Author Topic: How to exactly define the root in the word in different languages (not english)  (Read 2362 times)

Offline Study lover300

  • New Linguist
  • *
  • Posts: 1
When I solve the linguistic problems I can't understand how to define roots in language that I don't know. Because I have seen many answers where I thought the root was  -exere- but it was -exer-   (this is a random word, just for an example) I wish you understood my question, and could help! Sorry for my English I am 15 yo ukrainian,so..

Offline panini

  • Linguist
  • ***
  • Posts: 177
I first think it would help if you don't try to define roots, and instead try to identify roots. In linguistics education, there is too much emphasis on arbitrary top-down stipulation and deduction, and not enough on bottom-up induction from the facts. So what is the method that we use to identify a root?

Having told you to not worry about definitions, I will point out a definitional type fact: any morphologically complex structure has a root (one root, unless it is a compound), and anything else is an affix. The method for identifying any morpheme is to look at the forms within a paradigm and find those parts of the word that consistently correlate with a particular function. If you look at плакати and know it means "to cry", you don't know enough. Adding плакав "cried(m.)"  and плакала "cried(f.)" we can now identify some suffixes, which are therefore not part of the root. What is the root – is it плака, or it is плак, or something else? Eventually, given examples like плачемо and плач, we figure out that -а is not part of the root, it too is a suffix (a grammatical suffix), there are rules that change к to ч (we need to figure those rules out), and the root is плак.

Especially when you are dealing with canned problem sets of the Olympiad variety, the correct analysis may only be evident if you look at and correctly analyze a single form. For example, if you don't have the right analysis of плач (and related forms), you will not have any reason to think that the root is плак rather than плака. The point of these exercises is to teach the reasoning skills involved at converting a mass of data into an analysis, not to tap into your specific knowledge of a language. The distraction is that sometimes (a peculiar way of saying "usually") there are multiple possible analyses consistent with the data. For example, I could have assumed the root плака and claimed there is a process deleting the final а. I could have claimed the root is плач and claimed that ч→к. Those claims are against conventional wisdom, but just how bad are these claims in the face of the language data that you are given? Would an infinitive like бачити be a problem for that analysis?

I would say that the key is to give a complete, explicit and reasoned analysis of the data – don't rely on emotional reactions. Don't say "That seems too complicated / confusing / counterintuitive / strange". Instead, understand how each datum logically relates to the overall grammar. Explicitly discuss questions like "What happens if we assume /ч/? What happens if we assume /к/."