Inflected Language

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Inflected Language


a fundamental concept in linguistic typology and the morphological classification of languages, referring to a language in which words are altered or formed chiefly by means of inflection. The concept was introduced in 1809 by F. Schlegel, who used it to describe the Semitic, Georgian, and several Indo-European languages.

Inflected languages are divided into two generally overlapping subclasses—those with internal and those with external inflection. External inflection, in contradistinction to affixation, is characterized by polysemy, as well as by fusion with the stem, which is expressed by alternation at the morpheme boundary. An example of polysemy may be found in the form ruk-oi (“by hand”), where the morpheme -oi indicates feminine gender, singular number, and the instrumental case. Internal inflection refers to positionally unconditioned vowel gradation within morphemes that has grammatical meaning, as in the German geht (“goes”), ging (“went”), der Gang (“a stroll”), or the Arabic thahab-a (“was walking”) and thihāb (“the process of walking”). The mechanism of internal inflection is particularly evident in the morphology of the verb, as in ablaut in German and the verb categories of the Semitic languages. Inflection is almost always combined with other formal modes of expressing meaning.


Sapir, E. lazik. Moscow-Leningrad, 1934. (Translated from English.) Kuznetsov, P. S. Morfologicheskaia klassifikatsiia iazykov. Moscow, 1954.
Reformatskii, A. A. “Aggliutinatsiia i fuziia kak dve tendentsii grammaticheskogo stroeniia slova.” In the collection Morfologicheskaia tipologiia i problema klassifikatsii iazykov. Moscow-Leningrad, 1965.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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