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In linguistic morphology, inflection (or
inflexion
inflexion
) is a process of word formation in which a word is modified to express different
grammatical categories A grammatical category or grammatical feature is a property of items within the grammar In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of la ...
such as tense, case,
voice The human voice consists of sound In physics Physics is the that studies , its , its and behavior through , and the related entities of and . "Physical science is that department of knowledge which relates to the order of natu ...
,
aspect Aspect or Aspects may refer to: Entertainment * ''Aspect magazine'', a biannual DVD magazine showcasing new media art * Aspect Co., a Japanese video game company * Aspects (band), a hip hop group from Bristol, England * Aspects (Benny Carter album ...
,
person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reason Reason is the capacity of consciously applying logic Logic is an interdisciplinary field which studies truth and reasoning Reason is ...
,
number A number is a mathematical object A mathematical object is an abstract concept arising in mathematics. In the usual language of mathematics, an ''object'' is anything that has been (or could be) formally defined, and with which one may do deduc ...
,
gender Gender is the range of characteristics pertaining to, and differentiating between femininity Femininity (also called womanliness or girlishness) is a set of attributes, behaviors, and roles generally associated with women A woman is ...
, mood,
animacy Animacy (antonym: inanimacy) is a grammatical In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The ...
, and
definiteness In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic ...
. The inflection of
verb A verb () is a word In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language ...
s is called ''
conjugation Conjugation or conjugate may refer to: Linguistics * Grammatical conjugation, the modification of a verb from its basic form * Emotive conjugation or Russell's conjugation, the use of loaded language Mathematics * Complex conjugation, the chang ...
'', and one can refer to the inflection of
noun A noun () is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning (linguistics), meaning. In many l ...

noun
s,
adjective In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most langu ...
s,
adverb An adverb is a word or an expression that modifies a verb A verb () is a word (part of speech) that in syntax conveys an action (''bring'', ''read'', ''walk'', ''run'', ''learn''), an occurrence (''happen'', ''become''), or a state of being ...

adverb
s,
pronoun In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languag ...

pronoun
s,
determiners A determiner, also called determinative (abbreviated An abbreviation (from Latin ''brevis'', meaning ''short'') is a shortened form of a word or phrase, by any method. It may consist of a group of letters, or words taken from the full versio ...

determiners
,
participle In linguistics, a participle () (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Throu ...
s, prepositions and
postpositions Prepositions and postpositions, together called adpositions (or broadly, in English, simply prepositions), are a class of words used to express spatial or temporal relations (''in'', ''under'', ''towards'', ''before'') or mark various semantic r ...
, numerals, articles, etc., as ''
declension In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic ...
''. An inflection expresses grammatical categories with
affix In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the met ...
ation (such as
prefix A prefix is an affix In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) ...
,
suffix In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languag ...
,
infix An infix is an affix In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) a ...
, circumfix, and transfix), apophony (as
Indo-European ablaut In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic ...
), or other modifications. For example, the Latin verb ', meaning "I will lead", includes the suffix ', expressing person (first), number (singular), and tense-mood (future indicative or present subjunctive). The use of this suffix is an inflection. In contrast, in the English clause "I will lead", the word ''lead'' is not inflected for any of person, number, or tense; it is simply the bare form of a verb. The inflected form of a word often contains both one or more
free morpheme In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic br ...
s (a unit of meaning which can stand by itself as a word), and one or more
bound morpheme In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the meth ...
s (a unit of meaning which cannot stand alone as a word). For example, the English word ''cars'' is a noun that is inflected for
number A number is a mathematical object A mathematical object is an abstract concept arising in mathematics. In the usual language of mathematics, an ''object'' is anything that has been (or could be) formally defined, and with which one may do deduc ...
, specifically to express the plural; the content morpheme ''car'' is unbound because it could stand alone as a word, while the suffix ''-s'' is bound because it cannot stand alone as a word. These two morphemes together form the inflected word ''cars''. Words that are never subject to inflection are said to be invariant; for example, the English verb ''must'' is an invariant item: it never takes a suffix or changes form to signify a different grammatical category. Its categories can be determined only from its context. Languages that seldom make use of inflection, such as
English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family The Indo-European languages are a language family A language is a structured system of communication use ...

English
, are said to be
analytic Generally speaking, analytic (from el, ἀναλυτικός, ''analytikos'') refers to the "having the ability to analyze" or "division into elements or principles". Analytic can also have the following meanings: Natural sciences Chemistry ...
. Analytic languages that do not make use of
derivational morphemes A morpheme is the smallest meaningful lexical itemIn lexicography, a lexical item (or lexical unit / LU, lexical entry) is a single word, a part of a word, or a chain of words ( catena) that forms the basic elements of a language's lexicon A ...
, such as
Standard Chinese Standard Chinese (), in linguistics known as Standard Northern Mandarin, Standard Beijing Mandarin or simply Mandarin, is a dialect of Mandarin that emerged as the lingua franca A lingua franca (; ; for plurals see ), also known as a bri ...
, are said to be isolating. Requiring the forms or inflections of more than one word in a sentence to be compatible with each other according to the rules of the language is known as concord or
agreement Agreement may refer to: Agreements between people and organizations * Gentlemen's agreement, not enforceable by law * Trade agreement, between countries * Consensus, a decision-making process * Contract, enforceable in a court of law ** Meeting of ...
. For example, in "the man jumps", "man" is a singular noun, so "jump" is constrained in the present tense to use the third person singular suffix "s". Languages that have some degree of inflection are
synthetic language A synthetic language uses inflection In linguistic morphology Morphology, from the Greek and meaning "study of shape", may refer to: Disciplines * Morphology (archaeology), study of the shapes or forms of artifacts * Morphology (astronom ...
s. These can be highly inflected (such as
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languag ...

Latin
, Greek,
Biblical Hebrew Biblical Hebrew ( ''Ivrit Miqra'it'' or ''Leshon ha-Miqra''), also called Classical Hebrew, is an archaic form of Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroas ...
, and
Sanskrit Sanskrit (; attributively , ; nominally , , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language be ...

Sanskrit
), or slightly inflected (such as
English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family The Indo-European languages are a language family A language is a structured system of communication use ...

