View table of contents for this book View table of contents for LinguaLinksLibrary Go to LinguaLinks home page
 

What is inflection?

 

Definition
 

Inflection is variation in the form of a word, typically by means of an affix, that expresses a grammatical contrast which is obligatory for the stem’s word class in some given grammatical context.

Discussion
 

In contrast to derivation, inflection

 
  • does not result in a change of word class, and
  • usually produces a predictable, nonidiosyncratic change of meaning.
Characteristics of inflectional operations
 

Inflectional operations ground the semantic content of a root according to place, time, and participant reference, without substantially affecting the basic semantic content of the root. They often specify when an event or situation took place, who or what were the participants, and sometimes where, how or whether an event or situation really took place. In other words, roots can be inflected for such things as:

 
  • Agreement: person, number, and gender
  • Sequential, temporal or epistemological grounding: tense, aspect, mode
  •  

    Inflectional operations

     
    • are grammatically required in certain syntactic environments

      Example: The main verb of an English sentence must be inflected for subject and tense.

    • tend to be regular and productive, in comparison to derivational operations, and
    • tend to occur in paradigms .
    Example (English)
     
    • In the following English sentence, come is inflected for person and number by the suffix -s:

      The mailman comes about noon.

    Example (Spanish)
     
    • In the following Spanish noun phrase, las and rojas are inflected for agreement with manzanas in grammatical gender by -a and in number by -s:
     
  • las manzanas rojas ‘the red apples’
  • Generic
      Inflection is a kind of
     
    See also
     
    Sources
     

    Crystal 1985 157

     

    Payne, T. 1997a 26, 233, 234

     

    Quirk, Greenbaum, Leech, and Svartvik 1985 1548

     

    Mish 1991 620

     

    Richards, Platt, and Weber 1985 139

     

    Hartmann and Stork 1972 112

     

    Bybee 1985 2, 99


    Context for this page:

    Go to SIL home page This page is an extract from the LinguaLinks Library, Version 5.0 published on CD-ROM by SIL International, 2003. [Ordering information.]

    Page content last modified: 5 January 2004

    © 2004 SIL International