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Unit 3.

English/Spanish Morphological contrastive analysis

1. Basic concepts

Nonfinite forms:

(I) MORPHEME: Any minimal form (word or part of a word) with its own meaning,
function and combinatory potential.

(i) Form:
a) English: bare verb stem, without suffixes.
b) Spanish: suffix -r after the theme vowels -a, -e, -i.

(ii) INFLECTIONAL MORPHEME: Morpheme that conveys grammatical information

such as person, number, tense, case or adjectival degree.
(III) DERIVATIONAL MORPHEME: Morpheme that derives a new word from another

(ii) Functions:
a) Nominal:
(1) She wants me to go out with her.
(2) Preferimos quedarnos en casa.

(iv) ALLOMORPH: The different phonetic or lexical realizations of a morpheme.

b) Form that follows another verb:
(3) Debe ir, suele cantar, puede comer
(4) Should come, must study, used to go

2. Inflectional Morphology.
2.1. Verbs:
a) English: from 1 to eight forms:
1 form: must
2 forms: can, could

4 forms: walk, walks, walked, walking

5 forms: sing, sings, sang, sung,
3 forms: put, puts, putting
8 forms: be, am, is, are, was were,
been, being
1 inflectional morpheme: Stem + Tense (+Person + Number)

b) Spanish: up to 48 simple inflectional forms:

6 inflectional morphemes: stem + Theme (-ar, -er, -ir) + Mood + Tense
+ Aspect + Person + Number
Finite forms



Past (imper)

Past (indef)



Past (imper)




(i) Form:
a) English: ending in suffix -ing.
b) Spanish: ending in suffix -endo.
(ii) Functions:
a) Adverbial:
(5a) Sali sollozando.
(5b) She left sobbing.
(6a) Rompiendo la ventana, logr entrar.
(6b) Breaking the window, he managed to get in.
(7a) Los sbados nos divertamos jugando al tenis.
(7b) On Saturdays we enjoyed ourselves playing tennis.
b) In English, also a nominal function:
(8) Sobbing isnt the answer.
(9) Before breaking the window, try my key.
In Spanish this function corresponds to an infinitive construction:
(10) Llorar no es la solucin.
(11) Antes de romper la ventana, prueba con mi llave.
Past participle:
(i) Form:
a) English: ending in suffix -ed (-en).
b) Spanish: ending in suffix -(i/a)do. Some irregular forms: abierto, cubierto,
dicho, escrito, frito, hecho, impreso, muerto, puesto, visto.

(ii) Functions:
a) Adjectival (usually with a past and passive meaning):
(12) Las empobrecidas clases bajas se sentan excluidas de la
(13) He felt neglected at home.
Spanish participles with no past/ passive meaning:
(i) independent adjectives homphonous with verbal participles: aburrido
(`boring), atrevido (bold), exagerado (prone to exaggerating).
(ii) those from verbs denoting body position: sentado, tumbado,
(14a) Est sentado en el sof.
(14b) He is sitting on the sofa.
(15a) Estn arrodillados para rezar.
(15b) They are kneeling to pray.

Present participle:
(i) English:
a) Form: ending in suffix -ing.
(16) A murdered man vs. a murdering man
(17) A fallen tree vs. a falling tree
b) Adjectival function which corresponds to a relative (adjectival) clause in
(18a) The sobbing man left.
(18b) El hombre que sollozaba se fue.
(19a) The women breaking the window are desperate.
(19b) Las mujeres que estn rompiendo la ventana estn
(ii) Spanish: -nte form (amante, influyente, creciente, flotante, importante,
preocupante). Problems:
a) Lacking in most verbs: *trabajante, *lloviente, *cogiente, *comiente,
b) NOUNS: estudiante, dirigente, sirviente
ADJECTIVES: doliente, sangrante, desesperante
PREPOSITIONS: durante, mediante
















