To Morpheme or Not to Morpheme

A morpheme is a combination of sounds that have meaning; it is the smallest grammatical unit in a language.  In many ways, morphemes shape the basis of how our language acquisition is developed and formed.  Learning to speak a form of language occurs at a very young age.  Young children at twenty-four months are able to utter sounds such as ba for bottle, or ma for Mommy.  By the end of the second grade, the vocabulary acquisition of children is roughly 6000 root word meanings (Effects of Morphological Instruction on Vocabulary Acquisition).  Through continued reading, writing, and education, the vocabulary acquisition of children at the end of sixth grade is roughly 10,000 (Effects of Morphological Instruction on Vocabulary Acquisition).  The foundation of vocabulary in children is primarily taught through learning the meaning of words through vocabulary, not through morphology.  As babies and young toddlers, the development of vocabulary is acquired through unconscious use of morphemes that serve as a need for the child, i.e., ba might be the child’s way of asking for a bottle.  It holds reason to believe that an understanding of morphemes can serve to further expand vocabularies and reading proficiencies through further teaching and development of morphology.

It is important to understand that a morpheme is not a word itself, but the smallest unit in a language.  The main difference between a word and a morpheme is a word cannot stand alone, whereas a morpheme can.  For example dogs can be broken into dog and s, whereas the s is a morpheme and cannot stand alone.  Morphology is believed to be part of the explanation of how children learn the words they were never explicitly taught (Effects of Morphological Instruction on Vocabulary Acquisition).  Studies in elementary school children have supported the extent of how untaught morphological knowledge increases the vocabulary acquisition of the child (Effects of Morphological Instruction on Vocabulary Acquisition).  A study of seventh graders, whereby morphological instructions were incorporated into new vocabulary words, produced immediate effects for deriving meaning compared to the selection of the class who received vocabulary instruction from learning the words from non-morphological instructions (Effects of Morphological Instruction on Vocabulary Acquisition).

As discussed, the basis of children’s vocabulary is formed at a very young age.  Of course other factors will guide the vocabulary acquisition in life, such as education, social-economic conditions, and even regional variations.  However, with a child’s brain some much like a sponge in the information they absorb, it is reasonable to believe introducing morphological studies will only increase the vocabulary at a very young age.

While the studies in this paper are a small sampling, the conclusion that this paper draws is morphology is the basis element in humans in forming language and vocabulary.  While traditional learning and memorizing words is a sound approach to teaching the definition of a particular word, it does not fully support building the foundations of the meaning of the word or words that are taught.  The understanding or morphemes, either in children initially being taught the language and vocabulary, or in adults learning a second language, even furthering their education, can serve to expand vocabularies and reading proficiencies.

Works Cited

 “Effects of Morphological Instruction on Vocabulary Acquisition”.  The WordWorks Literacy Centre.  The WordWorks, April 2, 2009.  Web.  April 19, 2013.

Clark, Mary M. “The Vocabulary of English: Where Do Our Words Come From?” The Structure of English for Readers, Writers, and Teachers. Second Edition.  (2010): 24-27.  Print

Clark, Mary M. “The Grammatical Properties of Words: Morphology and ‘Parts of Speech.’” The Structure of English for Readers, Writers, and Teachers. Second Edition.  (2010): 53-56.  Print. Morpheme. 2013. Web.  19 April 2013


The Old Man and the Sea – Writing Analysis

In the opening of The Old Man and the Sea Ernest Hemingway immediately provides the mood, the setting, and the feel of the old man.

