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Morphemes

In this part of the Grammar of Danish Talk in Interaction we introduce the smallest meaningful units in the spoken language. You will find the description of inflections of specific types of words under Word classes/Parts of speech.

  • Inflections
  • Derivations
  • Compounds

General information about morphemes

Words can consist of smaller parts, which each have their own meaning. These parts are called morphemes, and they are the smallest significance-carrying parts of the language. This we can see in the Danish word, ordet (‘the word’), which consists of the part ord (‘word’) which carries most of the meaning, and the ending –et­ which expresses definiteness. There are also words that only consist of one morpheme. This could be the word morfem (‘morpheme’) or the word nu (‘now’), which cannot be split into smaller significance-carrying parts.

A language’s morphemes are what many people understand as the grammar of a language, but this section actually does not take up much space on samtalegrammatik.dk. This is because: (1) a grammar is much more than just building blocks which create words, (2) the morpheme system in the spoken language is not that different from that of the written language, and (3) we explain the more specific morpheme structures under the different word classes.

There are, however, some general features that are connected to the fact that morphemes in spoken language are created by sounds and not letters. These features will be treated under the headings inflections, derivations and compounds.


Further reading

Allan, Holmes and Lundskær-Nielsen (2000) is a quite thorough, but traditional, descriptive grammar of Danish. Mostly about written language, but includes an account of sounds and morphemes.

Arndt (2003) is about more than grammar but the chapters about grammar are thorough and sometimes also quite humorous.

Becker-Christensen and Widell (1995) is an elementary introduction to Danish grammar.

Christensen and Christensen (2009) is a coursebook for students. It builds on a long tradition of description of Danish grammar.

Hansen and Heltoft (2011) is a big, thorough and scientific description of Danish grammar. In some areas it breaks free from the traditional way of describing grammar.

Nissen (2003) is an elementary beginners’ book on Danish grammar.