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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 ?
In Cours de linguistique generale, Saussure examines the declension of the Czech nouns slovo 'word' and zena 'woman', and pointing out the absence of an overt desinence in the genitive plural: slov and zen, he famously states: "On voit donc qu'un signe materiel n'est pas necessaire pour exprimer une idee; la langue peut se contenter de l'opposition de quelque chose avec rien" (Saussure 1964: 123-124).
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.
As a grammarian Aristophanes founded a school and wrote a treatise that laid down rules for Greek declensions, among other things.
In old age he made his home in London, on the Railton Road in Brixton, "front line" between the two declensions of Thatcherism.
Among the topics are the present tense by conjugation, first and second declension adjectives, uses of the genitive, pluperfect and future perfect active, passive of the perfect system, demonstratives, direct questions, vocative and locative, indefinite adjectives, the ablative absolute, and fourth and fifth declensions.
Sonnets, syllogisms, declensions, puns, quips and carefully constructed insults are fired off in a nonstop, ever-escalating battle of wits.
I didn't know it at the time but all those hours struggling over German declensions as a teenager were a preparation for this moment.
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).
You once remarked that "this book was made for my cinema"--that was in the magazine Les Inrockuptibles--but with all the declensions of these languages, with your voice, with accents or without them, isn't it also a way of saying, "I am here," working with an icon of French literature?