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declension:

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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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Declension

 

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.

REFERENCES

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.

V. A. VINOGRADOV

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Each of the declensions identified above contain subtypes, characterized by distinctive form inventories and/or patterns of interdependency.
Declension II (the e-type): traditional strong feminines (talu, lar)
iv) With the exception of a few neuter nouns (e.g., word 'word', tungol 'star', cynn 'race'), the a-declension was the only one in which there was no syncretism of the nominative/accusative plural with other cases, whereas in all the other declensions the nominative/accusative plural forms coincided more or less extensively with other inflectional markers, with the consequence that they were often highly ambiguous and that the opposition between singular and plural was often blurred.
The declensions identified by Viitso and Ernstreits (2012) capture these sorts of archistructure.
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).
Such a presentation of Old English nominal declensions seems to be extremely economical at first, especially in comparison with such monumental and elaborate works as the classical Campbell's Old English Grammar (1959).
This new citizen would be furnished with a brain hard-wired for geometry, Latin declensions and BBC English and would in the fullness of time relish fine wines, music and poetry.
Moreover, without a sound knowledge of language structures, conjugations, declensions, vocabulary, and syntax, the dictionary is of little help anyway.
Russian?) have so many more words than English due to more cases and declensions (i.e., fewer base words but more variation in endings) that they might be more fruitful.
However, there is still a blend of weak and strong verbal declensions whose 'push-pull' effect poses learning difficulties among ESL students who lack native intuition of inflectional grammaticality.
This means that the instructor need not spend time on the alphabet, basic pronunciation, declensions, conjugations, and simple sentence patterns, because they are similar in both varieties of the language.
Then, after the latest teenage pregnancy or serial killing has been confirmed, they retire upstairs to practice their Latin declensions, or whatever it is they learn these days.