Types of morphemes and their implications for second language morpheme acquisition

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


This paper explains observed morpheme accuracy orders on the basis ofa model of morpheme classification,the 4-M model proposed by Myers-Scotton and Jake(2000). It argues that the adult second language morpheme acquisition order is determined by how morphemes are projected from the mental lexicon. Four types of morphemes are identified: content morphemes,early system morphemes, and two types of late system morphemes. Early system morphemes are indirectly elected at the same time that content morphemes are directly elected by the speaker's intentions. Late system morphemes are activated later in the production process as required by the grammatical frame of the target language. This paper claims that there is variation within individual lexical categories and that the distinction between particular types of morphemes is not a lexical category-defining feature. That is, the classification of morphemes is based on how morphemes are activated. Interlanguage data from early adult Chinese and Japanese learners of English as a second language indicate an implicational hierarchy of morpheme acquisition: content morphemes are acquired before any system morphemes,and early system morphemes are acquired before late system morphemes. Reported in this paper are the learners' production of English determiners and pronouns relevant to testing the categorization of morphemes as specified in the 4-M model. The accuracy/frequency count of the learners' acquisition of the types of morphemes provides statistical evidence for the 4-M model and the hypotheses of the study.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-43
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Bilingualism
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2000


  • 4-M model
  • morpheme acquisition
  • second language acquisition


Dive into the research topics of 'Types of morphemes and their implications for second language morpheme acquisition'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this