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On Lexeme in Linguistics


Arranged by:





A. Background 1

B. Formulation of The Problem 1

C. Purpose 1


A. Definition of lexeme 2

B. Lexemes in standard descriptive and theoretical lexeme-based morphology 2

C. Lexeme Formation Rules 3

D. Troubles with lexemes 3

E. Troubles with Lexeme Formation Rules 4


A. Conclusion 5

B. Recommendation 5




Language is very important in communication, both written and unwritten. So that its use must be based on a rich and complete language and vocabulary. Like wise, the Indonesian language belongs to us is an effective and efficient communication tool for unifying this nation. 

Grammar mistakes placed by the prevalence of its use so that it can be accepted by all users, namely standard grammar. Standard grammar is a language that is fluent in its use and is not restrictive for the language in question. Language has a structure and form that composes a word. Therefore, language morphology is the study of the structure and form of words which are very important to be studied by this nation from the lower to the upper levels.


1. What is the definition of  Lexeme?

2. What kind is  the Lexemes in standard descriptive and theoretical lexeme-based morphology?

3. What kind is  the Lexeme Formation Rules ?

4. What kind is the Troubles with lexemes?

5. What kind is Troubles with Lexeme Formation Rules?


1. To know the definition Lexeme.

2. To know  kind of the Lexemes in standard descriptive and theoretical lexeme-based morphology..

3. To know kind of the Lexeme Formation Rules.

4. To know  kind of the Troubles with lexemes.

5. To know  kind of the Troubles with Lexeme Formation Rules.


A. Definition of  Lexeme

It is customary (see for instance Aronoff 1994: 4) to associate the notion of a lexeme with Peter H. Matthews (1965, 1972, 1974, 1991).1 Matthews (1972: 160 161) contrasts three uses of the term word that may be differentiated as follows.

1. The term word may denote a certain type of syntactic constituent. In this sense,the term unambiguously designates a kind of Saussurean sign, possibly complex: it associates a phonological representation with a meaning.

2. The term word is used to denote the phonological sequence that is the shape of a word in the first sense. Matthews coins the term wordform to designate this and avoid ambiguity.

3. The term word often denotes that lexical object dictionaries talk about: an item characterized by a stable lexical meaning and a set of syntactic properties, but that abstracts away from inflection. This unit is what Matthews calls the lexeme.

One may illustrate these definitions by saying that the French lexeme vieux ‘old’ is associated with four words filling the four cells in its paradigm: m.sg vieux, f.sg vieille, m.pl vieux, and f.pl vieilles. To these four words correspond only three wordforms, since the m.sg and m.pl are phonologically identical. This characterization of the lexeme is deliberately silent on phonology: the lexeme is defined in terms of the syntactic and semantic cohesion of a family of words, ignoring phonology. Literature from the 1990s was not so prudent, and presented the lexeme as an underspecified sign. The following quote is representative of the dominant view:

Each lexeme can be viewed as a set of properties, which will in some sense be present in all occurrences of the lexeme. These crucially include some semantic properties, some phonological properties […], and some syntactic properties. (Zwicky 1992: 333)

Such a definition is obviously not adequate if one wants to be able to take into account the full spectrum of stem allomorphy, including suppletion. In some cases, there is no phonological property that is shared by all forms of the lexeme; e.g. there is nothing common between the 3sg forms of the French lexeme aller ‘go’ in the imperfect (allait), present (va) and future (ira). This example shows that lexemes are ineffable: one can’t utter a lexeme, but only one of its forms. It also highlights the importance of cleanly distinguishing lexemes from their citation form. The French grammatical tradition happens to use infinitives as citation forms, and the infinitive of aller happens to use the al- stem. From this, no conclusion can be drawn as to al- being a more reflective of the fundamental phonological identity of that lexeme: if French grammarians had kept the Latin tradition of using the present 1sg as a citation form, we would call the lexeme

B. Lexemes in standard descriptive and theoretical lexeme-based morphology

Three papers centrally deal with this first theme.

1. In his atypical but stimulating contribution based on his own intellectual biography, Aronoff traces the emergence of lexeme in descriptive and theoretical morphology since the 1960’s in Generative Grammar.

2. In his paper, Boyé focuses on French cardinals and their place in Word and Paradigma models. He argues that, like simple French cardinals, complex cardinals are lexemes, and that their phonological idiosyncrasies can better be modeled in a morphological system than in syntax.

3. Rainer studies the linguistic history of two keywords of economics and politics, viz. capitalist and capitalism, in which semantic change, calques and word-formation ‒ suffixation, conversion, suffix substitution ‒ interacted in a complex manner. He argues that, within a morpheme-based model, it would not be possible to account for this history, which, consequently, supports the hypothesis of a lexeme-based conception of the word.

C. Lexeme Formation Rules

Lexeme Formation Rules (LFRs) are the main theme of four contributions. 

