For the word classification, would it break down to 'class-ify-ation' or 'class-ify-ic-ation'. I am confused between the two because for the second one, classific isn't a word.

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    When doing a morphological analysis, it's always important to decide if it's going to be synchronic or diachronic. The results could be very different.
    – Alex B.
    Commented Nov 5, 2020 at 15:40

1 Answer 1


Well Nicholas, depending on your point of view, you were either very lucky or unlucky to choose the word classification.

I am confused between the two because for the second one, classific isn't a word.

You're right, it isn't. Here's how I would break down classification:



You see, although the final suffix is -ation, a c is inserted to produce -cation. This is a type of sound change and this phenomena is more commonly known as epenthesis.

It can occur when there is friction between the end of stem and the initial sound of the following suffix.

Just try saying classify-ation. Classifyaytion? Classifiation?

So, as a general rule, stems ending in y are transformed:

  • The y becomes an i.
  • the head of the -ation suffix receives a c, becoming -cation.

Now as for how to treat the sound change, there isn't really an agreed upon convention. In fact, that link from above treats -ation and -cation as distinct suffixes. So it's kind of up to you.

You could ignore the emergence of the c if you are insistent on doing a more canonical breakdown:


Or you could match the spelling:


Or you could do as I did and mark the [c] as a part of the final suffix and not a suffix in its own right:


It's entirely up to you.

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