Morphology is the part of grammar that is concerned with words and word formation
(O'Grady & Archibald 2012). I love wikipedia's definition which says that it is the study of words,how they are formed and their relationship to other words in the same language.It analyses the structure of words such as stems,root words,prefix,suffix.
Morpheme is the smallest meaningful unit of an utterance. There are two kinds of morpheme;free morpheme and bound morpheme.A free morpheme makes complete sense when it stands on its own.Example, car. A bound morpheme does not make sense when it stands on its own.To make meaning,it has to be attached to a free morpheme. Example,
cars. The '-s' in cars is an example of a bound morpheme.on its own,it has no meaning but when attached to 'car',it becomes meaningful,indicating plurality.
A word is the minimum free form in a language.It is the smallest element that can be uttered in isolation with a meaning of its own.
Now lets move on and define morphological development as simply as possible. It is the process by which you child learns to use other forms of a word. At first,the words produced by English speaking children do not have internal morphological structure. That is,they use words in their most basic form. They do not use past tense marker such as -ed. Am sure you have heard a child make a statement such as "i have 'eat' it". They equally omit progressive markers like '-ing'. They equally fail to use plural markers such as '-s'. As they grow,they hear adults use the correct forms and eventually,they learn them.
I have always complained that the English language is too irregular and a bit unpredictable for my taste. For instance,why won't all past forms be denoted with '-ed'. For instance,the past form of 'work' is 'worked' and that of 'run' is 'ran'. why on earth is the past form of 'run' not 'ranned' LOL!!!. Am sure English speaking children share my exasperation too.If not,why would they overgeneralize some word forms.What is over generalization,you might wonder.
It is simply the application of a particular rule to other environments to which that rule does not apply. For instance, a child might learn that to generate the past forms of words,you add '-ed' to the root word Eg walk -- walked so he thinks that this rule applies to all other words. Little wonder we hear such words as 'bringed,breaked' amongst others.
Usually, children go through three phases to learn how to use the irregular form. Phase 1,2,3 will be represented with A,B,C respectively.
A B C
ran runned ran
went goed went
broke breaked broke
In A,this child,let's call her Eno used the correct past form.She probably heard it spoken in her environment so she simply memorized it.When she got to 2years and six months,she learnt that you add '-ed' to words to generate past forms so she went ahead and over generalised it.This is represented in B. In C,she has learnt that there are exceptions to this rule and subsequently learns the correct form.
This mistake children make tell us alot about how children learn language.This grammatical errors are NOT as a result of imitating what is spoken around them. Children born into families where 'bad' English is never spoken still use this wrong forms.(Fromkin et al 2011).
An important result of early work on child language was the discovery that the development of bound morphemes (plural markers,past tense markers,possessives,progressives) and functional categories (determiner-a,an,the,auxillaries-be) occur in an orderly manner that is similar amongst children. They occur in the following order:
1) First, children learn how to attach '-ing' to words
2) There after,they learn to attach '-s' to mark plurality
3) Then they learn how to add '-s', a possesive marker to words.They move from sentences like "Daddy car" to "Daddy's car"
4) They equally learn how to use articles 'a,the'
5) They learn how to add 'ed' to words to create past forms.(O'Grady & Archibald 2012)
6) They learn to use the third person singular '-s' and finally,the learn to use auxillary verbs such as 'be'
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