“He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish.”  (The Old Man and the Sea).  The feel of the fishing vessel, which is described as a skiff, provides the image of a tattered old row boat; the location of the character in the Gulf; the plight the character faces.  In one short sentence, Hemingway captures the essence of his character and provides his readers the emotional longing his main character faces; eighty-four days without a catch; an old man who fishes alone.  The writing style provides the reader a descriptive imagery; as well as providing an emotive language to capture the essence of the story unfolding.  “The old man was thin and gaunt with deep wrinkles in the back of his neck.  The brown blotches of the benevolent skin cancer the sun brings from its reflection on the tropic sea were on his cheeks.” (The Old Man and the Sea).  Critics of Hemingway’s writings have stated that his style of writing lacked in substance as he avoided direct statements and description of emotion. (  The Old Man and the Sea has been described as a story told in brief, concise sentences, occasionally punctuated with flourishes of language; the writing nearly clinical in how it portrays the events. ( This paper states Hemingway’s writing in The Old Man and the Sea flourishes in his use of emotion and description; the writing puts the reader on the boat and enables the reader to feel the emotion, the joy, the sorrow, of the main character.  The rhetorical devices utilized throughout the story provide the emotion, fear, anger, excitement, and sympathy for Hemmingway’s main character, the old man named Santiago.  The emotional appeal and the descriptive imagery that Hemmingway exudes throughout the story is what cause the reader to identify with the writer’s perspective.

Throughout the story of The Old Man and the Sea, Hemingway expresses clearly his writing and sentence pattern as being emotive and descriptive.  In several passages throughout the story, the reader is placed in the skiff with Santiago as he speaks to himself.  “If others heard me talking out loud they would think that I am crazy.” (The Old Man and the Sea).  This style forces the forces the reader to feel the emotions portrayed on the main character.  Hemmingway uses several emotional ploys in his writing to enable the reader to feel what Santiago is feeling.  When Hemingway introduces the fish that Santiago baits, he does not introduce the fish as merely a fish, but instead introduces the fish as a character.  An example of the emotional tie the character of Santiago has with the character of the fish is when Santiago continues to speak out loud to himself as he wrestles with trying the catch the fish: “The fish is my friend too.  I have never seen or heard of such a fish.  But I must kill him.” (The Old Man and the Sea). The writing and the emotive language provides the respect and admiration the characters have for each other, but knowing only one will survive.

Hemingway’s writing in The Old Man and the Sea effectively uses an emotive writing style, as well as using strong description and imagery.  Hemingway provides the emotional sense of plight Santiago faces of eighty-four days without a catch, as well as his plights throughout the story in his battle with the fish and his journey home with the fish.  His ability to put the reader in the skiff with Santiago as he wanders the sea looking for his catch preys on the reader’s emotions and as being one with Santiago.  Hemingway’s writing style and sentence structure allows the reader a sense of knowing what was within the character of Santiago.  As a reader of Hemmingway, and admirer of The Old Man and the Sea, his writing style provides me the emotional tie to the characters, and the feel of knowing them intimately.  The description and imagery Hemingway places in his writing provides the reader a sense of fully knowing and comprehending not only the characters, but the setting, the mood, and the feel.

Works Cited

Hemingway, Ernest.  The Old Man and the Sea.  (1952): 1-10, 38-41 99-105.  Print

Cooper, Michael.  “The Writing Style of Hemingway”.  Ezine Articles.  2 September 2005. Web.  7 May 2013.

“The Old Man and the Sea. Hemingway’s Writing Style”.  GoodReads.  31 August 2012.  Web.  7 May 2013. Loaded Language. 14 April 2013. Web.  7 May 2013


Evolution or Revolution – The English Language Revolution

Reading and understanding the literary work of the Middle English time period is akin to learning and studying an ancient language entirely.  The English language itself has taken different mold and shape over the past several hundred years.  Words and phrases during the Middle English period have enhanced over time.  Words such as durste, clepe, and I wot, translate respectively to dared, call, and I know today. (Murphy page v). Conversely, words ending –en have translated more easily to their modern day equivalents; words such as, bathen, departen, aboven. (Murphy page vi). Why has the language changed so, and why have some words and phrases changed much more so than others?  Several changes and events in world and British history have greatly influenced the transformation of the Middle English language of the 15th and 16th centuries, to the Modern variations of the English language today.  Events such as The Great Vowel Shift, technology and the Renaissance, and world exploration and colonization have provided major contributions to the language advancements.  (EnglishClub, History of English Language). But have the advancements in the English language from the Middle English time period to the Modern English variations of today been an evolution or a revolution.  While evolution has played its role, it’s the revolution that has been on since the 11th century, and continues today.

