Author Topic: How to exactly define the root in the word in different languages (not english)  (Read 9622 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: 197
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/."






Offline Rock100

  • Linguist
  • ***
  • Posts: 70
I also believe a morphemic parse, generally speaking, may be affected by the purpose (what do you do it for?), the audience (for whom you do it) and many other aspects (you name them). So, you choose the rules (if there are well-established ones) or create them. Speaking of the Russian above: -ть (as in плакать) is the ending in usual schools and the suffix in universities.

Offline Daniel

  • Administrator
  • Experienced Linguist
  • *****
  • Posts: 2036
  • Country: us
    • English
Consistency is important. If your analysis changes based on its application, then it's not a consistent analysis. There may indeed be different useful analyses for different purposes, but that's different from what you describe. Morphemes are defined in a particular way that should be consistent. The question then is to figure out how to best approach the question of identifying them, and also the potential for variation across languages. But you can't just swap out different definitions as you feel like, because that defeats the point of having an analysis.

As a general rule, it's always better to try to understand how others have analyzed similar problems than to try to reinvent the wheel when you're first beginning. There may very well be a better way to do things, but you probably won't find it if you don't understand what other people have done before. (Or you might just be repeating their mistakes.)
Welcome to Linguist Forum! If you have any questions, please ask.