I'm confused about exactly what criteria should be used to tell the difference between flexive and derivative morphemes that appear simulataneously in a single word.

Let's suppose from the words:

personal, verdoso, legalidad and descortés

the morphemes I could spot were

  • personal

    • person-al
  • verdoso

    • verd-oso
  • legalidad

    • legal-idad
  • descortés

    • des-corté-s

But from those, which one has derivative and flexive morphemes and why?. When do they appear simultaneously? Is the way I segmented those words correct? How should they be segmented?

  • Welcome, Chris. I am not a linguist, so if I got anything wrong in my edits, please undo as needed or even do a whole rollback. Dec 14, 2019 at 1:23
  • @aparente001 Thanks for your kindness, no problems. Since it is my first post I'm assuming that my wording might not be precise. :) Dec 14, 2019 at 5:20

1 Answer 1


Flexive morphemes are those used to make plurals (-s), set the gender of the word (-o, -a), or conjugate verbs (as in cant-aré). Strictly speaking, a word than admits a plural but is in singular form, has an empty flexive morpheme at the end, see here:

  • cosa (singular)
  • cosa -s (plural)

Derivative morphemes change the meaning of the word, such as -idad in "activ -idad", which transforms the adjective "activo" into a noun.

Let us take a look at your examples. All derivative morphemes are highlighted in bold, and all flexive morphemes in italics:

  • person -al ()

    Here, -al is a derivative morpheme. This is a tricky case, as "personal" might be an adjective meaning "personal" in English (in which case it has an empty flexive morpheme at the end because it admits a plural form) or it can be a noun meaning "staff" in English, in which case it has no flexive morpheme because it does not admit a plural.

  • verd -os -o

    Here, -os is a derivative morpheme, which changes the meaning of "verde". The morpheme -o is flexive, because it sets the word as masculine. Similarly, there is an empty flexive morpheme at the end because the word is in singular form.

  • legal -idad

    Here, -idad is a derivative morpheme, which changes the meaning of "legal". There are no flexive morphemes, because (as far as I know) "legalidad" has no plural form.

  • des- cortés

    Here, des- is a derivative morpheme, and there is an empty flexive morpheme at the end because the word admits a plural form.

As you have seen in the examples, derivative and flexive morphemes often appear together in a word.

  • So the way to separate the word descortés would be des-cort-és. Is this the way? So in the group of words I wrote only verdoso is flexive and derivative because the morpheme -o is an indication of gender? as masculine (in that case), so verdos-a would be femenine?. But why not descortés is not also a flexive because as it is the word does not indicate a plural, and if it had been stated as descorteses then that would have had a derivative and flexive morpheme? with those being des- and -eses?. But morphemes ending with let's say -oso do have simultaneously Dec 14, 2019 at 5:28
  • the characteristic of flexive and derivative?. Does it exist a list of morphemes in spanish which do have these characteristics present at the same time?. Dec 14, 2019 at 5:29
  • @ChrisSteinbeckBell see the updated answer. Singular words which admit a plural form technically have an empty flexive morpheme at the end. You are right about "verdoso".
    – wimi
    Dec 14, 2019 at 11:44

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