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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



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.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
I will do this by taking a broader perspective of the data, identifying implicational patterns that do not hold only within a particular sub-type or declension, but which may hold across the entire language or across just a small part of it.
Jakobson notices how the class of nouns that belong to the first declension (Dec11, cf.
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).
It's real meaning is an example of a declension or conjugation, giving all the inflectional forms of a word.
Dipple shows how other Anabaptists, like Menno Simons, turned to history in their battles with their opponents, and developed a notion of the "fall of the Church." For Menno, the fall did not occur at a single moment, but rather took place over time--a declension and perversion of the original purity.
* not knowing (or for having forgotten) something as complicated as the genitive plural form of a second declension Latin noun.
One is the lugubrious narrative of declension. The other is the facile, faintly whiggish tale of little adults becoming angels becoming rascals becoming consumers.
Then there are the models, most of which seem to have been drawn from a list of first declension Latin nouns.
Grammar is also approached intuitively with the emphasis placed on how the words strung together sound and look--not which memorized declension fits this circumstance.
By Olasky and Perry's overheated telling, the men who served as advance scouts for this wild toboggan ride of moral declension were very bad men indeed and elitist, and smug, and arrogant as well.
Second, the study refutes understanding evangelical print culture through theories of secularization or narratives of declension. In response, she demonstrates that "rather than accommodating religion to advancing capitalism, evangelicals configured commerce as a religious instrument" (19, 244).
She tells me she was a Latin scholar at school and her favourite declension was Veni Vidi Visa (I came, I saw, I shopped).