Morphology

A morpheme is the smallest possible unit of grammatical meaning. It is not the same as a syllable. It can be a single letter eg “s” in “boys” (signifies the plural)

Derivational Morphemes:

  • Suffix: end of word; usually changes class
    • tradition + al = traditional (n – adj)
    • fascinate + ing = fascinating (vb – adj)
    • faithful + ly = faithfully (adj – adv)
  • Prefix: beginning of word; does not usually change class
    • un + happy = unhappy (adj – adj)
    • re +write = rewrite (vb – vb)

Inflectional Morphemes:

  • No change in word class  – suffix to show tense, plural etc.
    • animal+s
    • talk+ed
  • Suffixes and prefixes are grouped together as affixes.Morphemes can also be root/stem (the base of the word).  They can also be divided into free and bound morphemes.  A free morpheme can stand alone (eg man, happy, faith), whereas a bound morpheme cannot (eg un, pre, ed, ing).  All affixes are bound morphemes, root morphemes are usually free (but not absolutely always).

Writing about morphology at A Level:

Morphology is of most use in describing non-standard usage.

For example, children often over-use morphemes when they regularise irregular words: mans instead of men or eated instead of ate.  You may want to talk about the order of acquisition of morphemes, as in Brown’s research. Also of use in spoken acquisition is calculating MLU in terms of morphemes rather than words (but do specify this is the system you’re using, and be consistent).

Or in studying language variation, you may want to describe a dialect which uses “I goes” instead of the standard “I go”. In this case, you’d want to talk about the morpheme usually used to indicate third person present tense.

Derivational morphology is also obviously useful in language change, in discussing the construction of some new words. This is most apparent with affixation (e.g. the suffix -gate to designate a scandal), but it may also help to clarify the construction of a blend or a backformation.

Frameworks ebook

All the frameworks material on this site will remain freely available here, but if you’d like to download most of it in one neat package*, to be read on a Kindle or in the Kindle app (which is free and works on PC, tablet or phone), it is available as an ebook for £2.50 on Amazon (or free on Kindle Unlimited) – see below. 

*all the pages are there, but a few of them have been updated a bit since I put the book together.

Using Grammar

It can be difficult to know how to apply grammatical knowledge to text analysis, probably because we’re so used to using some version of “Point Evidence Explain” and that doesn’t really work with grammar: “Dream is an abstract noun because…”  It’s better to work word class knowledge in with everything else: “The abstract noun ‘dream’ is used to convey a strongly positive desire, whilst also carrying connotations of the American Dream.” Because of this, it’s more useful to take a ‘meaning first’ approach to analysis*:

  • first pick out the words and phrases that you feel are worthy of comment.  Then see how precisely you can describe those words/phrases.  
    • Hint: more grammatical detail is always better.  So identifying something as a ‘pronoun’ is good, but ‘first person plural subject pronoun’ is likely to get more marks.  Equally, ‘perfective aspect verbs’ win over ‘verbs’ every time.

*(as opposed to first identifying all the linguistic features that you can and then trying to figure out what they mean)

Grammatical knowledge is also essential for work such as:

  • describing dialect forms – how else can you precisely explain the difference between ‘we was’ and ‘we were’ or define a form like ‘hisself’?
  • explaining children’s uses of language precisely, e.g. non-standard pluralisation (‘mens’, ‘sheeps’) or application of tense to both auxiliary and main verb in a question (did you eated your dinner?)
Frameworks ebook

All the frameworks material on this site will remain freely available here, but if you’d like to download most of it in one neat package*, to be read on a Kindle or in the Kindle app (which is free and works on PC, tablet or phone), it is available as an ebook for £2.50 on Amazon (or free on Kindle Unlimited) – see below. 

*all the pages are there, but a few of them have been updated a bit since I put the book together.

Learning Terms

Here are a few tricks for learning the key terms, what they mean, and how to find examples of them.

