Root (linguistics)
The root word is the primary lexical
Lexicology is the part of linguistics which studies words, their nature and meaning, words' elements, relations between words , word groups and the whole lexicon....

 unit of a word
In language, a word is the smallest free form that may be uttered in isolation with semantic or pragmatic content . This contrasts with a morpheme, which is the smallest unit of meaning but will not necessarily stand on its own...

, and of a word family
Word family
A word family is the base form of a word plus its inflected forms and derived forms made from affixes.. Inflections include third person -s, -ed, -ing, plural -s, possessive -s, comparative -er and superlative -est. Affixes includes -able, -er, -ish, -less, -ly, -ness, -th, -y, non-, un-, -al,...

 (root is then called base word), which carries the most significant aspects of semantic
Semantics is the study of meaning. It focuses on the relation between signifiers, such as words, phrases, signs and symbols, and what they stand for, their denotata....

 content and cannot be reduced into smaller constituents.

Content words in nearly all language
Language may refer either to the specifically human capacity for acquiring and using complex systems of communication, or to a specific instance of such a system of complex communication...

s contain, and may consist only of, root morpheme
In linguistics, a morpheme is the smallest semantically meaningful unit in a language. The field of study dedicated to morphemes is called morphology. A morpheme is not identical to a word, and the principal difference between the two is that a morpheme may or may not stand alone, whereas a word,...

s. However,sometimes the term "root" is also used to describe the word minus its inflection
In grammar, inflection or inflexion is the modification of a word to express different grammatical categories such as tense, grammatical mood, grammatical voice, aspect, person, number, gender and case...

al endings, but with its lexical endings in place. For example, chatters has the inflectional root or lemma chatter, but the lexical root chat. Inflectional roots are often called stems, and a root in the stricter sense may be thought of as a monomorphemic stem.

The traditional definition allows roots to be either free morphemes or bound morpheme
Bound morpheme
In morphology, a bound morpheme is a morpheme that only appears as part of a larger word; a free morpheme is one that can stand alone.Affixes are always bound. English language affixes are either prefixes or suffixes. E.g., -ment in "shipment" and pre- in "prefix"...

s. Root morphemes are essential for affixation and compounds
Compound (linguistics)
In linguistics, a compound is a lexeme that consists of more than one stem. Compounding or composition is the word formation that creates compound lexemes...

. However, in polysynthetic language
Polysynthetic language
In linguistic typology, polysynthetic languages are highly synthetic languages, i.e., languages in which words are composed of many morphemes. Whereas isolating languages have a low morpheme-to-word ratio, polysynthetic languages have extremely high morpheme-to-word ratios.Not all languages can be...

s with very high levels of inflectional morphology, the term "root" is generally synonymous with "free morpheme". Many such languages have a very restricted number of morphemes that can stand alone as a word: Yup'ik, for instance, has no more than two thousand.

The root of a word is a unit of meaning (morpheme) and, as such, it is an abstraction, though it can usually be represented in writing as a word would be. For example, it can be said that the root of the English verb form running is run, or the root of the Spanish superlative adjective amplísimo is ampl-, since those words are clearly derived from the root forms by simple suffixes that do not alter the roots in any way. In particular, English has very little inflection, and hence a tendency to have words that are identical to their roots. But more complicated inflection, as well as other processes, can obscure the root; for example, the root of mice is mouse
A mouse is a small mammal belonging to the order of rodents. The best known mouse species is the common house mouse . It is also a popular pet. In some places, certain kinds of field mice are also common. This rodent is eaten by large birds such as hawks and eagles...

 (still a valid word), and the root of interrupt is, arguably, rupt, which is not a word in English and only appears in derivational forms (such as disrupt, corrupt, rupture, etc.). The root rupt is written as if it were a word, but it's not.

This distinction between the word as a unit of speech and the root as a unit of meaning is even more important in the case of languages where roots have many different forms when used in actual words, as is the case in Semitic languages. In these, roots are formed by consonants alone
The roots of verbs and most nouns in the Semitic languages are characterized as a sequence of consonants or "radicals"...

, and different words (belonging to different parts of speech) are derived from the same root by inserting vowel
In phonetics, a vowel is a sound in spoken language, such as English ah! or oh! , pronounced with an open vocal tract so that there is no build-up of air pressure at any point above the glottis. This contrasts with consonants, such as English sh! , where there is a constriction or closure at some...

s. For example, in Hebrew
Hebrew language
Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...

, the root gdl represents the idea of largeness, and from it we have gadol and gdola (masculine and feminine forms of the adjective "big"), gadal "he grew", higdil "he magnified" and magdelet "magnifier", along with many other words such as godel "size" and migdal "tower".

