Morpheme and Allomorph

  1. Free Morpheme

Free morpheme is morpheme that can stand alone as meaningful element in a sentence or stand alone as word. Morphemes are usually a noun, verb, adjective, and adverbs. It carries information about meaning and function Bellow is the table of morphemes example:

Example Word class Meaning
Beauty Noun A combination of qualities that delights the atheistic senses
Work Verb Do work, especially as a job or activities
Smart Adjective Having quick intelligence
Quickly Adverb Doing fast

Table: c.1. The List of Free Morpheme example

All words in the table has a meaning each other and can stand alone in the sentence or stand alone as a word without adding by something or attaching to other word. It doesn’t need other element to have a meaning. The word of work for example, it can stand alone as a verb or predicate in a sentence, without adding something or attaches to other word.

They work very well.

S      P     C      C

N     V       Adv



Free Morpheme

At the example above, the work of word stand alone as predicate without adding affixes or attaches to other word, but it stand alone as the base word. It has a meaning while stand in the sentence. Then, while it stand alone as a word it still has a meaning, that is Do work, especially as a job or activities. And it can stand alone as meaningful word.

In addition, all content are free morpheme. Content word is word that has own meaning. For example, run (V), smart (Adj.), beauty (N), Fast (Adv). Those examples has it own meaning without attach to another word, but it stands alone as word.

Function word is a word that has grammatical function in a sentence. The function is to make grammatical correct in the sentence. It means that although it has no meaning if stand alone as word but it has a function in a sentence, therefore it can stand alone in a sentence without attach to other word. For example, article “a and the”, Preposition “at, in, etc.”, modal “would, could, etc.”, auxiliaries “have, has, etc” personal noun “he, she, I, you”. Those function words also called by function morpheme. It provides information about grammatical function by relating word or sentence. Example:

FcM        BM    FcM FcM     FcM

FW   inf. Affix   FW FW       FW

She stands alone in the front of house.

CW    CW                  CW        CW

FM    FM                  FM        FM

From the example above, whether content or function word can stand alone in the sentence without attach to another word. It has own meaning and has function in the sentence. Content word gives information about the meaning of the sentence and function word or function morpheme make a grammatical correct in the sentence by relating the words in the sentence. It is why content and function words are function morpheme and it is a free morpheme.

  1. Bound Morpheme

Bound morpheme is a morpheme that cannot stand alone as meaningful element in a sentence or stand alone as a word, but it should attach to other element in order to have a meaning. These morphemes usually are prefixes, suffixes, and infixes.

Bound morpheme usually changes the meaning, number or word class after it attaches to other word. See the table bellow.

Word Free Morpheme Bound Morpheme Meaning
Beautiful Beauty -ful (suffix)
Unable Able Un- (prefix) Negative
Higher High -er (suffix) More than/ comparison
Cats Cat -s (suffix) Plural
Missconduct Conduct Miss- (prefix) Wrong

See the table above, while bound morpheme (-ful, un-, -er, -s, miss-, etc.) standalone (without attach to another word), it has no meaning. In other word can be said that bound morpheme is morpheme which attach to other free morpheme or root in order to have a meaning. But, while it attach to other word for example suffix “-s” attach to “cat” become “cats”, it has meaning that is there are many cats. This bound morpheme changes the number of noun, from singular in to plural.

There are many examples of bound morpheme. All prefixes, suffixes, or infixes are bound morpheme. It cannot stand alone in the sentence or stand alone as word. Also it has no meaning if it stands alone. But it need other word, therefore it can attach to the word and make a new word, meaning, word class, or the number of word. In other word, bound morpheme will change the base word to new word, whether it is the meaning, function, word class or the number of word.

D. Allomorph

Allomorph is variant form of a morpheme but it doesn’t change the meaning. Allomorph has different in pronunciation and spelling according to their condition. It means that allomorph will have different sound, pronunciation or spelling in different condition. The condition depends on the element that it attaches to. Example:

Allomorph Root/ stem Meaning
A teacher 

An egg




Countable noun 

Countable noun



















Doing action 

Doing action

Doing action

Doing action

Doing action

Doing action

















At the table of examples above, we can see that allomorph is a variant sound, of one morpheme. It has different pronunciation and spelling, but it still has same meaning. See the example bellow:




“In-“, “Il-” and “Im-” at the words above are the variant sound of “In-“. Although it has different sound and spelling, it is still similar in meaning that is negative.

In conclusion, can you differ between morpheme and allomorph now?

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