Word stem
In linguistics
Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. Linguistics can be broadly broken into three categories or subfields of study: language form, language meaning, and language in context....

, 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 stem friendship, to which the inflectional suffix -s is attached. In a variant of this usage, the root
Root (linguistics)
The root word is the primary lexical unit of a word, and of a word family , which carries the most significant aspects of semantic content and cannot be reduced into smaller constituents....

 of the word (in the example, friend) is not counted as a stem.

In a slightly different usage, which is adopted in the remainder of this article, a word has a single stem, namely the part of the word that is common to all its inflected
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...

 variants. Thus, in this usage, all derivational affixes are part of the stem. For example, the stem of friendships is friendship, to which the inflectional suffix -s is attached.

Stems may be roots, e.g. run, or they may be morphologically complex, as in compound words
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...

 (cf. the compound nouns meat ball or bottle opener) or words with derivational
Derivation (linguistics)
In linguistics, derivation is the process of forming a new word on the basis of an existing word, e.g. happi-ness and un-happy from happy, or determination from determine...

 morphemes (cf. the derived verbs black-en or standard-ize). Thus, the stem of the complex English noun photographer is photo·graph·er, but not photo. For another example, the root of the English verb form destabilized is stabil-, a form of stable that does not occur alone; the stem is de·stabil·ize, which includes the derivational affixes de- and -ize, but not the inflectional past tense suffix -(e)d. That is, a stem is that part of a word that inflectional affixes attach to.

The exact use of the word 'stem' depends on the morphology of the language in question. In Athabaskan linguistics
Athabaskan languages
Athabaskan or Athabascan is a large group of indigenous peoples of North America, located in two main Southern and Northern groups in western North America, and of their language family...

, for example, a verb stem is a root that cannot appear on its own, and that carries the tone
Tone (linguistics)
Tone is the use of pitch in language to distinguish lexical or grammatical meaning—that is, to distinguish or inflect words. All verbal languages use pitch to express emotional and other paralinguistic information, and to convey emphasis, contrast, and other such features in what is called...

 of the word. Athabaskan verbs typically have two stems in this analysis, each preceded by prefixes.

Citation forms and bound morphemes

In languages with very little inflection, such as English and Chinese, the stem is usually not distinct from the "normal" form of the word (the lemma, citation or dictionary form). However, in other languages, stems may rarely or never occur on their own. For example, the English verb stem run is indistinguishable from its present tense form (except in the third person singular); but the equivalent Spanish verb stem corr- never appears as such, since it is cited with the infinitive inflection (correr) and always appears in actual speech as a non-finite (infinitive or participle) or conjugated form. Morphemes like Spanish corr- which can't occur on their own in this way, are usually referred to as bound morphemes.

In computational linguistics, a stem is the part of the word that never changes even when morphologically inflected, whilst a lemma is the base form of the verb. For example, given the word "produced", its lemma (linguistics) is "produce", however the stem is "produc": this is because there are words such as production.

Paradigms and suppletion

A list of all the inflected forms of a stem is called its inflectional paradigm. The paradigm of the adjective
In grammar, an adjective is a 'describing' word; the main syntactic role of which is to qualify a noun or noun phrase, giving more information about the object signified....

 tall is given below, and the stem of this adjective is tall.
  • tall (positive); taller (comparative); tallest (superlative)

Some paradigms do not make use of the same stem throughout; this phenomenon is called suppletion
In linguistics and etymology, suppletion is traditionally understood as the use of one word as the inflected form of another word when the two words are not cognate. For those learning a language, suppletive forms will be seen as "irregular" or even "highly irregular". The term "suppletion" implies...

. An example of a suppletive paradigm is the paradigm for the adjective good: its stem changes from good to the bound morpheme bet-.
  • good (positive); better (comparative); best (superlative)

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...

  • 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 :...

  • Root (linguistics)
    Root (linguistics)
    The root word is the primary lexical unit of a word, and of a word family , which carries the most significant aspects of semantic content and cannot be reduced into smaller constituents....

  • Stemming algorithms (Computer science)
    In linguistic morphology and information retrieval, stemming is the process for reducing inflected words to their stem, base or root form—generally a written word form. The stem need not be identical to the morphological root of the word; it is usually sufficient that related words map to the same...

  • Vowel stems
    Vowel stems
    In Indo-European linguistics, a thematic stem or vowel stem is a noun or verb stem that ends in a vowel that appears in or otherwise influences the noun or verb's inflectional paradigm. The vowel is called the thematic vowel...

External links

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