English
,
Dutch Dutch commonly refers to: * Something of, from, or related to the Netherlands * Dutch people () * Dutch language () Dutch may also refer to: Places * Dutch, West Virginia, a community in the United States * Pennsylvania Dutch Country People E ...
,
Persian Persian may refer to: * People and things from Iran, historically called ''Persia'' in the English language ** Persians, Persian people, the majority ethnic group in Iran, not to be conflated with the Iranian peoples ** Persian language, an Irania ...
). Languages that are so inflected that a sentence can consist of a single highly inflected word (such as many
Native American languages Over a thousand Indigenous languages An indigenous language or autochthonous language, is a language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign la ...
) are called
polysynthetic language In linguistic typology Linguistic typology (or language typology) is a field of linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for ...
s. Languages in which each inflection conveys only a single grammatical category, such as Finnish, are known as
agglutinative language An agglutinative language is a type of synthetic language A synthetic language uses inflection In linguistic morphology Morphology, from the Greek and meaning "study of shape", may refer to: Disciplines * Morphology (archaeology), study ...
s, while languages in which a single inflection can convey multiple grammatical roles (such as both nominative case and plural, as in Latin and
German German(s) may refer to: * Germany (of or related to) **Germania (historical use) * Germans, citizens of Germany, people of German ancestry, or native speakers of the German language ** For citizens of Germany, see also German nationality law **Ger ...

German
) are called
fusional Fusional languages or inflected languages are a type of synthetic language, distinguished from agglutinative languages by their tendency to use a single inflectional morpheme to denote multiple grammar, grammatical, syntactic, or semantic features ...
.


Examples in English

In English most nouns are inflected for
number A number is a mathematical object A mathematical object is an abstract concept arising in mathematics. In the usual language of mathematics, an ''object'' is anything that has been (or could be) formally defined, and with which one may do deduc ...
with the inflectional plural
affix In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the met ...
''-s'' (as in "dog" → "dog-s"), and most English verbs are inflected for tense with the inflectional past tense affix ''-ed'' (as in "call" → "call-ed"). English also inflects verbs by affixation to mark the third person singular in the present tense (with ''-s''), and the present participle (with ''-ing''). English short adjectives are inflected to mark comparative and superlative forms (with ''-er'' and ''-est'' respectively). There are nine inflectional affixes in the English language. Despite the march toward regularization, modern English retains traces of its ancestry, with a minority of its words still using inflection by
ablaut In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic ...
(sound change, mostly in verbs) and
umlaut Umlaut may refer to: Language and writing *Umlaut (diacritic), a diacritical mark that consists of two dots ( ¨ ) placed over a letter **Metal umlaut, used in names of heavy metal or hard rock bands for visual rather than phonetic effe ...
(a particular type of sound change, mostly in nouns), as well as long-short vowel alternation. For example: * ''Write, wrote, written'' (marking by
ablaut In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic ...
variation, and also suffixing in the
participle In linguistics, a participle () (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Throu ...
) * ''Sing, sang, sung'' (ablaut) * ''Foot, feet'' (marking by
umlaut Umlaut may refer to: Language and writing *Umlaut (diacritic), a diacritical mark that consists of two dots ( ¨ ) placed over a letter **Metal umlaut, used in names of heavy metal or hard rock bands for visual rather than phonetic effe ...
variation) * ''Mouse, mice'' (umlaut) * ''Child, children'' (ablaut, and also suffixing in the plural) For details, see
English plural English nouns are inflection, inflected for grammatical number, meaning that, if they are of the countable noun, countable type, they generally have different forms for Grammatical number, singular and plural. This article discusses the variety o ...
,
English verbs Verb A verb () is a word (part of speech) that in syntax conveys an action (''bring'', ''read'', ''walk'', ''run'', ''learn''), an occurrence (''happen'', ''become''), or a state of being (''be'', ''exist'', ''stand''). In the usual descript ...
, and
English irregular verbs The English language English is a West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family The Indo-European languages are a language family A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including spe ...
.


Regular and irregular inflection

When a given
word class In traditional grammar A tradition is a belief A belief is an Attitude (psychology), attitude that something is the case, or that some proposition about the world is truth, true. In epistemology, philosophers use the term "belief" to refer t ...
is subject to inflection in a particular language, there are generally one or more standard patterns of inflection (the ''paradigms'' described below) that words in that class may follow. Words which follow such a standard pattern are said to be regular; those that inflect differently are called irregular. For instance, many languages that feature
verb A verb () is a word In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language ...
inflection have both regular verbs and irregular verbs. In English, regular verbs form their
past tense The past tense is a grammatical tense In grammar, tense is a grammatical category, category that expresses time reference. Tenses are usually manifested by the use of specific forms of verbs, particularly in their grammatical conjugation, co ...
and
past participle In linguistics, a participle () (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to s ...
with the ending ''- ''. Therefore, verbs like ''play'', ''arrive'' and ''enter'' are regular, while verbs like ''sing'', ''keep'' and ''go'' are irregular. Irregular verbs often preserve patterns that were regular in past forms of the language, but which have now become anomalous; in rare cases, there are regular verbs that were irregular in past forms of the language. (For more details see
English verbs Verb A verb () is a word (part of speech) that in syntax conveys an action (''bring'', ''read'', ''walk'', ''run'', ''learn''), an occurrence (''happen'', ''become''), or a state of being (''be'', ''exist'', ''stand''). In the usual descript ...
and
English irregular verbs The English language English is a West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family The Indo-European languages are a language family A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including spe ...
.) Other types of irregular inflected form include irregular
plural The plural (sometimes abbreviated An abbreviation (from Latin ''brevis'', meaning ''short'') is a shortened form of a word or phrase, by any method. It may consist of a group of letters, or words taken from the full version of the word or ph ...

plural
nouns, such as the English ''mice'', ''children'' and ''women'' (see
English plural English nouns are inflection, inflected for grammatical number, meaning that, if they are of the countable noun, countable type, they generally have different forms for Grammatical number, singular and plural. This article discusses the variety o ...
) and the French ' (the plural of ', "eye"); and irregular
comparative In general linguistics, the comparative is a syntactic construction that serves to express a comparison between two (or more) entities or groups of entities in quality or degree - see also comparison (grammar) Comparison is a feature in the mor ...

comparative
and
superlative Comparison is a feature in the morphology Morphology, from the Greek and meaning "study of shape", may refer to: Disciplines * Morphology (archaeology), study of the shapes or forms of artifacts * Morphology (astronomy), study of the shape of a ...
forms of adjectives or adverbs, such as the English ''better'' and ''best'' (which correspond to the positive form ''good'' or ''well''). Irregularities can have four basic causes: #
euphony Phonaesthetics (also spelled phonesthetics in North America North America is a continent A continent is any of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any strict criteria, up t ...

euphony
: Regular inflection would result in forms that sound esthetically unpleasing or are difficult to pronounce (English ''far'' → ''farther'' or ''further,''
Spanish
Spanish
' → ', ' vs. ' → ', '',''
Portuguese Portuguese may refer to: * anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Portugal ** Portuguese cuisine, traditional foods ** Portuguese language, a Romance language *** Portuguese dialects, variants of the Portuguese language ** Portu ...

