The 8 Inflectional Morphemes in English
The English language is a West Germanic language that was first spoken in early medieval England and today is a global lingua franca. English has a vast vocabulary, with loanwords accounting for one-quarter of its lexicon. English has developed over the course of more than 1,400 years. The earliest forms of English, a set of Anglo-Frisian dialects brought to Great Britain by Anglo-Saxon settlers in the fifth century, are called Old English. Middle English began in the late eleventh century with the Norman conquest of England; this was followed by the development of London English in the thirteenth century. Early Modern English began in the late fifteenth century with the introduction of the printing press to England, and the first published book, William Caxton’s 1476 version of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. Through the worldwide influence of the British Empire, and later the United States, Modern English has been spreading around the world since the seventeenth century.
2. The 8 Inflectional Morphemes in English
There are only 8 inflectional morphemes in English. They do not change the word class (i.e., they are not derivational), but they serve to indicate at the form and/or tense of a word:
-2.1. Morpheme #1: -s
The morpheme -s is added to nouns in the plural form (e.g., cat-cats), to third person singular verbs in the present simple tense (e.g., she walk-walks), and to possessive nouns (e.g., John’s).
-2.2. Morpheme #2: -ed
The morpheme -ed is added to regular verbs in the past simple tense and past participle (eg., work-worked-worked).
-2.3. Morpheme #3: -ing
The morpheme -ing is added to verbs in the present participle and gerund form (e.g., work-working).
-2.4. Morpheme #4: -en
The morpheme -en is added to verbs in order to form the past participle (e.g., choose-chosen).
-2.5. Morpheme #5: -er
The morpheme -er is added to adjectives and verbs in order to form comparative adjectives and adverbs (e.g., slow-slower; fast-faster).
-2.6. Morpheme #6: -est
The morpheme -est is added to adjectives and adverbs in order to form superlative adjectives and adverbs (eg., slow-slowest; fast-fastest).
-2.7. Morpheme #7: -ly
The morpheme -ly is added to adjectives in order to form adverbs (eg., slow-slowly; quick-quickly).
Note that there are also some irregular forms such as good-better-best or bad-worse-worst which do not follow the general pattern.
-2.8. Morpheme #8: -s’
The morpheme -s’ is added to nouns in order to form the possessive case (e.g., cat-cat’s; John-John’s). Note that this morpheme is not always pronounced, especially in spoken English.
As can be seen, there are only 8 inflectional morphemes in English. These are not difficult to remember and once you are familiar with them, you will be able to use them correctly in your writing and speaking.