Morphology and Syntax

Morphology: studies the parts of words (morphemes) and how they are systematically arranged in a language into words or word fragments to produce productive meaning.

Remember how in regards to Phonology, phonemes are the units of sound that make up complete units of meaning? Well, these complete (and minimal) units of meaning are morphemes! The morphology (like all subtopics of linguistics) of a language varies among all languages. In many, it can be as simple as a prefix or a suffix, but that’s not always the case. Some languages place more of an emphasis on stress, root word placement, intonation, and even context or parts of speech to completely decipher the meaning of a cluster of morphemes. It can get pretty complicated! That is why it is important to break it down whenever we study a language.

Some of the basic morphology of Sesotho has been detailed as follows.
*Remember, feel free to peruse the source material I personally used to do well in the class at any time.

  • Tone: pitch level of a syllable
    Sesotho uses high and low tones; they are used to distinguish between words that are lexically similar and to show grammatical relationships, both of which are shown below.
  • Length: Duration of sound
    Sesotho does not use length.
  • Noun classes: the classification of nouns in a language that may be determined by the morphology. Note how derivation occurs!
    Sesotho is based heavily on noun classes and the derivation of the nouns with prefixes and subject and object concords. *Refer to source material above to read about each term in detail. These aspects can derive a variety of meanings from one basic noun as shown below.screenshot-2016-11-20-19-46-03screenshot-2016-11-20-19-46-14

    Below note the table that notes the classes and their respective prefixes followed by a breakdown of object and subject concords (ie the morpheme added or used for a specific noun when referencing a specific subject or object in a sentence). This is a glimpse into how morphology and syntax work hand in hand. Stay tuned!


    Again, refer to the source material to get a fleshed out detailing of these phonetic rules in action!

NOW… on to SYNTAX!

Syntax is just like morphology in terms of taking smaller pieces and rearranging them into larger pieces of meaning, except now we are dealing with sentence structures! It deals with word order, lexical categories, agreement, constituency, and grammatical roles. Just like how in English the basic sentence structure is Subject-Verb-Object (S-V-O), in other languages it varies! Note that in that S-V-O structure, we’re not even touching on adjectives, adverbs, and object types.. so really, it can get pretty complicated. Note that in most cases, morphology and syntax complement one another to produce the ultimate meaning of an utterance.

Below are some example of the syntactic patterns present in Sesotho.

Screenshot 2016-11-20 20.20.02.png

Now, imagine learning all of these breakdowns in your own class. Figuring out how every step connects to the other… wouldn’t that make language learning easier? More accessible?

Yeah, I agree. Keep reading!


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