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In the word "stressed" in the following sentence, is the -ed an Inflectional or a Derivational suffix? Would you please explain to me why?

The sentence is:

This is one of the stressed syllables.

Thank you so much!

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(Partial answer) It's not clear to me. This seems like a rather advanced question. I think the distinction between "derivational" and "inflectional" suffixes is not used by all grammatical frameworks. I hope you will get an answer from one of the linguists on this site.

Here are some things to consider, however.

"Stressed" is an adjective in your sentence (evidence: the word "unstressed" can be used in exactly the same circumstances, and the prefix "un-" that denotes a sense of simple negation doesn't attach to verbs in English: we can't say things like "I unstress the last syllable in Monday" to mean "I don't stress the last syllable in Monday"). It's clear that English adjectives do not take "-ed" as an inflectional suffix.

So it seems there is an argument for calling "-ed" a derivational suffix here (the adjective stressed is derived from the verb stress via the addition of a derivational suffix -ed).

But I suppose you could say that the word is derived via zero-conversion from the verb form stressed (an inflected form of the verb stress), and therefore -ed is not a derivational suffix, because it was already present before the process of derivation.


Using Google, I found a paper that mentions some further references from the second half of the 20th century; I unfortunately am not aware of the state of current literature about this problem and I don't know whether linguists have reached a consensus in more recent decades.

the problem of the status of {ed} morpheme has received a good deal of attention (see Matthews :1974; Beard: 1976;Allen: 1978; Lieber: 1980; Scalise; 1984;). The problem of –ed adjectives is well-known and has been a bone of contempt for years among scholars who proposed different explanations for the phenomenon in question. Some suggested that adjectival –ed and participle –ed cannot be regarded as one suffix the first being formative (marking the change of a verb into a participial adjective) and the second inflectional (marking the past participle form of a verb, see Marchand:1960; Beard:1976). Others argued that it is the same suffix just changing its role (Nesfield:1956; Partridge: 1963; Hirtle:1970; Firth:1951).

In the corpus that was studied for this purpose morpheme {ed} proved to be highly productive, though quite surprisingly less productive than morphemes {s} and {ing}. The number of examples which belong to –ed formations is 403 and they are classified in six subtypes. In four subtypes the suffix –ed is added to verbal bases. Unsurprisingly, the results of combination V+-ed are adjectives (subtype 8)), but quite surprisingly, adverbs in the subtype 11), nouns in the subtype 12) and conjunctions in the subtype 13). In all those subtypes the morpheme –ed has the features [+inflectional, +derivational]. Some may argue that in these subtypes the nouns, adverbs and conjunctions are converted from corresponding forms of past participles, in which case the nature of the morpheme {ed} remains inflectional.

("How Can Inflectional Suffixes Act as the Word-Formation Ones: A Case Study", by Jelena VUJIC)

  • I especially like bone of contempt. Excellent description of the process. Lumpers and Splitters are always at it. – John Lawler May 4 '18 at 1:26
  • You seem to have shown that -ed is either inflectional or derivational. Is that a problem? – Greg Lee May 4 '18 at 1:28
  • @GregLee: I think there is a problem because I'm not sure which of the alternative analyses that I present is correct. That is why I called this a partial answer, and expressed hope that a linguist would make an answer post that resolves all the issues brought up by personal learner's question. – herisson May 4 '18 at 1:30
  • Am I right, is that inflectional (the -ing)? – personal learner May 6 '18 at 18:30
  • Thank you, I appreciate it.. I am finding this problem with other suffixes as well. Like -ing in the word beginning. When saying a sentence like: "at the beginning of a sentence", I think that the -ing in the word beginning here is inflectional, however, some people say that it is derivational because it changes the meaning. I honestly do not know – personal learner May 6 '18 at 19:08

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