Portuguese
vs. Spanish ' → Portuguese ' vs. Spanish '). #
principal parts In language learning Language acquisition is the process by which humans acquire the capacity to perceive and comprehend language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), ges ...
: These are generally considered to have been formed independently of one another, so the student must memorize them when learning a new word. Example:
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languag ...
' → Spanish '. # strong vs. weak inflection: In some cases, two inflection systems exist, conventionally classified as "strong" and "weak." For instance, English and German have weak verbs that form the past tense and past participle by adding an ending (English ''jump'' → ''jumped,'' German ' → ') and strong verbs that change vowel, and in some cases form the past participle by adding ' (English ''swim'' → ''swam,'' ''swum,'' German ' → ', '). Ancient Greek verbs are likewise said to have had a first
aorist Aorist (; abbreviated An abbreviation (from Latin ''brevis'', meaning ''short'') is a shortened form of a word or phrase, by any method. It may consist of a group of letters, or words taken from the full version of the word or phrase; for exam ...
() and a second aorist (). #
suppletion In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic bra ...
: The "irregular" form was originally derived from a different root (English ''person'' → ''people''). The comparative and superlative forms of ''good'' in many languages display this phenomenon. For more details on some of the considerations that apply to regularly and irregularly inflected forms, see the article on
regular and irregular verbs A regular verb is any verb whose Verb conjugation, conjugation follows the typical pattern, or one of the typical patterns, of the language to which it belongs. A verb whose conjugation follows a different pattern is called an irregular verb. Th ...
.


Declension and conjugation

Two traditional grammatical terms refer to inflections of specific
word class In traditional grammar A tradition is a belief A belief is an Attitude (psychology), attitude that something is the case, or that some proposition about the world is truth, true. In epistemology, philosophers use the term "belief" to refer t ...
es: * Inflecting a
noun A noun () is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning (linguistics), meaning. In many l ...

noun
,
pronoun In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languag ...

pronoun
,
adjective In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most langu ...
,
adverb An adverb is a word or an expression that modifies a verb A verb () is a word (part of speech) that in syntax conveys an action (''bring'', ''read'', ''walk'', ''run'', ''learn''), an occurrence (''happen'', ''become''), or a state of being ...

adverb
,
article Article often refers to: * Article (grammar) An article is any member of a class of dedicated words that are used with noun phrases to mark the identifiability of the referents of the noun phrases. The category of articles constitutes a part ...
or
determiner A determiner, also called determinative (abbreviated An abbreviation (from Latin ''brevis'', meaning ''short'') is a shortened form of a word or phrase, by any method. It may consist of a group of letters, or words taken from the full versio ...
is known as declining it. The forms may express
number A number is a mathematical object A mathematical object is an abstract concept arising in mathematics. In the usual language of mathematics, an ''object'' is anything that has been (or could be) formally defined, and with which one may do deduc ...
, case,
gender Gender is the range of characteristics pertaining to, and differentiating between femininity Femininity (also called womanliness or girlishness) is a set of attributes, behaviors, and roles generally associated with women A woman is ...
or degree of comparison. * Inflecting a
verb A verb () is a word In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language ...
is called conjugating it. The forms may express tense, mood,
voice The human voice consists of sound In physics Physics is the that studies , its , its and behavior through , and the related entities of and . "Physical science is that department of knowledge which relates to the order of natu ...
,
aspect Aspect or Aspects may refer to: Entertainment * ''Aspect magazine'', a biannual DVD magazine showcasing new media art * Aspect Co., a Japanese video game company * Aspects (band), a hip hop group from Bristol, England * Aspects (Benny Carter album ...
,
person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reason Reason is the capacity of consciously applying logic Logic is an interdisciplinary field which studies truth and reasoning Reason is ...
, or number. An organized list of the inflected forms of a given
lexeme A lexeme () is a unit of lexical meaning that underlies a set of words that are related through inflection In linguistic morphology Morphology, from the Greek and meaning "study of shape", may refer to: Disciplines * Morphology (archaeol ...
or root word is called its ''
declension In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic ...
'' if it is a noun, or its ''
conjugation Conjugation or conjugate may refer to: Linguistics * Grammatical conjugation, the modification of a verb from its basic form * Emotive conjugation or Russell's conjugation, the use of loaded language Mathematics * Complex conjugation, the chang ...
'' if it is a verb. Below is the declension of the English pronoun ''I'', which is inflected for case and number. The pronoun ''who'' is also inflected according to case. Its declension is defective, in the sense that it lacks a reflexive form. The following table shows the conjugation of the verb ''to arrive'' in the indicative mood:
suffixes In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languag ...
inflect it for person, number, and tense: The non-finite forms ''arrive'' (bare infinitive), ''arrived'' (past participle) and ''arriving'' (gerund/present participle), although not inflected for person or number, can also be regarded as part of the conjugation of the verb ''to arrive''. Compound verb forms, such as ''I have arrived'', ''I had arrived'', or ''I will arrive'', can be included also in the conjugation of the verb for didactic purposes, but they are not overt inflections of ''arrive''. The formula for deriving the covert form, in which the relevant inflections do not occur in the main verb, is :pronoun + conjugated
auxiliary verb An auxiliary verb (abbreviated An abbreviation (from Latin ''brevis'', meaning ''short'') is a shortened form of a word or phrase, by any method. It may consist of a group of letters, or words taken from the full version of the word or phrase; ...
+ non-finite form of main verb.


Inflectional paradigm

An inflectional paradigm refers to a pattern (usually a set of inflectional endings), where a class of words follow the same pattern. Nominal inflectional paradigms are called ''declensions'', and verbal inflectional paradigms are termed ''conjugations''. For instance, there are five types of
Latin declension Latin declension is the set of patterns according to which Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communi ...
. Words that belong to the first declension usually end in ''-a'' and are usually feminine. These words share a common inflectional framework. In
Old English Old English (, ), or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest recorded form of the English language English is a West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family The Indo-European languages are a language family A language ...
, nouns are divided into two major categories of declension, the ''strong'' and ''weak'' ones, as shown below: The terms "strong declension" and "weak declension" are primarily relevant to well-known
dependent-marking language A dependent-marking language has grammatical markers of agreement Agreement may refer to: Agreements between people and organizations * Gentlemen's agreement, not enforceable by law * Trade agreement, between countries * Consensus, a decision-makin ...
s (such as the
Indo-European languages The Indo-European languages are a language family A language family is a group of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation ...
, or
Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan Japan ( ja, 日本, or , and formally ) is an island country An island country or an island nation is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or ...

