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A lexeme () is a unit of lexical meaning that underlies a set of words that are related through
inflection In linguistic morphology Morphology, from the Greek and meaning "study of shape", may refer to: Disciplines * Morphology (archaeology), study of the shapes or forms of artifacts * Morphology (astronomy), study of the shape of astronomical obj ...
. It is a basic abstract unit of meaning, a
unit Unit may refer to: Arts and entertainment * UNIT, a fictional military organization in the science fiction television series ''Doctor Who'' * Unit of action, a discrete piece of action (or beat) in a theatrical presentation Music * Unit (album), ' ...
of morphological
analysis Analysis is the process of breaking a complex topic or substance into smaller parts in order to gain a better understanding of it. The technique has been applied in the study of mathematics Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includ ...
in
linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include phonetics, phonet ...

linguistics
that roughly corresponds to a set of forms taken by a single root
word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning (linguistics), meaning. In many languages, words also cor ...

word
. For example, in
English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually become the World language, leading lan ...

English
, ''run'', ''runs'', ''ran'' and ''running'' are forms of the same lexeme, which can be represented as RUN. One form, the
lemma Lemma may refer to: Language and linguistics * Lemma (morphology), the canonical, dictionary or citation form of a word * Lemma (psycholinguistics), a mental abstraction of a word about to be uttered * Headword, under which a set of related dict ...
(or citation form), is chosen by convention as the canonical form of a lexeme. The lemma is the form used in dictionaries as an entry's
headword A headword, lemma, or catchword is the word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning (linguistics) ...
. Other forms of a lexeme are often listed later in the entry if they are uncommon or irregularly inflected.


Description

The notion of the lexeme is central to
morphology Morphology, from the Greek and meaning "study of shape", may refer to: Disciplines * Morphology (archaeology), study of the shapes or forms of artifacts * Morphology (astronomy), study of the shape of astronomical objects such as nebulae, galaxies ...
, the basis for defining other concepts in that field. For example, the difference between
inflection In linguistic morphology Morphology, from the Greek and meaning "study of shape", may refer to: Disciplines * Morphology (archaeology), study of the shapes or forms of artifacts * Morphology (astronomy), study of the shape of astronomical obj ...
and
derivation Derivation may refer to: * Derivation (differential algebra), a unary function satisfying the Leibniz product law * Derivation (linguistics) * Formal proof or derivation, a sequence of sentences each of which is an axiom or follows from the precedi ...
can be stated in terms of lexemes: * Inflectional rules relate a lexeme to its forms. * Derivational rules relate a lexeme to another lexeme. A lexeme belongs to a particular
syntactic categoryA syntactic category is a syntactic unit that theories of syntax In linguistics, syntax () is the set of rules, principles, and processes that govern the structure of Sentence (linguistics), sentences (sentence structure) in a given Natural langu ...
, has a certain
meaning Meaning most commonly refers to: * Meaning (linguistics), meaning which is communicated through the use of language * Meaning (philosophy), definition, elements, and types of meaning discussed in philosophy * Meaning (non-linguistic), a general ter ...
( semantic value) and, in inflecting languages, has a corresponding inflectional paradigm. That is, a lexeme in many languages will have many different forms. For example, the lexeme RUN has a present third person
singular Singular may refer to: * Singular, the grammatical number In linguistics, grammatical number is a grammatical category of nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and verb agreement (linguistics), agreement that expresses count distinctions (such as "one", ...
form ''runs'', a present non-third-person singular form ''run'' (which also functions as the
past participle In linguistics, a participle () is a nonfinite verb, nonfinite verb form that has some of the characteristics and functions of both verbs and adjectives. More narrowly, ''participle'' has been defined as "a word derived from a verb and used as an a ...
and non-finite form), a past form ''ran'', and a present
participle In linguistics, a participle () (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through t ...
''running''. (It does not include ''runner, runners, runnable'' etc.) The use of the forms of a lexeme is governed by rules of
grammar In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the me ...
. In the case of English verbs such as RUN, they include subject-
verb A verb, from the Latin ''wikt:verbum#Latin, verbum'' meaning ''word'', is a word (part of speech) that in syntax conveys an action (''bring'', ''read'', ''walk'', ''run'', ''learn''), an occurrence (''happen'', ''become''), or a state of being ( ...
agreement and compound tense rules, which determine the form of a verb that can be used in a given
sentence Sentence(s) or The Sentence may refer to: Common uses * Sentence (law), the punishment a judge gives to a defendant found guilty of a crime * Sentence (linguistics), a grammatical unit of language * Sentence (mathematical logic), a formula not cont ...
. In many
formal Formal, formality, informal or informality imply the complying with, or not complying with, some set theory, set of requirements (substantial form, forms, in Ancient Greek). They may refer to: Dress code and events * Formal wear, attire for forma ...
theories of
language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have a writing system composed of glyphs to inscribe the original soun ...

