My understanding of allomorphy, is that it is the case where a single functional morpheme is realized with many different Vocabulary Items.

But homophony (that is accidental) is also found with Roots, for instance, bank could mean side of a river or financial institution, which have identical phonological representations but have no related semantic meanings.

My question is to what extent the two entities that have the same phonological forms are semantically related so that they could be classified into allomorphy.

1 Answer 1


The two are completely unconnected.

Allomorphy is when a morpheme can occur in multiple phonological forms, those forms being called allomorphs.

Homophony is when multiple words (or morphemes) have the same phonological realisation.

If two entities have the same phonological forms but are semantically related this cannot be considered allomorphy because that requires distinct realisations. It can be considered homophony if the two entities are sufficiently distinct (especially syntactically or morphologically) that, despite their semantic link they are considered different entities. If there is no clear and significant syntactic or morphological distinction then it'd be better to just consider them distinct senses of the same entity.

The line between those last two cases is not completely clear cut, and different people may disagree on where to draw it, but the distinction between the first two is unambiguous. This cannot be considered allomorphy.

  • Thanks for your elaboration. I am still confused with "distinct realisations" that you mentioned in the fourth paragraph. Could you please provide some concrete examples if you'd like? Many thanks!
    – Yili Xia
    Jul 27, 2023 at 8:07
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    In spoken language that would be that the different forms are phonemically distinct. An example would be the English plural morpheme -(e)s which has three allomorphs corresponding to the three distinct realisations: /ɪz/ (after a sibilant), /s/ (after a voiceless non-sibilant), & /z/ (everywhere else)
    – Tristan
    Jul 27, 2023 at 9:34
  • thanks! @Tristan it helps a lot with the example you have given. How about the third person singular present morpheme -s. It is just homphony but not allmorphs corresponding to what you have mentioned. I hope I understand it correctly.
    – Yili Xia
    Jul 28, 2023 at 8:22
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    no, that has the exact same allomorphy as the plural morpheme: /ɪz/ (after a sibilant), /s/ (after a voiceless non-sibilant), & /z/ (everywhere else). As each allomorph is pronounced differently, there is no homophony
    – Tristan
    Jul 28, 2023 at 9:21
  • Thanks @Tristan it helps clarify my questions.
    – Yili Xia
    Jul 30, 2023 at 0:41

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