Secondary roots

Consider the Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

  • مركز [mrkz] or [markaza] meaning ‘centralized (masculine, singular)’, from [markaz] ‘centre’, from [rakaza] ‘plant into the earth, stick up (a lance)’ ( ركز | rkz).
  • أرجح [rjh] or [ta'arjaħa] meaning ‘oscillated (masculine, singular)’, from ['urju:ħa] ‘swing (n)’, from [rajaħa] ‘weighed down, preponderated (masculine, singular)’ ( رجح | rjħ).
  • محور [mhwr] or [tamaħwara] meaning ‘centred, focused (masculine, singular)’, from [mihwar] meaning ‘axis’, from [ħa:ra] ‘turned (masculine, singular)’ (حور | hwr).
  • مسخر [msxr], تمسخر [tamasxara] meaning ‘mocked, made fun (masculine, singular)', from مسخرة [masxara] meaning ‘mockery’, from سخر [saxira] ‘mocked (masculine, singular)’ (derived from سخر[sxr])." Similar cases may be found in other Semitic languages
    Semitic languages
    The Semitic languages are a group of related languages whose living representatives are spoken by more than 270 million people across much of the Middle East, North Africa and the Horn of Africa...

     such as Hebrew, Syriac, Aramaic, Maltese language
    Maltese language
    Maltese is the national language of Malta, and a co-official language of the country alongside English,while also serving as an official language of the European Union, the only Semitic language so distinguished. Maltese is descended from Siculo-Arabic...

     and to a lesser extent Amharic.

Similar cases occur in Hebrew, Israeli Hebrew מקמ √mqm ‘locate’, which derives from Biblical Hebrew מקום måqom ‘place’, whose root is קומ √qwm ‘stand’. A recent example introduced by the Academy of the Hebrew Language
Academy of the Hebrew Language
The Academy of the Hebrew Language was established by the Israeli government in 1953 as the "supreme institution for scholarship on the Hebrew language."-History:...

 is מדרוג midrúg ‘rating’, from מדרג midrág, whose root is דרג √drg ‘grade’."

According to Ghil'ad Zuckermann
Ghil'ad Zuckermann
Ghil'ad Zuckermann is an Israeli-Italian-British-Australian linguist, expert of language revival, contact linguistics, lexicology and the study of language, culture and identity...

, "this process is morphologically similar to the production of frequentative (iterative) verbs in Latin, for example:
  • iactito ‘to toss about’ derives from iacto ‘to boast of, keep bringing up, harass, disturb, throw, cast, fling away’, which in turn derives from iacio ‘to throw, cast’ (whose past participle is iactus).
  • scriptito ‘to write often, compose’ is based on scribo ‘to write’ (<‘to draw lines, engrave with a sharp-pointed instrument’).
  • dicto ‘to say often, repeat’ is from dico ‘to indicate, say, speak, tell’.
  • clamito ‘to cry loudly/often, shout violently’ derives from clamo ‘call, shout’."

"Consider also Rabbinic Hebrew תרמ √trm ‘donate, contribute’ (Mishnah: T’rumoth 1:2: ‘separate priestly dues’), which derives from Biblical Hebrew תרומה t'rūmå ‘contribution’, whose root is רומ √rwm ‘raise’; cf. Rabbinic Hebrew תרע √tr` ‘sound the trumpet, blow the horn’, from Biblical Hebrew תרועה t'rū`å ‘shout, cry, loud sound, trumpet-call’, in turn from רוע √rw`."
and it describes the suffix.

See also

  • Lemma (morphology)
  • Lexeme
    A lexeme is an abstract unit of morphological analysis in linguistics, that roughly corresponds to a set of forms taken by a single word. For example, in the English language, run, runs, ran and running are forms of the same lexeme, conventionally written as RUN...

  • Morphological typology
    Morphological typology
    Morphological typology is a way of classifying the languages of the world that groups languages according to their common morphological structures. First developed by brothers Friedrich von Schlegel and August von Schlegel, the field organizes languages on the basis of how those languages form...

  • Morphology (linguistics)
    Morphology (linguistics)
    In linguistics, morphology is the identification, analysis and description, in a language, of the structure of morphemes and other linguistic units, such as words, affixes, parts of speech, intonation/stress, or implied context...

  • Phono-semantic matching
    Phono-semantic matching
    Phono-semantic matching is a linguistic term referring to camouflaged borrowing in which a foreign word is matched with a phonetically and semantically similar pre-existent native word/root....

  • Principal parts
    Principal parts
    In language learning, the principal parts of a verb are those forms that a student must memorize in order to be able to conjugate the verb through all its forms.- English :...

  • Proto-Indo-European root
    Proto-Indo-European root
    The roots of the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European language are basic parts of words that carry a lexical meaning, so-called morphemes. PIE roots always have verbal meaning like "to eat" or "to run", as opposed to nouns , adjectives , or other parts of speech. Roots never occur alone in the language...

  • Radical (Chinese character)
    Radical (Chinese character)
    A Chinese radical is a component of a Chinese character. The term may variously refer to the original semantic element of a character, or to any semantic element, or, loosely, to any element whatever its origin or purpose...

     (this is more based upon a writing system than a spoken language)
  • Semitic root
  • Word family
    Word family
    A word family is the base form of a word plus its inflected forms and derived forms made from affixes.. Inflections include third person -s, -ed, -ing, plural -s, possessive -s, comparative -er and superlative -est. Affixes includes -able, -er, -ish, -less, -ly, -ness, -th, -y, non-, un-, -al,...

  • Word stem
    Word stem
    In linguistics, a stem is a part of a word. The term is used with slightly different meanings.In one usage, a stem is a form to which affixes can be attached. Thus, in this usage, the English word friendships contains the stem friend, to which the derivational suffix -ship is attached to form a new...

External links

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