Exponent (linguistics)

An exponent is a phonological manifestation of a morphosyntactic property. In non-technical language, it is the expression of one or more grammatical properties by sound. There are several kinds of exponents:

  • Identity
  • Affixation
  • Reduplication
  • Internal modification
  • Subtraction


The identity exponent is both simple and common: it has no phonological manifestation at all.

An example in English:
DEER + PLURAL → deer


Affixation is the addition of a prefix, suffix or infix to a word.

An example in English:
WANT + PAST → wanted


Reduplication is the repetition of part of a word.

An example in Sanskrit:
DA ("give") + PRESENT + ACTIVE + INDICATIVE + FIRST PERSON + SINGULARdadaami (the da at the beginning is from reduplication, a characteristic of class 3 verbs in Sanskrit)

Internal modification

There are several types of internal modification. An internal modification may be segmental, meaning it changes a sound in the root.

An example in English:
STINK + PAST = stank (i becomes a)

An internal modification might be a suprasegmental modification. An example would be a change in pitch or stress.

An example of the latter in English (acute accent indicates stress):
RECÓRD + NOUN = récord


Subtraction is the removal of a sound or a group of sounds.

An example in French:
OEUF /œf/ ("egg") + PLURAL = œufs /ø/ (final f is lost)

This page was last updated at 2019-11-11 16:08, update this pageView original page

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