Welcome to Persian morphology section! The term “morphology” might look intimidating but it is simply about the world of words: how different word roots, prefixes and suffixes join together to create the vocabulary of a language. Knowing about prefixes and suffixes helps you guess the meaning of many words and you can memorize them more easily. Persian is like Greek and Latin in terms of morphological depth: most roots, prefixes and suffixes are native to the language and highly intelligible. For instance, the Persian word for “desert”, that is “biyâbân”, is made up of intelligible parts: “bi” (without), “âb” (water), “-ân” (a suffix of “place”).
In linguistics, “morphology” literally means “study of morphemes”. Morphemes are the smallest parts of a word that have meaning. For example, in “unhappy”, we have two morphemes: “un-” and “happy”. Morphemes like “un-” that can not be used alone and always attach to other morphemes are called bound morphemes. Morphemes like “happy” that can be used alone are called free morphemes. Prefixes and suffixes are bound morphemes. Every word has one or more morphemes.
Bound morphemes are either derivational or inflectional. Derivational morphemes create new words and meanings. For example, the prefix “un-” and the suffix “-ness” are derivational morphemes. When they are added to the adjective “happy”, they create new words:
- happiness: a noun
- unhappy: still an adjective but with inverted meaning
- unhappiness: a noun with inverted meaning
Inflectional morphemes change the form of a word e.g. its tense, number, gender. For example, “-er” in “happier”, “-s” in “reads” and “-s” in dogs:
- “happier” is still the adjective “happy”, just a different degree
- “dogs” is still the noun “dog” but denotes more than one dog
- “reads” is still the verb “read” but for third person singular
Derivational morphemes are the subject of this section of the site. Inflectional morphemes are discussed in the section about Persian grammar.