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Contemporary Morphological Theories

A User's Guide

Thomas W Stewart

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Discover and test some of the many ways linguists describe patterns among and within words

In spite of the central position that the concept word has among the basic units of language structure, there is no consensus as to the definition of this concept (or network of related concepts). Many perspectives are needed in order to gain even a schematic idea of what words are, how words may be composed, and what relationships there might be between words. Many linguists have put forward frameworks for describing the domain of morphology, each framework proceeding from its author’s assumptions, prioritizing distinct formal and functional dimensions, and therefore entering into de facto competition. This book addresses the needs of the language scholar/student who finds her/himself engaged in morphological analysis and theorizing. It offers a guide to existing approaches, revealing how they can either complement or compete with each other.

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1: Opening the Discussion
2: Theory profiles
3: Time for a test drive
4: Broadening the Discussion

About the Author

Thomas W. Stewart is Assistant Professor of Linguistics at the University of Louisville. His publications include articles and book chapters on morphology. He has also published on historical and contact linguistics, as well as on teaching introductory linguistics.


Stewart’s engagingly written and thought-provoking survey reveals an impressive command of disparate models, skilfully dissected and compared. This is a unique, and uniquely valuable, resource.

Andrew J. Spencer, University of Essex


In this unique guide, Stewart presents cogent synopses of over a dozen current theories of morphology, then puts them to the test on a level playing field, in a kind of morphological triathlon comprising Scottish Gaelic case marking, Georgian verb agreement and Sanskrit gerund formation. An indispensable work of reference.

Gregory Stump, University of Kentucky