Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Morphemes in Japanese

A morpheme is the smallest part of a language that has any meaning. Normally, one would think that would be a word, however, some words are made out of multiple morphemes, meaning a morpheme is smaller than a word, and when a morpheme isn't a word by itself, it can't be used alone, only as part of a whole word.

In Japanese, the idea of morphemes are closely related to the kanji. This is because kanji have meanings, they represent an idea, and compose words made out of one or more kanji.

Usually, the last morpheme in a word is a noun morpheme, while the first morphemes are modifiers for that noun morpheme. Knowing this can help you guess the meaning of a word by its kanji, since the kanji often represent the morphemes.

In some cases, a kanji represents whole a word instead of just a partial idea, and they're said to be the kanji for that word. Since some words are made out of multiple morphemes, sometimes a kanji represents multiple morphemes too. There are also cases where a single morpheme is written with multiple kanji, like in jukujikun.

Like other languages, suffixes, prefixes, etc. in Japanese are also considered to be morphemes, even though a lot of those would be written without kanji, but with hiragana.

Examples of morphemes in Japanese

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