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Am I right to consider /΄veikənt/ and /΄veikəns/ in those words as variants of one and the same root morpheme in Modern English. But it makes me hesitate in my morphemic division if we take for analysis preside - presid-ent - presid-ency (comp. also agent - agency, pregnant - pregnancy and also pirate - piracy, private - privacy, literate - literacy).

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

I think that the unit vaca could well be a morpheme in modern English.

Take the words vacant, vacancy, vacation, evacuation, vacuum, etc. They all have the vaca/vacu unit, which always pertains to emptiness in some way.

I think that since the words are related by emptiness, the original root is less important than how the morpheme is currently used in English.

It is, therefore, an allomorph since the morpheme varies phonologically, but its meaning remains the same.

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So vacant and vacancy are allomorphs of the same ME root morpheme, aren't they? – subic Aug 20 '11 at 8:57
yes, the vaca of vacancy is IMO the same morpheme as the one in vacancy, but they are phonologically different. – Matt E. Эллен Aug 20 '11 at 9:00
If they were allomorphs of the same root morpheme, then the root morpheme should change without to change function. – kiamlaluno Aug 20 '11 at 11:59
@Kiamlaluno: which I believe they do – Matt E. Эллен Aug 20 '11 at 12:07

I would say no; those words are not perceived as composed from two morphemes, in English.

To talk of allomorphs, the words should be each composed by two morphemes, one of which is an allomorph and maintains the same function in both the words.
Supposing that the words are composed from vacan- as root, and -t/-cy, vacan cannot be the allomorph, as

  • the pronunciation of vacan in both the words is the same (/ˈveɪkən/)
  • vacan is written in the same way in both the words

-t and -cy cannot be allomorphs as the existing suffixes -t and -cy have two different functions.

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As you know, French and Latin belong to the same language family. And many words of Romance origin were borrowed from French or directly from Latin. But this is all about etymological analysis, not morphological. According to the formal-semantic criteria these two words can be considered as those that contain the same root, the problem is whether the root is /veik/ (affixes -ant, -ancy, some scholars say they exist in ME) or /΄veikənt/ (if so then vacant and vacancy must be regarded as variants). No one will doubt the common root in pirate - piracy, why should we doubt it in vacant - vacancy? – subic Aug 20 '11 at 8:01
EtymOnline says they're both from the same Latin. – simchona Aug 20 '11 at 8:03
@subic You asked about Modern English. In vacancy and vacant there aren't two morphemes that are allomorphs. – kiamlaluno Aug 20 '11 at 8:41

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