Bare form





Stem+-ar, -er, -ir






Gerund and Participal constructions similar in form in English and

(i) Absolute constructions: a gerund or participle presents background
information for the main clause and is set off from it. Its subject is normally
expressed only if it is different from that of the main clause, (20a-20b):
(20a) Estando en huelga los obreros, los jefes intentaron sustituirlos.
(20b) (With) The workers being on strike, the bosses tried to replace
(20c) With the workers (being) on strike, the factory was closed.
(21a) Solucionado el problema, los obreros continuaron trabajando.
(21b) Having solved the problem, the workers went on working.
(21c) With the problem solved, the workers went on working.
(ii) Perfective constructions
(22a) Lo ha bebido.

(22b) He has drunk it.

(iii) Progressive constructions

(23a) Lo est bebiendo.

(23b) He is drinking it.

(iv) Passive constructions

(24a) Fue visto en el partido.

(24b) He was seen in the match

(26b) Se puede encontrar hierro en muchos pases.

2.2. Nouns:
Number ans the count/mass distinction:
Singular number (): unmarked form.
Plural number: marked form.
Regular plural allomorphs:
(i) SPANISH: -es: color/colores (consonant)
-s: taza/tazas (vowel)
(ii) ENGLISH: [-Iz]: horse/horses (sibilant)
[-s]: hat/hats (voiceless consonat)
[-z]: dog/dogs (vowel or voiced consonant)
Irregular pluralization patterns:
a) Unpredictable in English: sheep vs. heaps, deer vs. steers.
b) Predicatble in Spanish:
(i) nouns ending in unstressed vowel + s: el/los lunes, el/los
anlisis, el/los atlas, la/las caries, el/los paraguas.
(ii) nouns ending in vowel + t: el/los dficit, el/los supervit

(ii) To count them, counters have to be used:

(27) a glass of water / un vaso de agua
(28) two cubic feet of air / dos centmetros cbicos de aire
(29) three bars of soap / tres pastillas de jabn
(30) a piece of paper/meat/bread - un trozo de papel/carne/pan
(31) a spoonful of sugar - una cucharada de azcar.
(32) a bottle of wine/beer - una botella de vino/cerveza
(33) a cup of tea/coffee - una taza de t/caf
(i) Salient to biological sex: boy/nio, girl/nia, etc.
(ii) Sexless entities:
a) in Spanish: masculine (el coche) or feminine (la mesa).
b) in English: "it", neither masculine nor feminine. Exceptions:
(34) My new car has a powerful engine. She is very beautiful too.
(35) Marys baby is very quiet; it only eats and sleeps.
Gender formation patterns in Spanish:
1) Ortographic hints:

2) IRREGULAR GERMANIC NOUNS IN ENGLISH: man/men, foot/feet, child/children

3) LATIN OR GREEK NOUS IN ENGLISH: antenna/antennae, curriculum/curricula,
zigzag/zigzags, gnster/gnsters

Always plural nouns (or Pluralia Tamtum): scissors/tijeras, tongs/tenazas.

Contrasts: pliers - un alicate/dos alicates, trousers - un pantaln/dos pantalones

Mass nouns (silver/ plata, wine/ vino, water/agua, heat/calor, freedom/libertad,

physics/fsica): not pluralized because they refer to entities that do not have
physical boundaries which, as such, cannot be counted.
(i) In English some nouns can be both count and mass:
(25a) He is pressing his trousers with that iron.
(25b) Est planchando los pantalones con esa plancha.
(26a) Iron can be found in many countries.

