Basic notions of grammatical description
The term GRAMMAR has been used in many ways: for the study of letters (the original Greek sense), for morphology and syntax, for a description or reference work of morphology and syntax, for the entire structural framework of language (thus embracing phonology and semantics as well), and for the proprieties of cultivated usage, as in "Watch your grammar." In this book, it will be used mainly in the second sense, morphology and syntax (or MORPHOSYNTAX), that is, the structure of words, phrases, and sentences.
For morphology, linguists use notions similar to those of phonology (v. 1.2). Just as the basic unit of phonology is the phoneme, that of morphology is the MORPHEME. A morpheme is any minimal form (word or part of a word) with its own meaning, function, and combinatory potential, whether stem (root) or affix (prefix or suffix). Because morphemes are the building blocks of word and phrase formation, they are also called FORMATIVES. Affixed morphemes that express syntactic properties such as person, number, tense, and case are INFLECTIONAL; those that derive a new word from another one are DERIVATIONAL. On the basis of these notions, the morphology of the word prehistórico can be described as follows, or as in the tree diagram in figure 5.1 (see Varela 1990).
pre+histór+ic+o: four morphemes (+ = morpheme boundary):
pre-: derivational prefix meaning 'before' forming prehistoria from historia