Allomorphs are a group of Bound Morphemes that all do the same thing, like signifying two or more objects.
But what about the plural of "dog"Á. It is spelled "s" but is pronounced /z/. And the plural of "hose" adds an "s" in the spelling, but is pronounced /ziz/.
Since we don(tm)t talk as we spell, the young child must deal with the pronunciation rules. But it gets worse! The plural of "goose" is not "gooses," but "geese". And the plural of "moose" is not "mooses" nor "meese" but simply "moose."
The bound morpheme in that case is nothing, and is designated as /0/, or nothing.
All these bound morphemes which are pronounced differently but do the same thing (e.g, signify plural) are called allomorphs.
The child must not only learn all the allomorphs to express plurals, but also the correct time to use them.
Bound Morphemes are used to express the Past Tense in English.
2. Present/Past: There is no doubt that folks in our Society are particularly concerned with time. We live by the clock.
In my office which is 8'x8', I have three clocks on the wall, and if that weren(tm)t enough, I wear a watch and my computer keeps the time at the top of the screen.
So how many bound morphemes do we devote to expressing time--that is, how many tenses do we have in English? Take a guess...2, 4, 6, 8 or more?
I you answered 8 or more, you are in for a surprise. The answer is 2! They are the Present and Past Tenses.
We do have other mechanisms for expressing nuances of time, but they do not involve bound morphemes. We will discuss those later.
So today I jump. Yesterday I jumped. The bound morpheme expressing past tense is pronounced /t/ (although it is spelled "ed.")
The Past Tense has many Allomorphs in English.
But suppose I jog today. Yesterday I jogged. Here the bound morpheme is pronounced /d/, although it is spelled "ed." So now we have two allomorphs again for past tense--/t/ and /d/.
And what if I land softly today. Yesterday I landed softly. Note that it is spelled "ed," but pronounced /did/. And then there is "rise" and "risen," and "run" and "ran," and more.
Learning this is not a task for babies, or is it?
3. Male/Female: In some languages, bound morphemes are used extensively to indicate Gender. Was I shocked, for example, in my Russian 100 class to find out that all Russian nouns have Gender.
And its not just a choice of two but three: masculine, feminine and neuter. There is a bound morpheme for each.
There are some gender endings in English, although its a paltry number when compared to Russian.
What gender is my Waitress? What is the bound morpheme that tells us that? And what about the Prince and Princess--Which one is wearing the glass slippers?
Bound Morphemes are used to signify Possession and include many Allomorphs.
4. Possession: What makes the slippers special anyway? Nothing unless you are Cinderella because they were Cinderella's slippers. Notice, the bound morpheme that expresses possession is spelled "s," but pronouned /z/.
But when she became the princess, we would have to say they (the slippers) were the Princesses. Here the allomorph is spelled "ses" but is pronounced /siz/.
If they belonged to Benz, they would have been Benzes /ziz/ and if they belonged to Pat, they would have been Pat's /s/.
There is certainly an impressive array of allomorphs for the child to learn to express possession.
Bound Morphemes are used to change the function of some words and to identify the function of some others.
5. Word Functions: The Prince, it turns out was a "kind" man. The word "kind" is an adjective which describes someone.
If we wish to talk about that quality, however, we can(tm)t use an adjective. We need a noun.
Here again, bound morphemes play an important role. By adding the bound morpheme "ness" to the adjective we can change it into a noun!
It can go the other way too. Cinderella was a "beauty." "Beauty" is a noun. If we want to use it to describe someone, we must change it into an adjective.
To do this we add the bound morpheme "-iful." Think how many of these the child will learn.
6. Markers: Bound morphemes are also used to identify the function of other words. We will discuss this, however, at little later.
Morphemes are used to analyze the development of language via the Mean Length of Utterance (MLU).
Language Analysis: Another use of Morphemes, not by the child this time but by professionals, is to evaluate the development of a child's language.
Most people use a gross rule of thumb based on words. If my child is one year old, he should be speaking, on the average, in one word sentences.
If he is two years old, he should average two word sentences. The three year old should average at least 3 word sentences.
For example, he might say, "Doggy's toys busted," which is a 3 word sentence.
Professionals, however, consider words to be too broad a unit to be very discriminative. Hence, they count the mean length of utterances in terms of both Bound and Free morphemes (MLU).
Hence the sentence, "Doggy's toys busted," would be considered to be 6 morphemes long.
Roger Brown described Five Stages of Language Development based on the Mean Length of Utterance (MLU)
Roger W. Brown, as a result of his extensive research on children's language in 1973, described five stages of development based on the mean length of the their utterances (MLU).
He found that the linguistic complexity of language unfolded fairly predictably as each stage was attained. In fact the MLU was a better predictor of language development than age.
This is covered very well in the course text (and in most major books on Language Development) but we will review them briefly here.
While Brown did not assign ages to the five Stages, others have noted the most typical age range for each.
In Stage 1, the MLU ranges between 1.0 and 2.0 morphemes. Children's ages range from one to just over two years (26 mos.) Free morphemes are used exclusively.
Semantic Roles provide a framework in Stage 1; and Phrase Structure, Inflections and Prepositions appear in Stage 2.
Semantic relations (roles) are clearly in evidence. For example, agent + action (Doggie run) or action + object (Throw ball), would be a typical expression. Intonation on a word is used to communicate questions.
In Stage 2 the MLU ranges between 2 and 2.5 morphemes. Children's ages range from about 2 and 1/4 years (27 mos) to 2 and 1/2 years (30 mos.) Mainly, phrases are the units of expression.
Noun and Verb Phrases are recognizable now. Some "wh" pronouns (like "where") are added to the beginning of a noun phrase.
And some verbs like "do," "go", and "read" etc. are appended to the beginning or the end of the phrases.
Some bound morphemes (inflections) are used, particularly plurals and the "ing" endings on verbs. Prepositions like "in" and "on" are also popular.
Sentences with Simple Transformations are in Stage 3; while Embedded Sentences and Relative Clauses appear in Stage 4.
In Stage 3 the MLU ranges between 2.5 and 3.0 morphemes. Children's ages range from 2 1/2 years to not quite 3 years (34 mos.)
Simple sentences with both noun and verb phrases are the unit now. Some basic transformations are also evident, like the "Yes/No" Question Transformation, and Negations.
Towards the end, some auxiliary forms appear in questions.
These may include words like "be," "can," "will," and "do."
In Stage 4 the MLU ranges between 3.0 and 3.75 morphemes. Children's ages range from almost 3 years (35 mos.) to not quite 3 1/2 years (40 mos.) A major transformation here involves embedding one sentence in another, and the use of relative clauses. For example, "There is the boy who hit me."
Stage 5 brings Coordinated Conjoined Sentences and Propositional Relations.
In Stage 5 the MLU ranges between 3.75 and 4.50 morphemes. Children's ages range from almost 3 1/2 years (40 mos.) to not quite 4 years (46 mos.) Complex sentence transformations include coordinated conjoined sentences and propositional relations. For example, "He ran away because he hit me." It couldn't be, "He hit me because he ran away."
More Modals, more consistency in auxiliary inversions, and some adult level tag questions are just a few of the complexities added to the language system.
Whereas the rules of morphology deal with additions, subtractions and transformations to or within words, our next topic, Syntax deals with these manipulations at the phrase and sentence levels.