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Making Sense of Grammar
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The meaning of ‘-ing’ and ‘-ed’ as derivational morphemes is determined by the usage of them as inflectional morphemes.

In predicate adjectives, their meaning owes to the voice marker of the verb. In English, the passive voice is marked by the auxiliary verb ‘be’ and the past participle (be + PP). The inflectional morpheme ‘-ed’ as in 1a (sometimes ‘-en’ as in 1b) is attached to the stem of a verb to form a past participle, as in:

1a. This book was published by City University of Hong Kong Press in 2001.

1b. His son was forgotten at home.

Passive voice refers to the situation when the subject of a sentence receives the action of the verb instead of performing it. In other words, the patient is the subject (e.g., ‘this book’ in 1a) in the passive clause, which permits patients to occupy the subject grammatical role (Givon, 1993). It means that the subject is affected by the state or action identified by the verb. Therefore, the verb-derived adjective ending with ‘-ed’ is used to describe a subjective feeling of how someone perceives something themselves. Since the derivational morpheme ‘-ed’ implies the subject is in passive control, the semantic role of the subject is the patient, who is affected by the event. In contrast, the active voice is morphologically unmarked. The verb ending with the inflectional morpheme ‘-ing’ can be regarded as the active voice because the progressive form ‘-ing’ is only compatible with any active verbs, as in:

2a. She sees her husband now.

2b. *She is seeing her husband now.

Active verbs, also called action verbs or dynamic verbs, are used to describe an action in which a subject deliberately initiates the event. The semantic role of the subject is an agent. Therefore, the verb-derived adjective ending with ‘-ing’ is used to describe something’s qualities. Since the derivational morpheme ‘-ing’ implies the subject is in active control, the subject acts like the agent to trigger the characteristic of the event. For example, 

3a. I was shocked when I heard about the murder news.

3b. The murder news was shocking.

In 3a), ‘-ed’ has been added to ‘shock’ to describe how the murder news makes ‘I’ (the speaker) feel. Because the subject is in passive control, the speaker’s emotion is affected by the news, in which the speaker’s feelings are not produced under the speaker’s control and are granted and affected by the outside world. In 3b), ‘-ing’ has been added to ‘shock’ to describe how the speaker thinks about the feature of the news. Because the subject is in active control, the shocking characteristic of the murder news is produced by itself to cause emotion. 

In noun-modifying adjectives, their meaning owes to the tense aspect marker of the verb. Generally, ‘-ing’ and ‘-ed’ are used as bound inflectional suffixes since they typically cause changes in the grammatical function of verbs rather than word class. Firstly, the inflectional morpheme ‘-ing’ is commonly used to indicate the progressive aspect describing an ongoing event in which the progressive aspect (with the suffix ‘-ing’) is interpreted as a present progressive when no explicit tense markers exist (Givon, 1993). Therefore, the inflectional morpheme ‘-ing’ also encodes the meaning of the present tense, indicating an event whose event-time is right at the time of speech. Secondly, the inflectional morpheme ‘-ed’ encodes the past tense, indicating an event whose event-time preceded the time of speech. Since these two morphemes can be also utilized as derivational morphemes which change the semantic class of the word to derive new words from existing ones, the usage and meaning between inflectional and derivational morphemes are closely related. 

To illustrate, ‘boiling water’ and ‘boiled water’ are good examples. ‘Boiling water’ describes water in ebullition, in which the boiling temperature is over 100 degree Celsius with steam kept going out. Contrarily, ‘boiled water’ describes water in cooked condition with living organisms such as germs and bacteria killed and steam fades out at the point it cools, which can be in different temperatures. Because ‘-ing’ expresses an ongoing activity in the speech time, the noun ‘water’ is modified as very hot water when ‘-ing’ is suffixed to ‘boil’. The water can be extremely hot now only if ebullition occurs right at the speech-time. In contrast, because ‘-ed’ expresses an action that happened in the past, ‘water’ is modified as water at different temperatures when ‘-ed’ is added into ‘boil’. The water can be hot or not as the event of boiling water happened in the past. Therefore, ‘-ing’ in noun-modifying adjectives describes the ongoing evolving process in the state of an object which is in the present progressive aspect, while ‘-ed’ indicates the evolved state of an object which is a past event.

All in all, the meaning of the derivational morphemes (i.e., -ed and -ing) has the connotation of the inflectional morphemes (i.e., -ed and -ing).

Reference

Givón, T. (1993). English grammar. English Grammar, 1-379.

asked Mar 15, 2023 in Questions about English Grammar by group6_2022 (240 points)
edited Mar 15, 2023 by group6_2022 | 493 views

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