Amiot & Tribout deal with the category of outputs of French suffixation(s) in -iste: are they basically adjectives, nouns, lexically underspecified or do we need two different suffixations to account for data-observation? Their proposal is the last one. They consider that, categorically and semantically, the French morphological system contains two suffixations: one of them forms basically professional nouns, the other basically adjective meaning “in relation to (a practice, an ideology, an activity, a behavior)”. They argue that, because such properties can apply to humans, these adjective can easily converted in nouns. 

In her contribution, Dal addresses the status of French adverbs in -ment. Although they are usually considered derivational, she shows that this status is highly questionable. For her, neither inputs nor outputs respect undoubtedly constraints imposed by a LFR and her conclusion is that they can be regarded as word-forms belonging to the paradigm of adjectives. 

Villoing & Deglas focus two morphological patterns in Creole languages based on nouns to form verbs: suffixation N-é and parasynthetic verbs dé-N-é. The hypothesis is that these two patterns emerged following the reanalysis of converted and prefixed French verbs. 

Strictly speaking, clipping of deverbal nouns is not a standard LFR. However, the treatment proposed in Štichauer’s paper, which applies Fradin & Kerleroux’s (2003) Hypothesis of a Maximal (Semantic) Specification, conforms to standard conception of LFRs: in case of polysemous lexemes, clipping applies to specific semantic features of lexemebases, and outputs inherit these features, without being synonymous to the full parental form.

D. Troubles with lexemes

Six of the contributions centrally address the issue of the definition of lexeme and its use in morphological theories. 

Bonami & Crysman’s contribution reevaluates the role of the lexeme in recent Head-Driven Phrase Structure Grammar (HPSG) integrating a truly realisational theory of inflection within the HPSG frameword (Bonami & Crysmann 2016). After having distinguished two notions of an abstract lexical object: lexemes, which are characterized in terms of their syntax and semantics, and flexemes (Fradin 2003: 159; Fradin & Kerleroux 2003), which are characterized in terms of their inflectional paradigm, they show how the two notions interact to capture various inflectional phenomena, most prominently heteroclisis and overabundance.

 Cruz & Stump deal with essence predicates in San Juan Quiahije Chatino: do they fall in the domain of morphology or in the domain of syntax? Their conclusion is that, even though their structure comprises a predicate base and a nominal component, their inflectional morphology differs from that of simple lexemes.

 In his paper on traces of feminine agreement within complex words in Norwegian and Istro-Romanian, Enger tries to overcome troubles with lexemes. He combines a modified version of the Agreement Hierarchy (Corbett 1979) and grammaticalisation to explain what he considers as intra-morphological meaning.

Kihm examines the realization of the copula in Haitian Creole, suggesting that the absence of an overt copula in some contexts should be modeled by postulating an empty stem alternant. He outlines a formal account based on Crysmann & Bonami’s (2016) Information-based Morphology, but extending that framework to the analysis of periphrastic inflection.

Unifying a set of inflected word-forms or objects manipulated by rules. Using the architecture of his model of lexical relatedness Generalized Paradigm Function Morphology (GPFM) (Spencer 2013), he proposes an answer to verb-to-adjective transpositions (participles), which can be seen as lexemes-within-lexemes according to their double status of word-forms in relation to verbs, and lexemes in relation to their adjective properties. His proposal is that a lexeme is not a theoretical observation but is best regarded as a maximally underspecified object, bearing all and only those properties which are not predictable from default specification. 

Flexemes are also the central issue of Thornton’s paper. After reviewing the development of this notion since Fradin (2003) and Fradin & Kerleroux (2003), she focuses on the concept of overabundance in inflectional paradigms and presents data illustrating cases in which a single lexeme maps to two distinct flexemes.

E. Troubles with Lexeme Formation Rules

LFRs are questioned in seven papers.

In their study on reduplication in Mandarin Chinese where difference between lexemes and word-forms is less apparent than in languages with clear inflection, Basciano & Melloni claim that the domain of application of reduplication is below the level of the word, or below X° in the standard X-bar approach: for them, in Mandarin Chinese, base units do not have a lexical category and should be vague enough to make them compatible with nominal, verbal and adjectival meanings. 

Hathout & Namer explore limits of LFRs to explain and predict the formation of the lexicon. They confront parasynthetics lexemes, in other words complex lexemes that apparently result from simultaneous application of a prefixation and a suffixation, with different hypothesis. This recurrent theme leads them to propose the system ParaDis (for: Paradigms and Discrepancies). ParaDis is a model particularly useful to analyze, explain and predict noncanonical formations (Corbett 2010). It is lexeme-based and combines independency of the three dimensions of LFRs (Fradin 2003) and constraints on outputs founded on derivational families and derivational series (Hathout 2011, Blevins 2016). 

