Morphological derivation, in linguistics
, is the process of forming a new word from an existing word, often by adding a prefix
, such as For example, ''unhappy'' and ''happiness'' derive from the root word
It is differentiated from inflection
, which is the modification of a word to form different grammatical categories
without changing its core meaning: ''determines'', ''determining'', and ''determined'' are from the root ''determine''.
often involves the addition of a derivational suffix or other affix
. Such an affix usually applies to word
s of one lexical category
(part of speech) and changes them into words of another such category. For example, one effect of the English
derivational suffix ''-ly'' is to change an adjective
into an adverb
(''slow'' → ''slowly'').
Here are examples of English derivational patterns and their suffixes:
: ''-ness'' (''slow'' → ''slowness'')
: ''-en'' (''weak'' → ''weaken'')
* adjective-to-adjective: ''-ish'' (''red'' → ''reddish'')
: ''-ly'' (''personal'' → ''personally'')
: ''-al'' (''recreation'' → ''recreational'')
* noun-to-verb: ''-fy'' (''glory'' → ''glorify'')
* verb-to-adjective: ''-able'' (''drink'' → ''drinkable'')
* verb-to-noun (abstract
): ''-ance'' (''deliver'' → ''deliverance'')
* verb-to-noun (agent
): ''-er'' (''write'' → ''writer'')
However, derivational affixes do not necessarily alter the lexical category; they may change merely the meaning of the base and leave the category unchanged. A prefix (''write'' → '' re-write''; ''lord'' → ''over-lord'') rarely changes the lexical category in English. The prefix ''un-'' applies to adjectives (''healthy'' → ''unhealthy'') and some verbs (''do'' → ''undo'') but rarely to nouns. A few exceptions are the derivational prefixes ''en-'' and ''be-''. ''En-'' (replaced by ''em-'' before labials
) is usually a transitive marker on verbs, but it can also be applied to adjectives and nouns to form transitive verbs: ''circle'' (verb) → ''encircle'' (verb) but ''rich'' (adj) → ''enrich'' (verb), ''large'' (adj) → ''enlarge'' (verb), ''rapture'' (noun) → ''enrapture'' (verb), ''slave'' (noun) → ''enslave'' (verb).
When derivation occurs without any change to the word, such as in the conversion of the noun ''breakfast'' into the verb ''to breakfast'', it's known as conversion
, or zero derivation.
Derivation that results in a noun may be called nominalization
. It may involve the use of an affix (such as with ''employ → employee''), or it may occur via conversion (such as with the derivation of the noun ''run'' from the verb ''to run''). In contrast, a derivation resulting in a verb may be called verbalization (such as from the noun ''butter'' to the verb ''to butter'').
Derivation and inflection
Derivation can be contrasted with inflection
, in that derivation can produce a new word (a distinct lexeme
) but isn't required to change this, whereas inflection produces grammatical variants of the same word.
Generally speaking, inflection applies in more or less regular patterns to all members of a part of speech
(for example, nearly every English verb
adds ''-s'' for the third person singular present tense), while derivation follows less consistent patterns (for example, the nominalizing
suffix ''-ity'' can be used with the adjectives ''modern'' and ''dense'', but not with ''open'' or ''strong''). However, it is important to note that derivations and inflections can share homonyms, that being, morphemes
that have the same sound, but not the same meaning. For example, when the affix -er, is added to an adjective, as in ''small-er'', it acts as an inflection, but when added to a verb, as in ''cook-er'', it acts as a derivation.
As mentioned above, a derivation can produce a new word (or new part of speech) but is not required to do so. For example, the derivation of the word "common" to "uncommon" is a derivational morpheme but doesn't change the part of speech (adjective).
An important distinction between derivational and inflectional morphology lies in the content/function of a listeme. Derivational morphology changes both the meaning and the content of a listeme, while inflectional morphology doesn't change the meaning, but changes the function.
A non-exhaustive list of derivational morphemes in English: -ful, -able, im-, un-, -ing, -er
A non-exhaustive list of inflectional morphemes in English: -er, -est, -ing, -en, -ed, -s
Derivation and other types of word formation
Derivation can be contrasted with other types of word formation such as compounding. For full details see Word formation
Note that derivational affixes are bound morpheme
s – they are meaningful units, but can only normally occur when attached to another word. In that respect, derivation differs from compounding
by which ''free'' morphemes are combined (''lawsuit'', ''Latin professor''). It also differs from inflection
in that inflection does not create new lexeme
s but new word form
s (''table'' → ''tables''; ''open'' → ''opened'').
Derivational patterns differ in the degree to which they can be called productive
. A productive pattern or affix is one that is commonly used to produce novel forms. For example, the negating prefix ''un-'' is more productive in English than the alternative ''in-''; both of them occur in established words (such as ''unusual'' and ''inaccessible''), but faced with a new word which does not have an established negation, a native speaker is more likely to create a novel form with ''un-'' than with ''in-''. The same thing happens with suffixes. For example, if comparing two words ''Thatcherite'' and ''Thatcherist'', the analysis shows that both suffixes ''-ite'' and ''-ist'' are productive and can be added to proper names, moreover, both derived adjectives are established and have the same meaning. But the suffix ''-ist'' is more productive and, thus, can be found more often in word formation not only from proper names.
*Speech and Language Processing, Jurafsky, D.
& Martin J.,H.