Japanese
). In dependent-marking languages, nouns in adpositional (prepositional or postpositional) phrases can carry inflectional morphemes. In
head-marking language A language is head-marking if the grammatical In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The t ...
s, the adpositions can carry the inflection in adpositional phrases. This means that these languages will have inflected adpositions. In Western Apache ( San Carlos dialect), the postposition ''-ká’'' 'on' is inflected for person and number with prefixes: Traditional grammars have specific terms for inflections of nouns and verbs but not for those of
adposition Prepositions and postpositions, together called adpositions (or broadly, in English, simply prepositions), are a class of words used to express spatial or temporal relations (''in'', ''under'', ''towards'', ''before'') or mark various semantic r ...
s.


Compared to derivation

Inflection is the process of adding ''inflectional
morphemes A morpheme is the smallest meaningful lexical itemIn lexicography, a lexical item (or lexical unit / LU, lexical entry) is a single word, a part of a word, or a chain of words ( catena) that forms the basic elements of a language's lexicon A ...
'' that modify a verb's tense, mood, aspect, voice, person, or number or a noun's case, gender, or number, rarely affecting the word's meaning or class. Examples of applying inflectional morphemes to words are adding -''s'' to the root ''dog'' to form ''dogs'' and adding -''ed'' to ''wait'' to form ''waited''. In contrast, derivation is the process of adding ''derivational morphemes'', which create a new word from existing words and change the semantic meaning or the part of speech of the affected word, such as by changing a noun to a verb. Distinctions between verbal moods are mainly indicated by derivational morphemes. Words are rarely listed in dictionaries on the basis of their inflectional morphemes (in which case they would be lexical items). However, they often are listed on the basis of their derivational morphemes. For instance, English dictionaries list ''readable'' and ''readability'', words with derivational suffixes, along with their root ''read''. However, no traditional English dictionary lists ''book'' as one entry and ''books'' as a separate entry; the same goes for ''jump'' and ''jumped''.


Inflectional morphology

Languages that add inflectional morphemes to words are sometimes called ''
inflectional language Fusional languages or inflected languages are a type of synthetic language A synthetic language uses inflection In linguistic morphology Morphology, from the Greek and meaning "study of shape", may refer to: Disciplines * Morphology (a ...
s'', which is a synonym for ''inflected languages''. Morphemes may be added in several different ways: *
Affix In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the met ...
ation, or simply adding morphemes onto the word without changing the root; *
Reduplication In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic ...

Reduplication
, repeating all or part of a word to change its meaning; * Alternation, exchanging one sound for another in the root (usually vowel sounds, as in the
ablaut In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic ...
process found in
Germanic strong verb In the Germanic languages The Germanic languages are a branch of the Indo-European The Indo-European languages are a language family native to western and southern Eurasia. It comprises most of the languages of Europe together with tho ...
s and the
umlaut Umlaut may refer to: Language and writing *Umlaut (diacritic), a diacritical mark that consists of two dots ( ¨ ) placed over a letter **Metal umlaut, used in names of heavy metal or hard rock bands for visual rather than phonetic effe ...
often found in
noun A noun () is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning (linguistics), meaning. In many l ...

noun
s, among others); * Suprasegmental variations, such as of
stress Stress may refer to: Science and medicine * Stress (biology), an organism's response to a stressor such as an environmental condition * Stress (linguistics), relative emphasis or prominence given to a syllable in a word, or to a word in a phrase ...
,
pitch Pitch may refer to: Acoustic frequency * Pitch (music), the perceived frequency of sound including "definite pitch" and "indefinite pitch" ** Absolute pitch or "perfect pitch" ** Pitch class, a set of all pitches that are a whole number of octave ...
or tone, where no sounds are added or changed but the intonation and relative strength of each sound is altered regularly. For an example, see
Initial-stress-derived noun Initial-stress derivation is a phonology, phonological process in English language, English that moves Stress (linguistics), stress to the first syllable of verbs when they are used as nouns or adjectives. (This is an example of a suprafix.) This p ...
.


Inflection through reduplication

Reduplication In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic ...

Reduplication
is a morphological process where a constituent is repeated. The direct repetition of a word or root is called ''total reduplication'' (or ''full reduplication''). The repetition of a segment is referred to as ''partial reduplication''. Reduplication can serve both derivational and inflectional functions. A few examples are given below:


Inflection through tone change

Palancar and Léonard provided an example with Tlatepuzco Chinantec (an Oto-Manguean language spoken in Southern
Mexico Mexico, officially the United Mexican States, is a country A country is a distinct territorial body or political entity A polity is an identifiable political entity—any group of people who have a collective identity, who are organi ...

Mexico
), where tones are able to distinguish mood, person, and number: Case can be distinguished with tone as well, as in
Maasai language Maasai (Masai) or Maa (; autonym Autonym may refer to: * Autonym, the name used by a person to refer to themselves or their language; see Exonym and endonym An endonym (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, fro ...
(a
Nilo-Saharan language The Nilo-Saharan languages are a proposed family of African languages The languages of Africa are divided into several major Language family, language families: *Niger–Congo languages, Niger–Congo or perhaps Atlantic–Congo languages (in ...
spoken in
Kenya ) , national_anthem = "Ee Mungu Nguvu Yetu "Ee Mungu Nguvu Yetu" (, ) is the national anthem of Kenya. History "Ee Mungu Nguvu Yetu"'s lyrics were originally written in Swahili language, Kiswahili, the national language of Kenya ...

Kenya
and
Tanzania Tanzania (; ), officially the United Republic of Tanzania ( sw, Jamhuri ya Muungano wa Tanzania), is a country in East Africa East Africa or Eastern Africa is the eastern subregion of the Africa Africa is the world's second-larges ...

