What is the difference between morphology, phonology, and syntax?

1 Answer
Mar 15, 2017


Phonology: study of sounds
Morphology: study of word parts
Syntax: structure.


Phonology is the study of sounds and their parts. It focuses on how sounds are made using mouth shape, tongue placement, vocal cord use, etc. For example, it can look at the difference between fricative sounds like [f] (a f sound like in fish) and [ʃ] (this is a "sh" sound) and all other possible sounds. Typically it uses the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) to write out the representation of a word. For example, the word cat would be /kæt/ in a very simple form of IPA.

Morphology is the study of the smallest meaningful units of words. It looks at words and breaks them into their simplest parts to analyze meaning. For example, the word unbelievable can be broken into the basic parts of "un-" meaning "not", "believe", and "able" meaning "to be able to". Together it means "not able to be believed."

Syntax focuses on the structure of language regarding how it is orally and literarily presented. It breaks down sentences by tense, noun phrases, verb phrases and other various parts that make up a sentence.