inflection(redirected from inflexionally)
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the formation of a paradigm for any word that does not belong to the class of uninflected parts of speech; the formation of all the inflected and periphrastic forms of a word.
In inflection, the identity of the word (lexeme) is not destroyed: one and the same word appears in different grammatical forms. Inflection thus differs from word-formation, in which different words are formed from an original word. Inflection in a given class of words consists in altering the words for a certain grammatical category or for various categories, which are called the inflectional categories for the given class of words. For example, Russian nouns are inflected for case and number: sad (“garden,” nominative singular), sáda (genitive singular), sádu (dative singular), and so on; sadý (nominative plural), sadóv (genitive plural), sadám (dative plural), and so on. The nominal inflection—that of substantives, adjectives, numerals, and pronouns—is sometimes called declension, and the inflection of verbs is sometimes known as conjugation. In a narrower sense, however, declension signifies only the altering of nominal words for case, and conjugation refers to only the formation of the personal forms of verbs. The term “form building” (formoobrazovanie) is sometimes used as a synonym for the term “inflection,” but some linguists use the former in a somewhat different sense.
The line between inflection and word-formation is not absolute, and intermediate phenomena are possible. For this reason, a number of linguists have divergent views on the boundaries of inflection in a specific language. For example, there is some question as to whether the formation of Russian verbal aspects can be classified as inflection.
That part of inflection having to do with the formation of inflected forms but not periphrastic forms is also called morphological inflection, or inflection in the narrow sense. Morphological inflection is developed to very different degrees in different languages. For example, it is highly developed in Sanskrit, Latin, Russian, Hungarian, and Arabic but weakly developed in English. In isolating languages, morphological inflection may be altogether absent.
REFERENCESFortunatov, F. F. Izbrannye trudy, vol. 2. Moscow, 1957. Pages 312–31.
Smirnitskii, A. I. “K voprosu o slove (problema ‘tozhdestva slova’).” In Trudy Instituta iazykoznaniia AN SSSR, vol. 4. Moscow, 1954.
Kuznetsov, P. S. Oprintsipakh izucheniia grammatiki. Moscow, 1961.
Zalizniak, A. A. Russkoe imennoe slovoizmenenie. Moscow, 1967.
A. A. ZALIZNIAK
the marker of a complex of grammatical categories, or the system that makes use of such markers. Inflection may be internal or external. The former refers to a system in which word forms are created by altering sounds within the stem. For example, in Arabic, qatala (“he killed”) is divided into the root q-t-l and the vocalism a-a-a, which expresses grammatical meaning (compare qutila [“he has been killed”] with the vocalism u-i-a). External inflection involves the use of synthetic affixes, as in the Russian pol-e (“field”), pol-ia (“fields”), and pol-ei (“of the fields”). Languages in which the morphology relies primarily on inflection are called inflected languages.