Portmanteau Morpheme Linguistics
What is a Portmanteau Morpheme?
Portmanteau morpheme is the same form of a morpheme that performs more than one grammatical function in a language. In another words, there is a single morphological form that has two or more different functions or roles in a language. Portmanteau Morphs are very common in inflectional languages, and are totally absent in isolating languages.
Although form wise they look alike and are phonetically similar too, such instances are treated as separate morphemes in any language. Portmanteau Morphemes are important because they posit a striking deviation from the traditional definition of a morpheme in linguistics.
Portmanteau Morpheme Examples
Let us look at some Portmanteau Morpheme examples. The morpheme –s is one of the very widely occurring portmanteau morphemes in English when it occurs in the following case:
eats–> eat + -s
The English word “eats” comprises the root morpheme “eat” and the bound morpheme -s. The root morpheme gives semantic content to this morpheme, whereas the inflectional or bound morpheme -s has a grammatical function.
This bound morpheme -s is used –
- to mark third person feature of noun on the verb (subject-verb agreement).
- to mark singular number feature of noun on the verb (subject-verb agreement).
- present tense and habitual aspect on the verb.
Hence, this one morpheme performs three different functions. Hence, this -s morpheme is a portmanteau morpheme. We can analyse portmanteau morphemes as morphemes that have the same surface form but have different underlying forms.
Note that this -s morpheme in English is different from the following -s morphemes in the same language English, which look similar, but are actually different morphemes.
John’s (genitive morph that is used to mark possession on nouns)
Cat-s (Plural morph that changes singular nouns into plural)
As we can see, the form of the morph remains the same “–s”, but its function changes in the same language.
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