Tanzania
) (Hyman, 2016):


In various languages


Indo-European languages (fusional)

Because the
Proto-Indo-European language Proto-Indo-European (PIE) is the theorized common ancestor of the Indo-European language family The Indo-European languages are a language family A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech ( ...
was highly inflected, all of its descendant
Indo-European languages The Indo-European languages are a language family A language family is a group of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation ...
, such as
Albanian
Albanian
,
Armenian Armenian may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to Armenia, a country in the South Caucasus region of Eurasia * Armenians, the national people of Armenia, or people of Armenian descent ** Armenian language, the Indo-European language spoke ...
,
English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family The Indo-European languages are a language family A language is a structured system of communication use ...

English
,
German German(s) may refer to: * Germany (of or related to) **Germania (historical use) * Germans, citizens of Germany, people of German ancestry, or native speakers of the German language ** For citizens of Germany, see also German nationality law **Ger ...

German
, Ukrainian,
Russian Russian refers to anything related to Russia, including: *Russians (, ''russkiye''), an ethnic group of the East Slavic peoples, primarily living in Russia and neighboring countries *Rossiyane (), Russian language term for all citizens and people ...
,
Persian Persian may refer to: * People and things from Iran, historically called ''Persia'' in the English language ** Persians, Persian people, the majority ethnic group in Iran, not to be conflated with the Iranian peoples ** Persian language, an Irania ...
,
Kurdish
Kurdish
,
Italian Italian may refer to: * Anything of, from, or related to the people of Italy Italy ( it, Italia ), officially the Italian Republic ( it, Repubblica Italiana, links=no ), is a country consisting of a peninsula delimited by the Alps ...

Italian
,
Irish Irish most commonly refers to: * Someone or something of, from, or related to: ** Ireland Ireland ( ; ga, Éire ; Ulster Scots dialect, Ulster-Scots: ) is an island in the Atlantic Ocean, North Atlantic. It is separated from Great Britai ...
,
Spanish
Spanish
,
French
French
,
Hindi Hindi (Devanagari Devanagari ( ; , , Sanskrit pronunciation: ), also called Nagari (),Kathleen Kuiper (2010), The Culture of India, New York: The Rosen Publishing Group, , page 83 is a left-to-right abugida, based on the ancient Brah ...

Hindi
, Marathi,
Urdu Urdu (; ur, , ALA-LC ALA-LC (American Library Association The American Library Association (ALA) is a nonprofit organization A nonprofit organization (NPO), also known as a non-business entity, not-for-profit organization, or nonpr ...
,
Bengali Bengali or Bengalee, or Bengalese may refer to: *something of, from, or related to Bengal, a large region in South Asia * Bengalis, an ethnic and linguistic group of the region * Bengali language, the language they speak ** Bengali alphabet, the w ...
, and
Nepali
Nepali
, are inflected to a greater or lesser extent. In general, older Indo-European languages such as
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languag ...

Latin
,
Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Modern Greek (, , or , ''Kiní Neoellinikí Glóssa''), generally referred to by speakers simply as Greek (, ), refers collectively to the diale ...
,
Old English Old English (, ), or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest recorded form of the English language English is a West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family The Indo-European languages are a language family A language ...
,
Old Norse Old Norse, Old Nordic, or Old Scandinavian is a stage of development of North Germanic dialects before their final divergence into separate Nordic languages. Old Norse was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia Scandinavia; : ''Skades ...
,
Old Church Slavonic Old Church Slavonic or Old Slavonic () was the first Slavic literary language A literary language is the form (register) of a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ...
and
Sanskrit Sanskrit (; attributively , ; nominally , , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language be ...

Sanskrit
are extensively inflected because of their temporal proximity to Proto-Indo-European. Deflexion has caused modern versions of some Indo-European languages that were previously highly inflected to be much less so; an example is Modern English, as compared to Old English. In general, languages where deflexion occurs replace inflectional complexity with more rigorous
word order In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languag ...
, which provides the lost inflectional details. Most
Slavic languages The Slavic languages, also known as the Slavonic languages, are Indo-European languages The Indo-European languages are a language family A language family is a group of language A language is a structured system of communica ...

Slavic languages
and some
Indo-Aryan languages The Indo-Aryan languages (or sometimes Indic languagesIn modern and colloquial context, the term "Indic" also refers to both the language families of the Indian subcontinent: Aryan and Dravidian. See e.g. ) are a branch of the Indo-Iranian lan ...
are an exception to the general Indo-European deflexion trend, continuing to be highly inflected (in some cases acquiring additional inflectional complexity and
grammatical gender In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most langua ...
s, as in
Czech Czech may refer to: * Anything from or related to the Czech Republic The Czech Republic, also known by its short-form name Czechia and formerly known as Bohemia, is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is bordered by Austria to th ...
& Marathi).


English

Old English Old English (, ), or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest recorded form of the English language English is a West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family The Indo-European languages are a language family A language ...
was a moderately inflected language, using an extensive case system similar to that of modern Icelandic or
German German(s) may refer to: * Germany (of or related to) **Germania (historical use) * Germans, citizens of Germany, people of German ancestry, or native speakers of the German language ** For citizens of Germany, see also German nationality law **Ger ...

German
. Middle and Modern English lost progressively more of the Old English inflectional system. Modern English is considered a weakly inflected language, since its nouns have only vestiges of inflection (plurals, the pronouns), and its regular verbs have only four forms: an inflected form for the past indicative and subjunctive (''looked''), an inflected form for the third-person-singular present indicative (''looks''), an inflected form for the present participle (''looking''), and an uninflected form for everything else (''look''). While the English possessive indicator '''s'' (as in "Jane's book") is a remnant of the Old English
genitive case In grammar In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, a ...
suffix, it is now considered by syntacticians not to be a suffix but a
clitic In morphology Morphology, from the Greek and meaning "study of shape", may refer to: Disciplines * Morphology (archaeology), study of the shapes or forms of artifacts * Morphology (astronomy), study of the shape of astronomical objects such as ne ...
, although some linguists argue that it has properties of both.


