Inflectional morphology is the study of the modification of words to fit into different grammatical contexts whereas the derivational morphology is the study of the formation of new words that differ either in syntactic category or in meaning from their bases. This is the key difference between inflectional and derivational morphology.
A morpheme is the smallest, meaningful, morphological unit in a language. This unit cannot be further divided or analyzed. Inflectional morphemes and derivational morphemes are two main types of morphemes. Thus, inflectional and derivational morphology concern the study of these two types of morphemes, respectively.
1. Overview and Key Difference
2. What is Inflectional Morphology
3. What is Derivational Morphology
4. Side by Side Comparison – Inflectional vs Derivational Morphology in Tabular Form
What is Inflectional Morphology?
Inflectional morphology is the study of the processes that distinguish the forms of words in certain grammatical categories. This includes processes such as affixation and vowel change, which create inflectional morphemes.
An inflectional morpheme is a suffix that’s added to a word to assign a particular grammatical property to that word, such as its number, mood, tense, or possession. However, an inflectional morphology can never change the grammatical category of a word. You can add an inflectional morphology to a verb, noun, adjective, or an adverb. For example, adding a ‘-s’ to the verb plural verb ‘run’ can make this verb singular. Similarly, adding ‘-ed’ to the verb dance creates the past tense of the verb (danced).
Some more examples are as follows:
Cat à Cats
Teach à Teaches
Clean à Cleaned
As evident from the above examples, inflectional morphemes usually produce different forms of the same word, instead of different words. In addition, inflection does not generally change the basic meaning of a word as they only add specifications to a word or emphasize certain aspects of its meaning. Thus, words under inflectional morphology are not found as separate entries in dictionaries.
What is Derivational Morphology?
Derivational morphology is the study of the formation of new words that differ either in syntactic category or in meaning from their bases. Thus, a derivational morpheme is an affix we add to a word in order to create a new word or a new form of a word. Moreover, a derivational morpheme can either change the meaning or the grammatical category of the word. For example,
Change in Meaning
Leaf → Leaflet
Change in Grammatical Category
Help (verb) → Helper (noun)
Logic (noun) → Logical (adjective)
As seen from the above examples, derivational morphemes change either the meaning or the category of the original words, forming new words. These words are, thus, found under new entries in dictionaries.
What is the Difference Between Inflectional and Derivational Morphology?
Inflectional morphology is the study of the modification of words to fit into different grammatical contexts whereas derivational morphology is the study of the formation of new words that differ either in syntactic category or in meaning from their bases. Therefore, this is the principle difference between inflectional and derivational morphology. Moreover, in usage, the difference between inflectional and derivational morphology is that the inflectional morphemes are affixes that merely serve as grammatical markers and indicate some grammatical information about a word whereas derivational morphemes are affixes that are capable of either changing the meaning or the grammatical category of the word.
Besides, the key difference between inflectional and derivational morphology is that while inflectional morphemes create new forms of the same word, derivational morphemes create new words.
Summary – Inflectional vs Derivational Morphology
The key difference between inflectional and derivational morphology is that the inflectional morphology deals with the creation of new forms of the same word whereasthe derivational morphology deals with the creation of new words.
1.Nordquist, Richard. “What Is Inflectional Morphology?” ThoughtCo. Available here
2.Nordquist, Richard. “What Are Derivational Morphemes?” ThoughtCo. Available here
3.“Morpheme.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 28 Oct. 2018. Available here
1.”32123795043″ by attanatta (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr
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