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Linguistics 5A: English Sound Structure and Word Formation


Admission requirements

Students have taken and passed a BA-course on phonology (e.g., Linguistics 4 ”The Phonology of English”)


Linguistics 5 “English Sound Structure and Word Formation” will offer a general introduction to morphology - one of the four core areas of linguistics - and will examine its relation to phonology. It will investigate how word structure is organised in languages and how it may interact with sound structure. We will consider some important cross-linguistic phonological and morphological phenomena as well as standard methods of description and analysis. We will focus on the structure of English words. We will analyze the ways in which the building blocks of words (‘morphemes’) combine, and how this may have an impact on the phonological structure of words. For example, English morphemes do not have long consonants. However, when two morphemes are combined, long consonants can be created in some contexts (e.g. unnatural, with a long [n]), but not in others (e.g. innumerable, with a short [n]). Or consider the observation that some suffixes may trigger a stress shift (e.g. grammarian, Shakespearean), while others do not affect the stress pattern of the base with which they are combined (e.g., development, disenfranchisement). Morphological processes can also be sensitive to the phonological structure of morphemes. Consider, for example, the variation between the past-tense suffix variants [t] and [d], whose distribution depends on a phonological property of the base. These phenomena show that the interaction between morphology and phonology is both interesting and complex.

Course objectives

The first aim of the course is to learn the appropriate terminology to describe morphological systems in a range of language types, with special emphasis on English and related languages. We will use the reading material, challenges, and exercises in course book to introduce and familiarize students with the most important morphological terminology.

The second course objective is to develop an in-depth understanding of the morphological structures of human languages and of how these structures interact with phonological structures. Students will gain more insight into morphological and phonological processes and they will acquire knowledge of a number of theoretical proposals that consider the morphology-phonology interface.

Upon successful completion of the course, students will have a greater awareness of the complex organisation and systematic nature of language and more insights into the morphology and phonology of English. They will be familiar with some of the theories, terminology and techniques of phonological and morphological analysis and be able to apply this knowledge to the description of English and other languages. They will furthermore have the skills to evaluate the suitability of some theories on the morphology-phonology interface. They will be able to formulate their own research questions and to formulate sound morphological and phological arguments.


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Mode of instruction

Seminar (two hours per week)

Assessment method


  • Written mid-term paper (essay)

  • Final written examination with short open questions and essay questions


  • Mid-term written paper: 30%

  • End-of-term examination: 70%

A minimum mark of 5.49 for the mid-term paper
A minimum mark of 5.49 for the end-of-term exam

Attendance is compulsory. Missing more than two tutorials means that students will be excluded from the tutorials. Unauthorized absence also applies to being unprepared, not participating and/or not bringing the relevant course materials to class.


The mid-term paper and the end-of-term exam can be retaken if one or both marks are 5.49 or less.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

  • Lieber, Rochelle (2015). Introducing Morphology (2nd revised edition). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (selected chapters).
    Additional reading will be announced.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available on the website

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte

Registration Contractonderwijs


Please contact Student administration Arsenaal or the coordinator of studies for questions.


Disclaimer: Please note that the course descriptions, in particular the assessment method, might be adjusted (timely) depending on the measures taken regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.