Glossaries

Make your own glossary.  Use an exercise book or folder, with a page per letter and enter the terms.  Make sure you write the definitions in your own words, and add an example for everything that you’ve found or come up with yourself.

Index Cards

Try writing the term on one side and the definition and example on the other.  You can use them to test yourself then, or shuffle them for a ‘can you find’ challenge in a magazine or book.

Mnemonics

Decide what you most need to remember, and make up a mnemonic that will help you.  Either make an acronym like GASP for Genre Audience Subject Purpose or do a sentence like Green Asparagus Seldom Pleases.

Prioritising and Organising

Using a list or a collection of index cards, try sorting terms into categories.  This could be by framework, by the kind of question you need the terms for, or based on how well you know the term (e.g. “Confident” “OK” “Don’t Know”).  You could also organise them by the top 5 features for a range of different text types.

Treasure Hunts

Choose 5 or 10 features – either based on what you most need to learn, or (if you’re brave) randomly from your glossary/shuffled index cards – and see how quickly you can find examples in a magazine/book you have lying around.  This can also be done with speech features in a TV talk show or a radio programme.

Frameworks ebook

All the frameworks material on this site will remain freely available here, but if you’d like to download most of it in one neat package*, to be read on a Kindle or in the Kindle app (which is free and works on PC, tablet or phone), it is available as an ebook for £2.50 on Amazon (or free on Kindle Unlimited) – see below. 

*all the pages are there, but a few of them have been updated a bit since I put the book together.

Frameworks

These pages act as a ‘hub’, providing information about the frameworks and their associated terms.  As well as frameworks, other key concepts, such as mode and context can be found here.

It is not a good idea to print out all these pages.  However, it would probably be a good idea to make notes from them, or to use them in putting your own glossary and/or revision notes together.  Something organised in a way that makes sense to you is likely to be of the most use to you. If you find these notes helpful, and know you will want to refer to them frequently, they can be downloaded in ebook form for the Kindle (or Kindle app) – see the button below the menu throughout the frameworks section.

You might also find the ‘learning terms’ page helpful for hints on activities that will help you to learn the terminology and be able to apply it more effectively.  Getting the terms learnt may well be the most productive thing you can do to improve your English grade.

This section is accessible from all areas of my site, so don’t be surprised if you find some examples that aren’t actually relevant to you.  I have labelled each example with the spec, level and topic it applies to (e.g. Lang: child language; Lang Lit: poetry), so it should be clear which are ‘yours’.  That said, it wouldn’t hurt you to see how the frameworks are used in other areas, especially if you’re thinking of taking English further (like a degree, say….)

Click the links at the side for each framework,  Some (like lexis) will give you a single page, while others (like maybe grammar) will set you on an exciting and magical journey.

Have fun!  And do let me know what further improvements I could/should make to this area.

 

Frameworks ebook

All the frameworks material on this site will remain freely available here, but if you’d like to download most of it in one neat package*, to be read on a Kindle or in the Kindle app (which is free and works on PC, tablet or phone), it is available as an ebook for £2.50 on Amazon (or free on Kindle Unlimited) – see below. 

*all the pages are there, but a few of them have been updated a bit since I put the book together.

Students

 A Level English Language notes covering key concepts, topics, research studies and some exam and NEA advice for the AQA specification.

I assume if you’re here, you’re some kind of an English student. Most of this site is focused on English Language A Level material, but there is also some stuff for Language & Literature students, and there is a fair bit for Creative Writing students too.

You’ll find most material organised by topic/course in the top menu. If you’ve just started Eng Lang and are a bit overwhelmed, you might find the Frameworks stuff most helpful. This is where all the key terminology can be found. I’m in the process of updating that at the moment, to add in a few newly-required bits and pieces for the new specification, but rest assured – everything that is there is fine: nobody’s changed what a noun is!

If you need a break, why not check out my recommendations for a good read to relax with? I review a lot of new releases on my blog as well, mostly for Young Adults, as well as some for children and for adults. Alternatively, visit one of my YA Pinterest boards for more recommendations.