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morphological analysis

Morphological analysis is the process of examining possible resolutions to unquantifiable, complex problems involving many factors. The root of the word morphology comes from the Greek word, morphe, for form.

Morphological analysis takes a problem with many known solutions and breaks them down into their most basic elements, or forms, in order to more completely understand them.

Morphological analysis is used in general problem solving, linguistics and biology. In many fields of study morphology facilitates clearer instruction for teachers to help students understand problems and their solutions.

For general problem solving, morphological analysis provides a formalized structure to help examine the problem and possible solutions. The elements of a problem and its solutions are arranged in a matrix to help eliminate illogical solutions.

In biology, the study of forms helps understand mutations, adaptation and evolution. The study of the features and structure of organisms helps us understand organisms and their place in the greater environment.

In linguistics, words are broken down into the smallest units of meaning: morphemes. Morphemes can sometimes be words themselves as in the case of free morphemes, which can stand on their own. Other morphemes can add meaning but not stand as words on their own; bound morphemes need to be used along with another morpheme to make a word. Cats, for example, is a two-morpheme word. Its base, cat, is a free morpheme and its suffix an s, to denote pluralization, a bound morpheme.

As a school of thought morphology is the creation of astrophysicist Fritz Zwicky. Zwicky contrived the methodology to address non quantified problems that have many apparent solutions. For problems to be suited to morphological analysis they are generally inexpressible in numbers. Other problems are better addressed with the more traditional decomposition method where complexity is broken down in parts and trivial elements are ignored to produce a simplified problem and solution.

This was last updated in July 2019

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