain any semantic content. In simple words, they have a form but no function. Empty morphemes are a special case of morphemes in linguistics.
Let us look at some typical example cases of empty morpheme in English language:
o in speedometer
u in factual
u in sensual
–al suffix (bound morpheme) is added to nouns to make them adjectives. The formed adjective has a meaning of relating to the noun from which it is formed.
personal + -al = personal
herb + -al = herbal
fact + -al is not factal* but fact-u-al
As you can note in the given example, the u morpheme is expressed phonologically, but doesn’t perform any function in the word. It is, in other words, totally empty in function.
Empty Morphemes should not be confused with null or zero morphemes. While empty morphemes have phonological shape and no meaning, null morphemes have meaning but no phonological shape.
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