language
, lexemes have
subcategorization frame In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include ...
s to account for the number and types of complements. They occur within
sentences ''The Four Books of Sentences'' (''Libri Quattuor Sententiarum'') is a book of theology Theology is the systematic study of the nature of the Divinity, divine and, more broadly, of religious belief. It is taught as an Discipline (academia), aca ...
and other
syntactic structures#REDIRECT Syntactic Structures ''Syntactic Structures'' is an influential work in linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for stud ...

syntactic structures
.


Decomposition

A language's lexemes are often composed of smaller units with individual meaning called
morpheme A morpheme is the smallest meaningful unit in a language. A morpheme is not necessarily the same as a word. The main difference between a morpheme and a word is that a morpheme bound and free morphemes, sometimes does not stand alone, but a word ...
s, according to root morpheme +
derivational morphemes A morpheme is the smallest meaningful unit in a language. A morpheme is not necessarily the same as a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with se ...
+
suffix In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include ...
(not necessarily in that order), where: * The root morpheme is the primary lexical unit of a word, which carries the most significant aspects of semantic content and cannot be reduced to smaller constituents. * The derivational morphemes carry only derivational information. * The
suffix In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include ...
is composed of all inflectional morphemes, and carries only
inflection In linguistic morphology Morphology, from the Greek and meaning "study of shape", may refer to: Disciplines * Morphology (archaeology), study of the shapes or forms of artifacts * Morphology (astronomy), study of the shape of astronomical obj ...
al information. The compound root morpheme + derivational morphemes is often called the
stem Stem or STEM may refer to: Biology * Plant stem '' has lost its leaves, but is producing adventitious roots from the nodes. A stem is one of two main structural axes of a vascular plant, the other being the root In vascular plants, the roo ...
. The decomposition stem +
desinence In linguistics, a suffix (sometimes termed postfix ) is an affix which is placed after the Stem (linguistics), stem of a word. Common examples are case endings, which indicate the grammatical case of nouns, adjectives, and verb endings, which f ...
can then be used to study inflection.


See also

*
Ending (linguistics) In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include ...
*
Inflection In linguistic morphology Morphology, from the Greek and meaning "study of shape", may refer to: Disciplines * Morphology (archaeology), study of the shapes or forms of artifacts * Morphology (astronomy), study of the shape of astronomical obj ...
* Lexical word vs. grammatical word *
Marker (linguistics) In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include p ...
*
Multiword expression An idiom is a phrase or expression that typically presents a figurative, non-literal meaning attached to the phrase; but some phrases become figurative idioms while retaining the literal meaning of the phrase. Categorized as formulaic language ...
*
Null morpheme In morphology Morphology, from the Greek and meaning "study of shape", may refer to: Disciplines * Morphology (archaeology), study of the shapes or forms of artifacts * Morphology (astronomy), study of the shape of astronomical objects such as ne ...
*
Root (linguistics) A root (or root word) is the core of a word that is irreducible into more meaningful elements. In Morphology (linguistics), morphology, a root is a morphologically simple unit which can be left bare or to which a prefix or a suffix can attach. Th ...
*
Stem Stem or STEM may refer to: Biology * Plant stem '' has lost its leaves, but is producing adventitious roots from the nodes. A stem is one of two main structural axes of a vascular plant, the other being the root In vascular plants, the roo ...
*
Syntagma (linguistics)In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include pho ...
*
Word familyA word family is the base form of a word plus its inflected forms and derived forms made with suffixes and prefixes plus its cognate In linguistics, cognates, also called lexical cognates, are words that have a common etymology, etymological ori ...


Notes


References


External links

* {{authority control Lexical units Linguistics terminology