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see inflectioninflection,
in grammar. In many languages, words or parts of words are arranged in formally similar sets consisting of a root, or base, and various affixes. Thus walking, walks, walker have in common the root walk and the affixes -ing, -s, and -er.
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inflection of a noun, pronoun, or nonfinite verb form by case. Case meanings are expressed in all languages, but not all languages have declensions. In languages with declensions, case meanings acquire a regular morphological expression—as part of a word form—that is obligatory for all or most words. Languages also have certain indeclinable words, such as pal’to (“overcoat”), Dante (“Dante”), and Chili (“Chile”) in Russian.

The grammatical content of declension varies with the morphological type of a language. In inflected languages, case inflections express not only case meaning but also the grammatical category of number; the grammatical category of gender is often expressed as well. For example, the ending -ōrum in the Latin word librōrum (“of books”) combines the meanings of genitive case, plural number, and masculine gender. In agglutinative languages, case markers express only case meanings. The declensional system in many languages is not uniform even for a particular part of speech.

Indo-European languages have several types of nominal declensions, which depend on characteristics of the stem. In the comparative historical grammar of the Indo-European languages, and especially the Slavic languages, the declensional type is determined by the characteristics of vocalic and consonantal stems: a-stem, o-stem, n-stem, s-stem, and so on. Declensions can also be differentiated according to the forms of certain principal cases. In Latin, for example, declensions are distinguished according to forms of the genitive singular, the first declension having -ae, the second declension having -ī, and so forth. Certain groups of words belong to a mixed declension, in which paradigms of various declensions are combined.

In the course of time, a declensional system may be simplified and made regular. In Russian, for example, the rich older system of substantival declension was replaced by a system of three basic types—called the first, second, and third declensions—whose differentiation is related to gender distinctions and for which the principal form is that of the nominative singular: dom (“house,” first declension), voda (“water,” second declension), and noch’ (“night,” third declension).

In certain languages, declension has been lost entirely. It may be noted that the system collapses more rapidly for nouns than for pronouns. In English and French, for example, nouns are not declined, whereas pronouns have preserved two case forms, one combining the functions of various oblique cases, as with the English “I” and “me” and the French je and me. The loss of declension reflects the development in a language of analytic means for expressing grammatical meanings, as a result of which the role of case inflections is taken over by prepositions, articles, and other auxiliary words.


Meillet, A. Vvedenie v sravnitel’noe izuchenie indoevropeiskikh iazykov, 3rd ed. Moscow-Leningrad, 1938. (Translated from French.)
Zalizniak, A. A. Russkoe imennoe slovoizmenenie. Moscow, 1967.
Vinogradov, V. V. Russkii iazyk, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1973.


References in periodicals archive ?
not knowing (or for having forgotten) something as complicated as the genitive plural form of a second declension Latin noun.
Their internal vowel change for past tense and past participle forms generally show very strong declensions.
The greater part of individuals too, learning the new language, not by art, or by remounting to its rudiments and first principles, but by rote, and by what they commonly heard in conversation, would be extremely perplexed by the intricacy of its declensions and conjugations.
Can there be notional reasons for selection of a particular declension, given that in all of these declensions there is not the problem that ablaut is paradigmatically relevant, and given the simplifications of their historical post-root structure and the formal convergences among them?
WHEN I was struggling with Latin verb declensions and the mysteries of algebra in the salad days of my youth, I dreamt only of keeping my hands clean in a well-paid and stress-free job in one of the cushier, more lucrative professions.
For instance, there is no universal standard for Serbian declensions and conjugations of English words such as "u zvucima jazza" as opposed to "iz predgradja Watts," and the latter italicized word should be "Wattsa.
But far from being an airy-fairy 'arts' subject, there was something logical about languages which I adored - declensions, conjugations, irregular verbs - the whole thing is all dictated by strict rules, which appealed to me almost as much as the speaking itself.
Appendices include the formation of irregular verbs and noun patterns, and a list of complete noun declensions.
distinguish seven basic declensions (kaandkonnad), comprising 22 open-class types (avatud tuubid) and another 23 closed-class types (suletud tuubid).
in o-stem nouns and weak nouns, (b) the extension of the nominative and accusative plural -as marker from masculine a-stem nouns to neuters and to other declensions, (c) the spread of the nominative and accusative plural neuter -o and -a markers from short-syllable neuter a-stems to long-syllable stems, (d) the disappearance of the distinction in the nominative singular of masculine and feminine weak nouns, following the loss of the final nasal -n, whereupon both terminated prevailingly in -a, whereas the neuters in -o and -u in all singular cases and in nominative and accusative plural (Campbell 1959: 222).
But there is also a structural foundation, an integrity that lends consistency, so that although declensions, conjugations, and vocabulary have changed, the English of Chaucer or even Beowulf is connected syntactically and semantically to our current version.
Metrical structure and morphological grade both play a prominent role in the inflectional system as a whole, though their specific contribution varies strikingly between declensions and conjugations.