Morpheme vs. Phoneme

By Jaxson

Main Difference

The main difference between Morpheme and Phoneme is that the Morpheme is a basic unit of morphology and Phoneme is a basic unit of phonology

  • Morpheme

    A morpheme is the smallest meaningful unit in a language. A morpheme is not identical to a word. The main difference between them is that a morpheme sometimes does not stand alone, but a word, by definition, always stands alone. The linguistics field of study dedicated to morphemes is called morphology. When a morpheme stands by itself, it is considered as a root because it has a meaning of its own (such as the morpheme cat). When it depends on another morpheme to express an idea, it is an affix because it has a grammatical function (such as the –s in cats to indicate that it is plural). Every word comprises one or more morphemes.

  • Phoneme

    For the unit of gesture in sign languages, see CheremeA phoneme () is one of the units of sound that distinguish one word from another in a particular language.

    For example, in most dialects of English, the sound patterns (sin) and (sing) are two separate words distinguished by the substitution of one phoneme, /n/, for another phoneme, /ŋ/. (Two words like this that differ in meaning through a contrast of a single phoneme form what is called a minimal pair.) In many other languages these would be interpreted as exactly the same set of phonemes (i.e. /n/ and /ŋ/ would be considered the same).

    In linguistics, phonemes (usually established by the use of minimal pairs, such as kill vs kiss or pat vs bat) are written between slashes, e.g. /p/. To show pronunciation more precisely linguists use square brackets, for example [pʰ] (indicating an aspirated p).

    Within linguistics there are differing views as to exactly what phonemes are and how a given language should be analyzed in phonemic (or phonematic) terms. However, a phoneme is generally regarded as an abstraction of a set (or equivalence class) of speech sounds (phones) which are perceived as equivalent to each other in a given language. For example, in English, the k sounds in the words kit and skill are not identical (as described below), but they are distributional variants of a single phoneme /k/. Different speech sounds that are realizations of the same phoneme are known as allophones. Allophonic variation may be conditioned, in which case a certain phoneme is realized as a certain allophone in particular phonological environments, or it may be free in which case it may vary randomly. In this way, phonemes are often considered to constitute an abstract underlying representation for segments of words, while speech sounds make up the corresponding phonetic realization, or surface form.

  • Morpheme (noun)

    The smallest linguistic unit within a word that can carry a meaning, such as “un-“, “break”, and “-able” in the word “unbreakable”.

    “The word pigs consists of two morphemes: pig (a particular animal) and s (indication of the plural).”

    “The word werewolves consists of three morphemes: were (~ man), wolf (a particular animal), es (plural)”

    “The word feet consists of two morphemes: foot (a body part) and i-mutation (plural)”

  • Phoneme (noun)

    An indivisible unit of sound in a given language. A phoneme is an abstraction of the physical speech sounds (phones) and may encompass several different phones.

  • Phoneme (noun)

    any of the perceptually distinct units of sound in a specified language that distinguish one word from another, for example p, b, d, and t in the English words pad, pat, bad, and bat.

Oxford Dictionary

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