Bound morpheme

Bound morpheme

In etymology, a bound morpheme is a root morpheme that cannot stand alone as an independent word. To determine if a root is bound, strip the root of all of its affixes (prefixes and suffixes). If the remaining root is not a word, that root is a bound morpheme. Thus, the root is only used when it is bound, i.e. connected, with a prefix or suffix.

Examples

The root "gress" is associated with motion (for example egress or retrogress). However, the word "gress" is not found in an English dictionary, so "gress" is a bound morpheme.

To identify the root morpheme of "ambidexterity," remove the prefixes and suffix:

ambidexterity → (am)(bi) dexter (ity).

The resulting root is dexter; a dictionary reveals that this is not an English word. Therefore dexter is a bound morpheme.

However, "freeze" in "antifreeze" is a free (non-bound) morpheme.

antifreeze → (anti) freeze.

The root here is freeze; a dictionary will confirm that this is its own word. Therefore freeze is a free morpheme.

Affixes

Affixes are themselves bound morphemes because they are used only when attached to a root morpheme and/or another bound morpheme.

Common English bound morphemes include: -ing, -ed, -er, and pre-.

See also

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