In general, how do morphoX differ from X? Here are some concretizations.

  1. Linguistics S.E. has tags for vs. tag:morphosyntax.

  2. Phonemes vs. morphophonemes

morpheme. A contrastive meaningful unit in a language; a class of allographs. In English, book and table are different morphemes; blueness consists of two morphemes blue and -ness.

morphophonemic. Having to do with linguistic units between the phonological and morphological levels of language.

9.7 Orthographic Depth: Two Examples

In this section and the next, we will compare two somewhat different orthographies, both using the Roman alphabet: Finnish and Scots Gaelic. The two systems differ rather strongly in what is known as orthographic depth. Finnish writing is shallow, Scots Gaelic is deep. By orthographic depth, we are talking about the relationship of writing and language. (You may at this point need to review phonemic and morphophonemic levels in Appendix A on linguistic concepts.) In a writing system which is orthographically shallow, graphemes represent phonemes; in a writing system which is orthographically deep, graphemes represent morphophonemes. Languages are often inconsistent in that they may represent some things at one level and other things at another or at an intermediary level. One commonly sees the term 'phonetic' used to mean shallow, as in 'Finnish writing is phonetic'. This is a poor choice of words on two grounds. First, in linguistics, 'phonetic' implies subphonemic, allophonic, which is clearly not meant here. Second, 'phonetic' suggests an absolute type of relationship between the writing system and language, whereas 'deep' suggests one end of a continuum, a much more realistic appraisal, in my opinion.

Henry Rogers, Writing Systems (2004), p 177.

  1. This book doesn't even define "Pure moraic" and "Morpho-moraic".

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1 Answer 1


There are a few different questions rolled into one here.

For the first one, syntax vs morphosyntax and phonology vs morphophonology: (spoken) language tends to be analyzed at a variety of levels. At one level you have the actual vocal tract movements and air vibrations (phonetics); at another level you have the mental units corresponding to those sounds (phonology); at another level you put those sound units together into meaningful pieces (morphology); at another level you put those pieces together into full phrases and sentences (syntax).

In some languages there might be a nice clear divide between phonology and morphology and syntax. In most, though, there's not; they might overlap significantly and all influence each other. So morphophonology refers to anything involving both the phonology and morphology levels, and morphosyntax refers to anything involving both the morphology and syntax levels, in cases where it's not so clear-cut.

For the second question, "morpho-" in the description of a writing system indicates that the writing indicates not only phonology, but also morphology. In (ancient) Greek, (archaic) Hebrew, and Japanese kana, for example, the writing system indicates directly the phonemes, consonants, or morae of the words. But in English, Egyptian, and Chinese, the writing also conveys some elements of meaning that are not indicated by phonemes.

In English, for example, we write the words bear and bare differently, even though they're pronounced exactly the same. Thus the writing indicates not only the phonemes (which are the same for both), but also whether those phonemes mean "large animal" or "uncovered". This is what the "morpho-" prefix means in this classification.

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