So there is this question of the example:

The referee has blown his whistle many times today.

The question of the example above is, "What type of allomorph is in the past participle form of the word "blow"?

The solution suggests it is -en, specifically stating that the 'e' has disappeared however the suffix is still of the form -en.

However, I am not sure if there is anything suggesting what happens if there are no curly braces around a morpheme from {-en}, is still something else?


  • Please provide a link.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Oct 2, 2018 at 3:51
  • @Mari-LouA Hi, there is no link to this question, unless you are specifying for something else? Thanks.
    – user318260
    Commented Oct 2, 2018 at 3:55
  • @Mari-LouA Okay, thanks sumelic. The source is anonymous but is in education.
    – user318260
    Commented Oct 2, 2018 at 4:07
  • 2
    You write: …there is this question…The question of the example above is... Where did you see this question and the solution? Explaining that the source is anonymous is not helpful. Was it online? In a book? In a test paper? I am having a hard time understanding the last line in your question. Can you please clarify what you mean by "if there are no curly braces around a morpheme" Can you please give an example where you have seen these curly braces. Thanks.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Oct 2, 2018 at 4:20
  • 1
    You have still not given any context for this, cited or otherwise. Where did you read this example and question? Where have you seen (and not seen) curly brackets? Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 9:37

1 Answer 1


If the source of this question was something prepared by a teacher for a class (which is common here), then you should be aware that teachers don't always use completely formal terminology or notation when making handouts. They would like to, but if they have to prepare it themselves, there are practical difficulties.

All this is to say that the lack of morpheme-defining curly brackets { } around a formal morpheme name like {-ed} for past tense or {-en} for past participle doesn't mean that -en should be taken literally. It's a name, not a description. That's what the curly brackets signify.

But, en famille, once you've learned what { } means, if you're dealing with morphemes a lot, the brackets tend to be omitted, as long as they're understood. This is one of the normal gotchas in learning anything formalized -- when do you formalize and how much do you formalize? More important, when do you not? The answers are usually dictated by the group of people who use the terms frequently, in their pragmatics.

So, clearly the past participle of blow uses an /n/, not a /d/; it's not a regular allophone of the past participle {-en} (which has the same 3 forms as the past {-ed} morpheme), so it must be a different allomorph. In this case, the allomorph is simply /-n/; there's no /e/ that needs deleting. That "e" is simply part of the name of the past participle suffix morpheme, and not a phoneme to account for.

  • 1
    Okay, so clearly there is no difference. Also, the solution to the problem is the allomorph "-en" not "/n/" (though I found that that is how you denote allomorphs).
    – user318260
    Commented Oct 2, 2018 at 15:38
  • OK, that analysis uses a name for the allomorph and then a rule to make it /n/. That's one way to do it, not by any means the only one, nor even a common one. Be aware there are many ways to analyze things and no standard way to do it. The idea is that you have all those details taken care of by the people who are following you -- your students. Until they come along, they will be pretty vague. Commented Oct 2, 2018 at 23:34

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.