General linguistic terminology (bound morph(eme))

Dennis R. Preston preston at MSU.EDU
Thu May 27 17:22:10 UTC 2004

>Well, they are bound (and the morpheme morph distinction is only
>stylistically interesting, if I can say 'only' before 'stylistically
>interesting' without invoking arnold's rage). My favorite term for
>this is "cranberery" or just "cran" morphs (with obvious reference
>to the bound but neither inflectional nor derivational morph 'cran''
>in 'cranberry'). Their boundedness is indeed different from that of
>inflectional and derivational morphs, but they only look like free
>morphs since they cannot stand alone. Of course, they all represent
>material which was at one time (or in some other language) free.


>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.

Dennis R. Preston
University Distinguished Professor
Department of Linguistics and Germanic, Slavic,
        Asian and African Languages
Wells Hall A-740
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824-1027 USA
Office: (517) 353-0740
Fax: (517) 432-2736

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