Scandinavian languages

Old Norse Old Norse, Old Nordic, or Old Scandinavian is a stage of development of North Germanic dialects before their final divergence into separate Nordic languages. Old Norse was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia Scandinavia; : ''Skades ...
was inflected, but modern Swedish,
Norwegian Norwegian, Norwayan, or Norsk may refer to: *Something of, from, or related to Norway Norway, officially the Kingdom of Norway,Names in the official and recognised languages: Bokmål Bokmål (, ; literally "book tongue") is an official ...
, and
Danish Danish may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to the country of Denmark * A national or citizen of Denmark, also called a "Dane," see Demographics of Denmark * Danish people or Danes, people with a Danish ancestral or ethnic identity * Dani ...
have lost much of their inflection.
Grammatical case Grammatical case is a term regarding a manner of categorizing s, s, s, s, and s according to their traditionally corresponding s within a given , , or . In some languages, nouns, pronouns, adjectives, s, participles, prepositions, numerals, art ...
has largely died out with the exception of
pronoun In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languag ...

pronoun
s, just like English. However,
adjective In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most langu ...
s,
noun A noun () is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning (linguistics), meaning. In many l ...

noun
s,
determiners A determiner, also called determinative (abbreviated An abbreviation (from Latin ''brevis'', meaning ''short'') is a shortened form of a word or phrase, by any method. It may consist of a group of letters, or words taken from the full versio ...
and articles still have different forms according to grammatical number and grammatical gender. Danish and Swedish only inflect for two different genders while Norwegian has to some degree retained the feminine forms and inflects for three grammatical genders like Icelandic. However in comparison to Icelandic, there are considerably fewer feminine forms left in the language. In comparison, Icelandic preserves almost all of the inflections of Old Norse and remains heavily inflected. It retains all the grammatical cases from Old Norse and is inflected for number and three different grammatical genders. The dual number forms are however almost completely lost in comparison to Old Norse. Unlike other Germanic languages, nouns are inflected for
definiteness In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic ...
in all Scandinavian languages, like in the following case for Norwegian (nynorsk): Adjectives and
participle In linguistics, a participle () (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Throu ...
s are also inflected for definiteness in all Scandinavian languages like in
Proto-Germanic Proto-Germanic (abbreviated PGmc; also called Common Germanic) is the reconstructed Reconstruction may refer to: Politics, history, and sociology *Reconstruction (law), the transfer of a company's (or several companies') business to a new ...
.


Other Germanic languages

Modern
German German(s) may refer to: * Germany (of or related to) **Germania (historical use) * Germans, citizens of Germany, people of German ancestry, or native speakers of the German language ** For citizens of Germany, see also German nationality law **Ger ...

German
remains moderately inflected, retaining four noun cases, although the genitive started falling into disuse in all but formal writing in
Early New High German Early New High German (ENHG) is a term for the period in the history of the German language generally defined, following Wilhelm Scherer Wilhelm Scherer (26 April 18416 August 1886) was a German philologist Philology is the study of language ...
. The case system of
Dutch Dutch commonly refers to: * Something of, from, or related to the Netherlands * Dutch people () * Dutch language () Dutch may also refer to: Places * Dutch, West Virginia, a community in the United States * Pennsylvania Dutch Country People E ...
, simpler than that of German, is also simplified in common usage.
Afrikaans Afrikaans (, ) is a West Germanic language spoken in South Africa South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is the southernmost country in Africa. With over 60 million people, it is the world's 23rd-most po ...
, recognized as a distinct language in its own right rather than a Dutch dialect only in the early 20th century, has lost almost all inflection.


Latin and the Romance languages

The
Romance languages The Romance languages, less commonly Latin or Neo-Latin languages, are the modern languages that evolved from Vulgar Latin Vulgar Latin, also known as Popular or Colloquial Latin, is non-literary Literature broadly is any collection of w ...

Romance languages
, such as ,
Italian Italian may refer to: * Anything of, from, or related to the people of Italy Italy ( it, Italia ), officially the Italian Republic ( it, Repubblica Italiana, links=no ), is a country consisting of a peninsula delimited by the Alps ...

Italian
, ,
Portuguese Portuguese may refer to: * anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Portugal ** Portuguese cuisine, traditional foods ** Portuguese language, a Romance language *** Portuguese dialects, variants of the Portuguese language ** Portu ...

Portuguese
and especially - with its many cases -
Romanian Romanian may refer to: *anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Romania **Romanians, an ethnic group **Romanian language, a Romance language ***Romanian dialects, variants of the Romanian language **Romanian cuisine, traditional ...
, have more overt inflection than English, especially in
verb conjugation A verb () is a word In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language ...
. Adjectives, nouns and articles are considerably less inflected than verbs, but they still have different forms according to number and grammatical gender.
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languag ...

Latin
, the mother tongue of the Romance languages, was highly inflected; nouns and adjectives had different forms according to seven
grammatical case Grammatical case is a term regarding a manner of categorizing s, s, s, s, and s according to their traditionally corresponding s within a given , , or . In some languages, nouns, pronouns, adjectives, s, participles, prepositions, numerals, art ...
s (including five major ones) with five major patterns of declension, and three genders instead of the two found in most Romance tongues. There were four patterns of conjugation in six tenses, three moods (indicative, subjunctive, imperative, plus the infinitive, participle, gerund, gerundive, and supine) and two voices (passive and active), all overtly expressed by affixes (passive voice forms were periphrastic in three tenses).


Baltic languages

The
Baltic languages The Baltic languages belong to the Balto-Slavic The Balto-Slavic languages are a branch of the Indo-European family of languages. It traditionally comprises the Baltic languages, Baltic and Slavic languages. Baltic and Slavic languages sh ...

Baltic languages
are highly inflected. Nouns and adjectives are declined in up to seven overt cases. Additional cases are defined in various covert ways. For example, an
inessive case In grammar In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as ...
, an
illative case In grammar In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as ...
, an
adessive case In grammar In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as ...
and
allative case In grammar In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, a ...
are borrowed from Finnic. Latvian has only one overt
locative case In grammar In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, a ...
but it syncretizes the above four cases to the locative marking them by differences in the use of prepositions. Lithuanian breaks them out of the
genitive case In grammar In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, a ...
,
accusative case The accusative case (abbreviated An abbreviation (from Latin ''brevis'', meaning ''short'') is a shortened form of a word or phrase, by any method. It may consist of a group of letters, or words taken from the full version of the word or phras ...
and
locative case In grammar In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, a ...
by using different postpositions. Dual form is obsolete in standard Latvian and nowadays it is also considered nearly obsolete in standard Lithuanian. For instance, in standard Lithuanian it is normal to say "dvi varnos (plural) – two crows" instead of "dvi varni (dual)". Adjectives, pronouns, and numerals are declined for number, gender, and case to agree with the noun they modify or for which they substitute. Baltic verbs are inflected for tense, mood, aspect, and voice. They agree with the subject in person and number (not in all forms in modern Latvian).


Slavic languages

All
Slavic languages The Slavic languages, also known as the Slavonic languages, are Indo-European languages The Indo-European languages are a language family A language family is a group of language A language is a structured system of communica ...

