A matrix is a linguistic tool which allows one to organize words belonging to a morphological family into a single framework that shows the various morpheme boundaries. It shows the base, the main element that carries the central meaning of the words, and the other affixes – prefixes and suffixes. The elements represented in a matrix are used to construct word sums that displays how morphemes combine to form words. Each word sum that is constructed from a matrix must include the base element because that is what carries the main meaning.W
Using matrices and word sums allow one to see how spelling conventions operate in spelling. Suffixes, for the purposes of spelling, come in two categories: vowel suffixes and consonant suffixes. Consonant suffixes, suffixes that begin with consonant letters, do not cause any changes but vowel suffixes, suffixes which begin with vowel letters, cause two main changes. 1) Adding a vowel suffix to a base that ends in a single, ‘silent’ <e> requires removing the final ‘silent’ <e> before adding the vowel suffix. 2) Adding vowel suffix requires doubling a single consonant letter that follows a single vowel letter before adding the vowel suffix.
The following two matrices on <hope> and <hop> illustrate the two conventions that govern the operation of vowel suffixes in English.
The following are sample word sums constructed from the matrix on <hope>. Word sums are constructed from left to right. You put plus signs where the morpheme boundaries are. No leapfrogging. You don’t have to build all the words that may be possible a matrix, just what you can comfortably use in sentences.
hope + s –> hopes
e + ed –> hoped
e + ing –> hoping
hope + ful –> hopeful
hope + ful + ly –> hopefully
hope + less –> hopeless
hope + less + ness –> hopelessness
Observe how the final “silent” <e> is removed when any of the vowel suffixes <-ed> and <-ing> is added to the base <hope>.
Matrix from <hop>
We can construct words form the base <hop> to see how the vowel suffixes behave when the base ends in a single consonant letter preceded by a single vowel letter.
Word sums from <hop>:
hop + s –> hops
hop(p) + ed –> hopped
hop(p) + ing –> hopping
grass + hop(p) + er –> grasshopper Notice how adding any of the vowel suffixes (<ed>, <ing>, <er>) requires doubling the final consonant <p> before adding the suffix.
The two conventions are attempts to preserve the pronunciations of the base elements when suffixes can alter their pronunciations are added. I will discuss these two conventions in more detail in future posts.