General linguistic terminology (bound morph(eme))

Jesse Sheidlower jester at PANIX.COM
Thu May 27 14:10:17 UTC 2004

I wonder if we can drift a little afield to discuss some
general linguistic terminology.

A correspondent recently asked if there is a name for
linguistic forms that can only occur with an affix
(except perhaps in jocular use[1]), as "emptive" (no
"pre-"), "gruntle" (no "dis-"), and so forth. My
first thought was "bound morpheme". I looked this up
in the CGEL and didn't find anything relevant; the
Oxford English Grammar gives "bound morph". I had
never heard this before, and Google gives only a
small number of examples, though from technical-ish
sources. There are a lot more examples of "bound

Is "bound morph" a favored term in linguistics, and if
so, what's the inspiration for the switch from "morpheme"?

I was also concerned with the applicability: I usually
see this in reference to affixes, such as -ly or -ed.
Is it acceptable to use "bound morph(eme)" in relation
to roots? If so, would they be called "bound root
morph(eme)s"? Or is there another term?


Jesse Sheidlower

[1] Interested readers are highly recommended to seek out Jack
Winter's superb piece "How I Met My Wife," in The New Yorker,
25 July 1994, which sustains for an entire page a stream of
such and similar forms. Links to presumably illegal copies may
be found on Google and won't be reproduced here.

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