Giraudo validates this double view of complex words articulating syntagmatic and paradigmatic dimensions, from a psycholinguistic perspective. She identifies two levels in processing of complex lexemes: the first decomposes complex lexemes into pieces called “morcemes”; the second deals with the internal structure of words according to LFRs and contains lexemes. Her model poses family clustering as an organizational principle of the mental lexicon. She argues that, during language acquisition, growing of family size  consecutively continually strengthens links between complex lexemes. 

Montermini is devoted to variation of derivational exponents. Adapting the frame developed in Plénat & Roché (2014) and Roché & Plénat (2014, 2016), he argues that this variation obeys to the same constraints as those which explain forms of complex lexemes. 

Plag, Andreou & Kawaletz tackle a recurrent and central problem with LFRs: polysemy. They rely frame semantics (Barsalou 1992a,b; Löbner 2013), an approach to lexical semantics based on elaborate structured representations modelling mental representations of concepts. They hypothesize that the semantics of a derivational process can be described as its potential to perform certain operations on the frames of the bases to which they apply.

Schwarze deals also with the semantic outputs of LFRs. His hypothesis is they are semantically underspecified. The model he proposes is multilayered: it comprises four layers of representation: phonology, constituent structure, functional feature structure and lexical semantics. The meaning of complex words is treated in the framework of twolevel semantics. It is assumed that LFRs derive underspecified semantic forms, parting from which the actual meanings are construed by recourse to conceptual structure. Three morphological processes are studied: French é- prefixation, Italian denominal verbs of removal, and French noun-to-verb conversion. 

Strnadová addresses the issue of apparent rivalry between French denominal adjectives and prepositional phrases in de+N where N is the lexeme-base of the adjective (or in relation to it). She discusses some motivations explaining the choice between the former and the latter strategy, and shows that they usually do not have the same distribution and, therefore, are not interchangeable.


A. Conclusion

Definition of a lexeme derives from that of an inflectional paradigm (lexemes abstract away from inflection), using the notion commits one to a particular view of morphology. It presupposes the existence of a split between inflectional and derivational morphology (Matthews 1965: 140, note 4; Anderson 1982; Perlmutter 1988). Delineating the sets of words instantiating the same lexeme, such as the one shown in (1a), requires one to distinguish it from a set of words that merely belong to the same morphological family, as the one in (1b).


a. { vieux ‘old’ m.sg, vieille ‘old’ f.sg, vieux ‘old’ m.pl, vieilles ‘old’ f.pl }

b. { vieux ‘old’ m.sg, vieillard ‘old man’ sg, vieillesse ‘old age’ sg }

As characterised above, the lexeme is a descriptive category. As such it is compatible with diverse models of morphology, as long as they implement a notion of structured paradigms and split morphology. In practice, however, the notion of a lexeme is mainly used within theoretical frameworks that adopt a constructive view of morphology (Blevins 2006) and use the lexeme as the pivot of the theory, linking inflection and derivation. Following Fradin (2003), we may call this family of frameworks lexemic morphology, and assume that they rely on the series of key hypotheses in (2). The wording is deliberately noncommittal as to how inflection is to be modeled, since proponents of lexemic morphology have assumed either Item and Process or Word and Paradigm approaches (Hockett 1954).


a. Atoms of morphological description are simple lexemes.

b. Lexeme formation rules predict the possibility of complex lexemes from either a single pre-established lexeme (derivation) or a pair of pre-established lexemes (composition).

c. Inflectional morphology deduces, for each lexeme, the set of words constituting its inflected forms.

B. Recommendation

The author is very aware that our knowledge and experience is still very limited, for that we hope that after reading and understanding the paper that we have compiled, the reader scan provide constructive criticism, input, and suggestions, so that this paper can be better in the future.


Anderson, Stephen R. 1982. Where’s Morphology? Linguistic Inquiry 13(4). 571–612.

Anderson, Stephen R. 2015. The morpheme: Its nature and use. In Matthew Baerman (ed.), The Oxford handbook of inflection, 11–33. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Aronoff, Mark. 1976. Word formation in generative grammar. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Aronoff, Mark. 1994. Morphology by itself: Stems and inflectional classes. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Aronoff, Mark. 2007. In the beginning was the word. Language 83(4). 803–830.

Bally, Charles. 1944. Linguistique générale et linguistique française. Paris: PUF.

Barsalou, Lawrence W. 1992a. Cognitive psychology: An overview for cognitive scientists. Hillsdale: Erlbaum.

Barsalou, Lawrence W. 1992b. Frames, concepts, and conceptual fields. In Adrienne Lehrer (ed.), Frames, fields, and contrasts, 21–74. Hillsdale: Erlbaum.

Blevins, James P. 2006. Word-based morphology. Journal of Linguistics 42(3). 531–573.

Blevins, James P. 2016. Word and paradigm morphology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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