This involves breaking down a word into its component morphemes to find its meaning.
The following is the hierarchy of grammatical units:
Morpheme –> Word –> Phrase/group –> Clause –> Sentence
So, from here, we could say, morphemes join together to form a word, words to form a phrase (or group), phrases to form a clause and clauses to form a sentence.
We’ll be focusing on Morpheme and Word here.
A morpheme is the smallest meaningful unit of grammar.
There are two types of morpheme.
- Free/Base/Root morphemes (simple words). These are morphemes that can stand on their own. E.g, man, child, respect, A, and, cup, etc.
- Bound/additive morpheme. These morphemes are dependent. Although, they’re meaningful, yet, they can’t stand alone.
They are affixes (prefix, infix & suffix)
Prefix – meaning, coming before a free morpheme.
“dis-“, “mal-“, “un-“, etc
As in, “dis-respect”, “mal-administer”, “un-certain”, etc
Suffix – meaning, coming after a free morpheme.
“-ive”, “-ity”, “-ful”, “-hood”
As in, “act-ive”, “moral-ity”, “use-ful”, “child-hood”, etc.
To understand this topic better, let’s analyse a word:
Prefix – “dis-“
Root – “respect”
Suffix – “-ful”
Bound/Additive morphemes, as said earlier, are meaningful themselves.
They change the meaning of a root/base word when added to the root.
The prefix “Dis-” means “not” or “opposite of“.
The addition of the suffix “-ful” makes the word an adjective.
And I believe the root is a familiar word:
“Respect“, a verb, meaning to reference or honour someone.
Therefore, the addition of “dis-” and “-ful” changes the meaning to “having a quality of NOT being able to honour someone/something” – “disrespectful”
Do you get that? Great!
You can use the principle of word-formation concept to arrive at the meanings of words.
Take a look at this question for instance:
Choose the word nearest in meaning to the word or phrase emboldened.
The man has strong distaste for alcohol.
UTME 2015 q62
Ans – B
Focus word – “distaste“
Prefix – “dis-“, meaning, “the opposite of…”
Root word – “taste“, meaning, “the love/desire for…”
Therefore, “distaste” means, “not having love/desire for something”
And as required, you’re to find a word/phrase synonymous (closest in meaning) to it…
…and that should be “aversion”. Do you understand? Great!