Bauer (2004)

The Journal article (Bauer, 2004)[1] summarises the morphological process of word-formation as well as distinguishing Inflectional and Derivational morphology. This short article firstly examines the question of the function of word formation and gives an explanation in relation to:

  1. Lexical enrichment function e.g. new words are coined to denote new concepts.
  2. Transpositional function: words with fixed word class are able to appear in a new word class and thus the same meaning can be transferred to a new function in the sentence.

This then leads to a question of the difference between Inflectional and Derivational morphology.

Bauer (2004) defines word-formation as a process with the result of a new lexeme. A lexeme is the form of the word which is considered to be the ‘standard form’, it is the form of the word which it is categorized as within dictionary. There are two types of word-formation:

Compounding is the formation of a new word by combining tow or more existing words.
E.g. Green + House = Greenhouse


Derivational morphology is ‘the formation of a word from another word or base’ ( There a are a number of different types of derivation including:

E.g. network (noun) – to network (verb)

E.g. editor (noun) – edit (verb)

E.g. smoke (noun) + fog (noun) = smog (noun)

Embedded below is a brief video which outlines the process of word-formation and gives a description of the difference between inflectional and derivational morphology:

Inflectional Morphology Vs. Derivational Morphology

Plank: “categories of inflection and derivation are prototypical categories, from which the categories of individual languages may differ”

Anderson: “inflectional morphology is what is relevant to the syntax”

Inflection= Grammatical changes eg Pluralisation Dog – Dogs

Derivation= Lexical changes eg Respect – Respectful
Function is to expand the lexicon by modifying the meaning of existing lexemes.

  1. Gender marking- Princess from Prince
  2. Morphology which marks agents, patients,instruments, location- Kill to killer, interview to interviewee, blend-blender, dine to diner

Below is a list of possible affixes categorised as either derivational or inflectional:


The table below shows the differences between inflectional and derivational morphology:



Haspelmath (1996) argues that its possible to have word class changing inflection e.g. adverbs -ly.
* quick – quickly
* free – freely
* swift – swiftly


Chomsky (1970) argues that nominalisation isn’t inflectional and that it changes a verb to a noun.
* believe – belief
*laugh – laughter
* marry – marriage

These two processes are very different.


  1. Follows a regular and conventional pattern by adding –ly
  2. General and productive


  1. More irregular and unpredictable e.g believe – belief
  2. Semantics of English nominalistions are neither regular nor constrained by the affix or morphological process used

What can be concluded from this?

  • Bauer (2004) concludes that by approaching the initial question of the ‘function of word formation’, through the analysis of both lexical enrichment and transpositional function, one is able to provide a solution to the problem of what word formation’s purpose is (forming new words and allowing words to appear in different contexts within a sentence).
  • This is because the two allow you to differentiate between inflectional and derivational morphology due to the fact that lexical enrichment relates to derivational morphology whilst the transpositional function focuses on inflectional morphology (relevant to the syntax).

[1] Bauer, L. (2004). The function of word-formation and the inflection-derivation distinction. In: H. Aertsen et al.(eds.). (2004). Words in their Places. Amsterdam: Vrije Universiteit. pp: 283-292.