Free and Bound Morphemes
Morphemes in linguistics can be classified as bound and free. As the name suggests, a Free Morpheme is a morpheme that can exist independently or stand on its own in a language. On the other hand, a Bound Morpheme can not occur independently in the language. It needs to be bound or attached to some other bound or free morpheme. It is meaningless and unacceptable otherwise.
So, let me explain with examples free and bound morphemes in English:
The word tables is made up of two morphemes: table and –s (You can call “table” and “-s” morphemes because they have a form and a function, and they cannot be further analysed into sub parts).
The morpheme table, however, can also occur independently in English, unlike the plural morpheme -s that needs a noun to express its grammatical role (of making plural words from singular). Hence, morphemes like table are free morphemes and morphemes like -s are bound morphemes.
Bound Morphemes can be attached to both bound morphemes and free morphemes. Bound morphemes are mainly suffixes in English. They can attach by the process of inflection and derivation.
Some more Free and Bound Morphemes examples in English:
Free Morphemes: cat, touch, live, enjoy, beautiful
Bound Morphemes: pre-, dis-, ir-, un-, post-, in- (prefixes) and –ly, -ish, -s, -en, -ed, -ment, -al (suffixes).
Note that this is not the only way one can study and classify morphemes in linguistics. You may also want to read a detailed discussion on null morphemes, (also known as zero morphemes), empty morphemes and an interesting case of Portmanteau Morphemes in some languages by following along the links.
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