Slavic languages
make use of a high degree of inflection, typically having six or seven cases and three genders for nouns and adjectives. However, the overt case system has disappeared almost completely in modern Bulgarian and
Macedonian Macedonian most often refers to someone or something from or related to Macedonia (disambiguation), Macedonia. Macedonian may specifically refer to: People Modern * Macedonians (ethnic group), a nation and a South Slavic ethnic group primarily ...
. Most verb tenses and moods are also formed by inflection (however, some are
periphrastic In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic ...
, typically the future and conditional). Inflection is also present in adjective comparation and word derivation. Declensional endings depend on case (nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, locative, instrumental, vocative), number (singular, dual or plural), gender (masculine, feminine, neuter) and animacy (animate vs inanimate). Unusual in other language families, declension in most Slavic languages also depends on whether the word is a noun or an adjective. Slovene and
Sorbian languages The Sorbian languages ( hsb, serbska rěč, dsb, serbska rěc) are two closely related, but only partially mutually intelligible, West Slavic languages The West Slavic languages are a subdivision of the Slavic language group. They includ ...
use a rare third number, (in addition to singular and plural numbers) known as
dual Dual or Duals may refer to: Paired/two things * Dual (mathematics), a notion of paired concepts that mirror one another ** Dual (category theory), a formalization of mathematical duality *** see more cases in :Duality theories * Dual (grammatical ...
(in case of some words dual survived also in Polish and other Slavic languages). Modern Russian, Serbian and Czech also use a more complex form of
dual Dual or Duals may refer to: Paired/two things * Dual (mathematics), a notion of paired concepts that mirror one another ** Dual (category theory), a formalization of mathematical duality *** see more cases in :Duality theories * Dual (grammatical ...
, but this misnomer applies instead to numbers 2, 3, 4, and larger numbers ending in 2, 3, or 4 (with the exception of the teens, which are handled as plural; thus, 102 is dual, but 12 or 127 are not). In addition, in some Slavic languages, such as Polish, word stems are frequently modified by the addition or absence of endings, resulting in consonant and vowel alternation.


Arabic (fusional)

Modern Standard Arabic Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) or Modern Written Arabic (shortened to MWA), terms used mostly by Western linguists, is the variety of standardized Standardization or standardisation is the process of implementing and developing technical stand ...
(also called Literary Arabic) is an inflected language. It uses a system of independent and suffix pronouns classified by person and number and verbal inflections marking person and number. Suffix pronouns are used as markers of possession and as objects of verbs and prepositions. The
tatweel Kashida or Kasheeda ( fa, کشیده; "extended", "stretched", "lengthened") is a type of justification (typesetting), justification in the Arabic language and in some descendant cursive scripts. In contrast to white-space justification, which in ...
(ـــ) marks where the verb stem, verb form, noun, or preposition is placed. Arabic regional dialects (e.g. Arabic,
Egypt Egypt ( ar, مِصر, Miṣr), officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a transcontinental country This is a list of countries located on more than one continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identi ...

Egypt
ian Arabic,
Gulf A gulf is a large inlet from the ocean into the landmass, typically with a narrower opening than a bay A bay is a recessed, coastal body of water that directly connects to a larger main body of water, such as an ocean The ocean ...
Arabic), used for everyday communication, tend to have less inflection than the more formal Literary Arabic. For example, in
Jordan Jordan ( ar, الأردن; tr. ' ), officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan,; tr. ') is a country in Western Asia Western Asia, West Asia, or Southwest Asia, is the westernmost subregion A subregion is a part of a larger region In ge ...

Jordan
ian Arabic, the second- and third-person feminine plurals ( and ) and their respective unique conjugations are lost and replaced by the masculine ( and ), whereas in Lebanese and Syrian Arabic, is replaced by . In addition, the system known as ʾIʿrāb places vowel suffixes on each verb, noun, adjective, and adverb, according to its function within a sentence and its relation to surrounding words.


Uralic languages (agglutinative)

The
Uralic languages The Uralic languages (; sometimes called Uralian languages ) form a language family A language family is a group of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning " ...

Uralic languages
are
agglutinative Agglutination is a linguistic process pertaining to derivational morphology Morphology, from the Greek and meaning "study of shape", may refer to: Disciplines *Morphology (archaeology) In archaeology, morphology is the study of the shape of ...
, following from the agglutination in
Proto-Uralic Proto-Uralic is the reconstructed Reconstruction may refer to: Politics, history, and sociology *Reconstruction (law), the transfer of a company's (or several companies') business to a new company *''Perestroika'' (Russian for "reconstruction ...
. The largest languages are
Hungarian Hungarian may refer to: * Hungary, a country in Central Europe * Kingdom of Hungary, state of Hungary, existing between 1000 and 1946 * Hungarians, ethnic groups in Hungary * Hungarian algorithm, a polynomial time algorithm for solving the assignme ...
, Finnish, and Estonian—all
European Union The European Union (EU) is a political and economic union of member states that are located primarily in Europe Europe is a which is also recognised as part of , located entirely in the and mostly in the . It comprises the wester ...

European Union
official languages. Uralic inflection is, or is developed from, affixing. Grammatical markers directly added to the word perform the same function as prepositions in English. Almost all words are inflected according to their roles in the sentence: verbs, nouns, pronouns, numerals, adjectives, and some particles. Hungarian and Finnish, in particular, often simply concatenate suffixes. For example, Finnish ''talossanikinko'' "in my house, too?" consists of ''talo-ssa-ni-kin-ko''. However, in the
Finnic languages The Finnic (''Fennic'') or more precisely Balto-Finnic (''Balto-Fennic''; Baltic Finnic, ''Baltic Fennic'') languages, are a branch of the Uralic language family The Uralic languages (; sometimes called Uralian languages ) form a language fam ...

Finnic languages
(Finnish, Estonian etc.) and the
Sami languages Places * Sápmi (, smj, Sábme / Sámeednam, sma, Saepmie, sju, Sábmie, , , : Соаме ''Soame'') is the traditionally inhabited by the . Sápmi is in and includes the northern parts of , also known as the "". The region stretches ...

Sami languages
, there are processes which affect the root, particularly
consonant gradation Consonant gradation is a type of consonant mutation Consonant mutation is change in a consonant In articulatory phonetics, a consonant is a speech sound that is articulated with complete or partial closure of the vocal tract. Examples are , ...
. The original suffixes may disappear (and appear only by liaison), leaving behind the modification of the root. This process is extensively developed in Estonian and Sami, and makes them also inflected, not only agglutinating languages. The Estonian
illative case In grammar In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as ...
, for example, is expressed by a modified root: ''maja'' → ''majja'' (historical form *''maja-han'').


