Interlinear morphological glossing

An interlinear morphological gloss is a linguistic representation of a piece of text which indicates the function of each morph (s. exact definition).

The purpose of this website is to provide

A description of the content and format of interlinear morphological glosses is found in Lehmann 2004. The present website essentially incorporates and supersedes this publication. It also takes up the best proposals of Comrie et al. 2008.


Morphological glosses are frequently produced with utter negligence. The following kinds of neglect recur:

  1. Morphological analysis is faulty, imprecise or superficial; the functions of the morphemes are not correctly identified.
  2. Morphological boundaries are marked insufficiently.
  3. Individual glosses, i.e. the mapping of morphemes unto glosses, are not controlled systematically.
  4. Grammatical morphemes receive no gloss at all or are at best hidden in an inflected word form used as a gloss.

These defects are the result of very different causes. They can be due to

  1. lack of expertise in linguistics
  2. lack of knowledge of the language in question
  3. sloppiness

on the part of the (re-)producer of the gloss. This website can alleviate problem #a. As for #c, the following should be considered: Authors often elaborate the morphological gloss of an example only to the degree of precision and detail that they consider sufficient for the local argument that the example is intended to support. Thus, when it illustrates relative clause formation, verbal aspect is neglected in the analysis. However, for most languages in the world, analyzed linguistic data are scarce. It may well turn out that the particular example is needed by another linguist for a purpose that its author did not have in mind. Since the interlinear gloss is a service to the reader, service to readers with independent aims should be included.

Lehmann, Christian 2004, “Interlinear morphemic glossing.” Booij, Geert & Mugdan, Joachim & Skopeteas, Stavros (eds.), Morphologie. Ein internationales Handbuch zur Flexion und Wortbildung. 2. Halbband. Berlin & New York: W. de Gruyter (Handbücher zur Sprach- und Kommunikationswissenschaft, 17.2); 1834-1857. [download]

Comrie, Bernard & Haspelmath, Martin & Bickel, Balthasar 2008, “Leipzig glossing rules”. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Department of Linguistics. Revised version. [hyperlink]