(I) Spanish masculine nouns: those ending in

-n: (no -cin, and sin): patrn, jamn
-o: brazo, beso
-r: pastor, televisor,
-s (except for tis and -sis): autobs, adis
-e: pie, caf
-l: pedal, caracol
(ii) Spanish feminine nouns: those ending in
-a: carta, sbana
-d: verdad, amistad
-cin, -sin: separacin, diversion
-sis, -tis: tesis, gastritis.
2) Semantic hints:
(i) Spanish masculine nouns: names of rivers (el Amazonas, el
Tmesis), of ships (el Titanic, el Nautilus), of trees (el abeto, el
naranjo), of days of the week (el lunes, el domingo)
3) Morphological paterns in the male/female distinction:

(i) Different roots: el padre/la madre, el hombre/la mujer, monk/nun,

(ii) Common roots with idiosyncratic derivational suffixes: el actor/la
actriz, el hroe/la herona, actor/actress, hero/heroine
(iii) Same word with gender assigned according to the referents sex:
el/la pianista, el/la homicida, a male/female teacher, a male/female
(iv) Same root with masculine or feminine endings: el abuelo/la abuela,
el hijo/la hija, el seor/la seora, el profesor/la profesora
(v) Transvestite el: el agua, el lgebra, el aula, el acta, el hacha, el
hambre, el arma, el alma. But: la agria agua, la a, la hache.

(41) l es muy trabajador.

Ellos son muy trabajadores
Ella es muy trabajadora.
Ellas son muy trabajadoras.
b) Adjectives with two forms: those not included in the previous group:
(42) El coche es azul.
La bici es azul.
Los cocheas son azules.
Las bicis son azules.
Comparative constructions:
1) Equality: as/so...as in English:
(43) He speaks as well as he writes.
(44) I have as much work as you.

(i) Only in English: unmarked case (Peter) vs. marked/possessive or genitive
case (Peter's book).
(ii) In Spanish the NP that indicates the thing possessed is followed by a PP
headd by de: el libro de Pedro.

2.3. Adjectives:
(i) uninflected in English for gender and number, but inflected for comparison:
(36) The boy is tall.
(37) The boy is taller than the girl.
The boys are tall.
(38) Peter is the tallest boy in his team.
The girl is tall.
The girls are tall
(ii) Inflected for number and gender in Spanish: distintinction between
adjectives with four or two different forms:
a) Adjectives with four forms: masculine ends in -o, (39), or those
referring to nationality, ethnicity, religious affiliation, etc, ending in a
consonant, (40). Also some others ending in -n, -or, -ote and -n, (41):
(39) El techo es alto.
Los techos son altos.
La verja es alta.
Las verjas son altas.

(40) l es andaluz.
Ella es andaluza.
Ellos son andaluces.
Elas son andaluzas. .

In Spanish, tan... como for adjectives and adverbs and tanto/-a/-os/-as... como
for nouns:
(45) Habla tan bien como escribe.
(46) Tengo tanto trabajo como t.
2) Inequality: ms/menos... que vs. more/less-fewer...than:
(47a) She reads more than she used to read.
(48a) Good health is more important than money.
(49a) He drinks less water than me.
(48b) Lee ms que antes.
(49b) La salud es ms importante que el dinero.
(50b) l bebe menos que yo.
De is used instead of que before numbers or words that imply quantity in
affirmative statements:
(51a) Necesito ms de diez dlares.
(51b) I need more than ten dollars.
(52a) Pasamos all menos de dos horas.
(52b) We spent less than two hours there.
In negative statements, de or que can be used, but their meaning is completely
different: no more than and only, but, respectively:
(53a) No necesito ms de diez dlares.
(53b) I dont need more than ten dollars.
(54a) No necesito ms que diez dlares.
(54b) I dont need but ten dollars.