The great works of literary mind Geoffrey Chaucer were written during the Middle English time period.  The Middle English language derived from the Normans invasion of Britain in 1066. (University of Texas at Arlington, Middle English History). The Normans brought with them a form of the Old French language, which would serve as the language of the British upper class following the invasion.  The language of Britain at the time of the invasion was Old English, which would continue to serve for the lower class.  However, by the 14th and 15th centuries, the English language would again become the full language of the region, but it had now inherited many words and phrases from the Old French.  Thus the Old English language, combined with words and phrases from the Old French, would form the basis of the Middle English time period.  But that time period would continue to see upheaval in the English language as evidenced in language changes in the 16th century with The Great Vowel Shift. (Wikipedia, The Great Vowel Shift).   The Great Vowel Shift produced a change in pronunciation with vowels being pronounced shorter and shorter.  What brought the sudden dialect change and the Great Vowel Shift?  Theory states The Black Death plague caused the migration of many to southeast England, and brought with it accents and dialects which modified the speech and language of the newly inhabitated region.  Another attribution the plague has received on its influence on the Great Vowel Shift is it did not discriminate against upper and lower class structure; it reached the upper class society as well as the lower class.  With upper class falling victim to the plague as well, it enabled a social transformation with lower levels of society reaching upper ends of society. (EnglishClub, The History of English Language).

The transformation from Middle English to modern English continued through the technological advancements of the 15th and 16th centuries.  The invention of the printing press enabled more lower class people to read and write, as books were now more readily available, as well as more affordable.  This led to the Renaissance of learning; more and more people were reading and writing.  The advancements in the printer also stabilized the English language.  The first English dictionary was published in 1604 (EnglishClub, The History of English Language); technological advancements helped accelerate the standardization of the English language.  Britain’s growth in world exploration and world colonization stemmed the largest growth of the English language.  Britain grew into a world power in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries.  The British Empire spread the English language across the globe, and brought words and phrases across the world back into the English language.  Coupled with world exploration and Britain’s ability to stabilize their language through the means of print, the English language began to move from Middle English to the more modern variations we know today.  Of course, there are a few variations of the English language in today’s world including American English.

The advancements of the English language have taken many variations through the centuries.  Old English and forms of Middle English are very unfamiliar to today’s world.  Translations or interpretations are generally required for the lay person to read works from that time period.  In today’s world and today’s English language, we are constantly seeing advancements in our language.  Words and phrases considered slang a generation or two ago have become part of the language and culture.  In addition, neologisms and newly created phrases and words that may not have been accepted in mainstream yet, but they are a part of our daily language. (Wikipedia, Neologism).   Words and phrases such as Google It, Soccer Mom, NASCAR Dad, and blog have become every bit the part of modern English, but have not necessarily become a part of the official English language.  And of course, just with the technological advancements of the printing press in the 16th century, the internet is currently playing a huge role in our language churn.  Social media has provided all people a worldwide stage to voice their opinions on an array of subjects, and with it the advent of new words, phrases, slang, and neologisms.  The revolution of the English language has seen many events in world history help shape into the language it is today.  While there is a natural evolution of the language that occurs generation to generation, the events such as The Great Vowel Shift, technology and the Renaissance, and Britain’s successes in world exploration influenced and revolutionized the language in a much more pronounced way in its movement toward modern English.  Today’s American English language continues to see natural evolution with dialects from different parts of the country, but technological advancements of today are revolutionizing the language in much more expedient manner than natural evolution; for both American English and British English.  The English language revolution has seen its changes over the past several hundred years, and while evolution will continue to influence its development, it’s the revolution that has moved the language to its present state and will continue to shape the language into its next time period.

Works Cited

1.)    EnglishClub.   EnglishClub is independent and unaffiliated to any language organization.  April 1-5. .History of English Language page. <>

2.)    Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation.  April 1-5. .

Great Vowel Shift page. <>

History of the English Language page.  <>

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3.) Part of the IAC Corporation.  April 6. .

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4.)    University of Texas at Arlington.  University of Texas at Arlington public website.  April 2. . Middle English History.  <>

5.)    Murphy, Michael. “The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer.  A Reader-Friendly Edition of the General Prologue and Sixteen Tales Put into Modern Spelling.”  Brooklyn College. Brooklyn College.  April 3.  <>


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