Morpheme vs Allomorph
The difference between morpheme and allomorph is a topic in the field of linguistics. A morpheme is the smallest meaningful unit of a language, conveying meaning. An allomorph, however, refers to the different forms of a single morpheme. These different variants can be observed in the morpheme plural, the past participle ending, and so on. An allomorph has the ability to cause changes in pronunciation and spellings. This article aims to provide a basic understanding of morphemes and allomorphs while emphasizing the difference between the two.
What is a Morpheme?
A morpheme is the smallest meaningful element of a language. It cannot be further divided into smaller parts. The key feature is that a morpheme has meaning. For instance, words like bag, cat, dog, and elephant are all morphemes as they cannot be further segmented into smaller parts. In linguistics, there are mainly two types of morphemes:
• Free morphemes
• Bound morphemes
A free morpheme can stand on its own without the support of another form, while a bound morpheme cannot stand on its own and requires the assistance of another form. Prefixes and suffixes are examples of bound morphemes. For a bound morpheme to convey meaning, it needs to be combined with another form. For example, the morpheme ‘ness’ has no meaning on its own, but when connected with another morpheme like ‘attractive’, it conveys meaning as it becomes ‘attractiveness’.
What is an Allomorph?
Allomorphs are the different varieties that exist of the same morpheme. Depending on the context, these can cause changes in spelling and pronunciation. When one allomorph of a morpheme is replaced with another, it can completely change the meaning. Let’s consider the example of the morpheme plural. Under this single morpheme, there are three variant allomorphs:
• /s/ – cats
• /z/ or – dogs
• /iz/ – matches
Notice how the pronunciation differs in each case. Even though a single morpheme is involved, it has different allomorphs that cause changes not only in pronunciation but also in spellings. It should be noted that the allomorph is always conditioned by its phonetic environment. Also, in some cases, the morpheme plural takes a completely different form.
• Ox- oxen
• Man- men
• Sheep –sheep
In each case, the morpheme plural is different. This demonstrates that even though it is a single morpheme plural, it has a variety of allomorphs. This can also be observed in the past participle.
What is the difference between Morpheme and Allomorph?
Here is a summary of the differences between morpheme and allomorph:
• A morpheme is the smallest meaningful element of a language.
• There are two types of morphemes: free morphemes and bound morphemes.
• An allomorph can be defined as a single variety of a morpheme.
• A single morpheme can have different allomorphs.
• These can be observed when studying the morpheme plural, the past participle endings, etc.
- A morpheme is the smallest meaningful unit of a language, while an allomorph refers to the different forms of a single morpheme.
- There are two types of morphemes: free morphemes and bound morphemes.
- Allomorphs can cause changes in pronunciation and spellings depending on the context.