3) Intensity and proportionality comparatives:

(i) Intensity comparatives: in English it is formed by repeating the
comparative, and in Spanish it is marked with the adverbial cada vez:
(55a) He is getting richer and richer.
(55b) Cada vez se hace ms rico.
(ii) Proportionality comparatives: two structurally identical halves which in
English contain the + comparative and in Spanish the combinations
cuanto ms/menos ... tanto ms/menos:
(56a) The older I get, the less I work.
(56b) Cuanto ms viejo me hago, menos trabajo.
4. Superlatives: the highest/lowest degree of a quality in the comparison of
objects of the same kind.
(i) In Spanish: article/possessive + (noun) + adjective in inequality form:
(57a) Elena es su hija ms linda.
(ii) In English: article/possessive + adjective (-est) or most/least adjective +
(57b) Helen is her prettiest girl.
(iii) Absolute superlative: a very high degree or the possible highest degree
of a quality or manner of an action without having a frame of reference
for a comparison. In Spanish, the suffix simo/-a/-os/-as is added and in
English, the adjective at issue is premodified by an adverbial:
(58a) Un chico amabilsimo.
(58b) An extremely kind fellow.
(59a) Unas novelas largusimas.
(59b) Some terribly long novels.

2) In English, there are three classes: subject pronouns,(60), object pronouns,

(61-62), and reflexive pronouns, (63):
(60) She will come tomorrow.
(61) They gave it to me.
(62) Mary thanked me for my present.
(63) Peter shaves himself four times a week.
Personal pronouns:
(i) Exceptional cases:
Usted/ustedes are second person but require a third person verbal form:
(64) Usted ir con este grupo. (cf. l ir)
(65) Ustedes vendrn conmigo. (cf. ellos vendrn)
You: personal and impersonal reference:
(66) You/one have/has to study to pass the course.
(i) Dummy it:
(67a) Its obvious it will rain.
(67b) Est claro que va a llover.
(ii) Referential it (general concept, situation):
(68a) He snores a lot. Does it bother you?
(68b) Ronca mucho. Te molesta (ello)?
(69a) Yes, Ill complain about it.
(69b) S, me quejar (de ello)
(70a) He was snoring; I heard it.
(70b) Estaba roncando, Lo o.
(iii) Referential it (inanimate entitiy):

2.4. Pronouns.
1) Distinction in Spanish: disjunctive pronouns (subject and prepositional object
pronouns), (60-61), and conjunctive pronouns (direct object, indirect object and
reflexive pronouns), (62-63):
(60) Ellos no vendrn con nosotros.
(61) Nosotros lo hicimos sin ti.
(62) Lo celebraremos en verano.
(63) Dinos la verdad.
(64) Ella se ducha antes de acostarse.

(71a) I need my pencil. Where is it? Have you seen it? Are you writing
with it?
(71b) Necesito mi lpiz. Dnde est? Lo has visto? Escribes con

(iv) Spanish pronominal forms unmarked for gender: nos,os, usted, yo, and
3) CASE:
(i) Different values of the Spanish indirect object:

a) Recipient or beneficiary of the verbal action:

(72) Pedro ya le ha dado la noticia.
b) Possessor of the entity denoted by the direct object. (possessive dative):
(73) Me han manchado la chaqueta.
c) Someone affected by the action (dativo tico or dative of interest):
(74) A mi marido me lo mataron en la guerra.
d) Directional dative:
(75) Se me acerc muy lentamente.



Diminutives and augmentatives:

(i) English (fewer and less productive than in Spanish):

3. Derivational Morphology.
3.1. Affixation.
Changes of lexical category:
(I) ADJECTIVE NOUN: alt-ura, alt-eza, alt-itud, posibil-idad, good-ness, similarity, wid-th, likeli-hood
(II) VERB NOUN: observa-cin, empuj-n, escrit-or, canta-nte, muda-nza
observa-tion, bore-dom, paint-er, paint-ing, disifect-ant
(III) NOUN ADJECTIVE: nacion-al, lluvi-oso, republic-ano, art-stico, esperanzado, nation-al, ruin-ous, care-ful, fool-ish, republic-an
(IV) VERB ADJECTIVE: resbala-dizo, divert-ido, llor-n, trabaja-dor, conveniente, expect-ant, amus-ing, tire-d, deriva-tive
(V) NOUN OR ADJECTIVE VERB: civil-izar, traicion-ar, humed-ecer, a-clar-ar
civil-ize, hard-en, simpl-ify
(VI) ADJECTIVE ADVERB: rpida-mente, rapid-ly
Some affixes shared by both languages




a) -ie, -y (affective meaning): horsie, daddy, Bobbie, Micky

b) -ette (usually positive connotations): towelette, kitchenette
c) -et: circlet, cabinet
d) -let: piglet, booklet, leaflet, flowerlet
e) -ling (small size and despective meaning, with the exception of
darling): duckling, weakling, foundling, kindling
The last three groups of diminutive derivational suffixes have a secondary
meaning of specialization: piglet, booklet, circlet, cabinet.
(ii) Spanish (many more than in English, so their meaning is typically conveyed
through adjectival premodification)
a) -ito: caballito, gatito, mesita
b) -illo: perrillo, librillo, florecilla
c) -ico: perrico, librico, florecica
d) -n/-ona: casona, mujerona
e) -ote: perrote
f) -azo: perrazo, tortazo
Secondary meanings of diminutives:
a) Affection: Me gusta la sopa calentita.
b) Subjectivity: Estamos los dos solitos.
Qu bien, ya estamos en casita!
c) Pejorative: Vaya nochecita!, Vaya tiempecito!
d) Euphemistic: La nia es ms bien fella.
Una limosnita, por favor.
Secondary meanings of augmentatives:
a) Pejorative: Es una mujerzuela/mujerona
b) Small size: islote, camarote
c) Violent action: escobazo, puetazo, botellazo
d) Intensifier: Ese hombre es un buenazo!
Vaya cochazo que tiene!

3.2. Compounding:

9. VERB + PARTICLE NOUN: make-up, set-up, hangover, turn-out

Spanish compounding patterns:

10. PARTICLE + VERB NOUN/VERB: outbreak, upset, income, outcome

1. NOUN + NOUN NOUN: lengua madre, fecha lmite, factor precio

11. PARTICLE + NOUN ADVERB/NOUN/ADJECTIVE: uphill, indoor, outlaw,


2. NOUN + ADJECTIVE NOUN: hierbabuena, cubalibre

3. NOUN (usually ending in i) + ADJECTIVE ADJECTIVE: boquiabierto,
barbiespeso, pelirrojo
4. ADJECTIVE + ADJECTIVE ADJECTIVE: sordomudo, verdinegro

3.3. Other word-formation patterns:

OTAN, NATO, sida, aids, IBM, RAM

5. ADJECTIVE + NOUN NOUN: extremauncin, medioda, buen partido

6. VERB + PLURAL NOUN NOUN: cuentagotas, tocadiscos, lavaplatos, paraguas

disco, photo, flu, pram
disco, foto, moto, bici

7. NOUN + ADVERB ADVERB: patas arriba, cuesta arriba, ro abajo

8. ADVERB + VERB VERB: menospreciar, malvivir
9. NOUN + VERB VERB: rabiatar, pelechar
10. VERB + VERB NOUN: duermevela
English compounding patterns:
1. ADJECTIVE + NOUN NOUN: fathead, paleface, loudmouth
2. ADJECTIVE + NOUN (ending in ed) ADJECTIVE: redfaced, long-lived,
3. NOUN + ADJECTIVE ADJECTIVE: taxfree, dustproof, carsick, diamond-hard
4. VERB + NOUN NOUN: pickpocket, drawbridge
5. NOUN + VERB (in ing) NOUN/ADJECTIVE: airconditioning, story-telling, meateating
6. VERB (in ing) + NOUN NOUN: Washing machine, swimming pool, chewing
7. NOUN + NOUN (in er) NOUN: gate-crasher, babysitter, songwriter
8. NOUN + NOUN NOUN: headache, coffeepot, applesauce, birth control

smist (smoke + mist), bruch (breakfast + lunch), telex (teleprinter + exchange)
mecatrnica (mecnica + electrnica), motel (motor + hotel)