Altaic languages (agglutinative)

The three language families often united as the
Altaic languages Altaic (; also called Transeurasian) is a ''sprachbund A sprachbund (, lit. "language federation"), also known as a linguistic area, area of linguistic convergence, diffusion area or language crossroads, is a group of language A langua ...
, , and Manchu-Tungus—are
agglutinative Agglutination is a linguistic process pertaining to derivational morphology Morphology, from the Greek and meaning "study of shape", may refer to: Disciplines *Morphology (archaeology) In archaeology, morphology is the study of the shape of ...
. The largest languages are , Azerbaijani and —all Turkic languages. Altaic inflection is, or is developed from, affixing. Grammatical markers directly added to the word perform the same function as prepositions in English. Almost all words are inflected according to their roles in the sentence: verbs, nouns, pronouns, numerals, adjectives, and some particles.


Basque (agglutinative nominal inflection / fusional verb inflection)

Basque Basque may refer to: * Basques, an ethnic group of Spain and France * Basque language, their language Places * Basque Country (greater region), the homeland of the Basque people with parts in both Spain and France * Basque Country (autonomous com ...
, a
language isolate Language isolates are languages that cannot be classified into larger language families with any other languages. Korean Korean may refer to: People and culture * Koreans, ethnic group originating in the Korean Peninsula * Korean cuisine * Kor ...
, is a highly inflected language, heavily inflecting both nouns and verbs. Noun phrase morphology is agglutinative and consists of suffixes which simply attach to the end of a stem. These suffixes are in many cases fused with the article (''-a'' for singular and ''-ak'' for plural), which in general is required to close a noun phrase in Basque if no other determiner is present, and unlike an article in many languages, it can only partially be correlated with the concept of definiteness. Proper nouns do not take an article, and indefinite nouns without the article (called ''mugagabe'' in Basque grammar) are highly restricted syntactically. Basque is an ergative language, meaning that inflectionally the single argument (subject) of an intransitive verb is marked in the same way as the direct object of a transitive verb. This is called the ''absolutive'' case and in Basque, as in most ergative languages, it is realized with a zero morph; in other words, it receives no special inflection. The subject of a transitive verb receives a special case suffix, called the ''ergative'' case.King, Alan R. ''The Basque Language: A Practical Introduction.'' University of Nevada Press. Reno, Nevada There is no case marking concord in Basque and case suffixes, including those fused with the article, are added only to the last word in a noun phrase. Plurality is not marked on the noun and is identified only in the article or other determiner, possibly fused with a case marker. The examples below are in the absolutive case with zero case marking, and include the article only: The noun phrase is declined for 11 cases: ''Absolutive, ergative, dative, possessive-genitive, benefactive, comitative, instrumental, inessive, allative, ablative,'' and ''local-genitive''. These are signaled by suffixes that vary according to the categories of ''Singular, Plural, Indefinite,'' and ''Proper Noun'', and many vary depending on whether the stem ends in a consonant or vowel. The Singular and Plural categories are fused with the article, and these endings are used when the noun phrase is not closed by any other determiner. This gives a potential 88 different forms, but the Indefinite and Proper Noun categories are identical in all but the local cases (inessive, allative, ablative, local-genitive), and many other variations in the endings can be accounted for by phonological rules operating to avoid impermissible consonant clusters. Local case endings are not normally added to animate Proper Nouns. The precise meaning of the local cases can be further specified by additional suffixes added after the local case suffixes. Verb forms are extremely complex, agreeing with the subject, direct object, and indirect object; and include forms that agree with a "dative of interest" for intransitive verbs as well as allocutive forms where the verb form is altered if one is speaking to a close acquaintance. These allocutive forms also have different forms depending on whether the addressee is male or female. This is the only area in Basque grammar where gender plays any role at all. Subordination could also plausibly be considered an inflectional category of the Basque verb since subordination is signaled by prefixes and suffixes on the conjugated verb, further multiplying the number of potential forms. Transitivity is a thoroughgoing division of Basque verbs, and it is necessary to know the transitivity of a particular verb in order to conjugate it successfully. In the spoken language only a handful of commonly used verbs are fully conjugated in the present and simple past, most verbs being conjugated by means of an auxiliary which differs according to transitivity. The literary language includes a few more such verbs, but the number is still very small. Even these few verbs require an auxiliary to conjugate other tenses besides the present and simple past. The most common intransitive auxiliary is ''izan'', which is also the verb for "to be". The most common transitive auxiliary is ''ukan'', which is also the verb for "to have". (Other auxiliaries can be used in some of the tenses and may vary by dialect.) The compound tenses use an invariable form of the main verb (which appears in different forms according to the "tense group") and a conjugated form of the auxiliary. Pronouns are normally omitted if recoverable from the verb form. A couple of examples will have to suffice to demonstrate the complexity of the Basque verb: The morphs that represent the various tense/person/case/mood categories of Basque verbs, especially in the auxiliaries, are so highly fused that segmenting them into individual meaningful units is nearly impossible, if not pointless. Considering the multitude of forms that a particular Basque verb can take, it seems unlikely that an individual speaker would have an opportunity to utter them all in his or her lifetime.


Mainland Southeast Asian languages (isolating)

Most languages in the
Mainland Southeast Asia linguistic area The Mainland Southeast Asia linguistic area is a sprachbund A sprachbund (, lit. "language federation"), also known as a linguistic area, area of linguistic convergence, diffusion area or language crossroads, is a group of language A lang ...
(such as the
varieties of Chinese Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's most populous country, ...
,
Vietnamese Vietnamese may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to Vietnam Vietnam ( vi, Việt Nam, ), officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,, group="n" is a country in Southeast Asia Southeast Asia, also spelled South East Asia an ...

Vietnamese
, and
Thai Thai or THAI may refer to: * Of or from Thailand, a country in Southeast Asia ** Thai people, the dominant ethnic group of Thailand ** Thai language, a Tai-Kadai language spoken mainly in and around Thailand *** Thai script *** Thai (Unicode block ...

Thai
) are not overtly inflected, or show very little overt inflection, and are therefore considered
analytic language In linguistic typology Linguistic typology (or language typology) is a field of linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods fo ...
s (also known as ''isolating languages'').


Chinese

Standard Chinese Standard Chinese (), in linguistics known as Standard Northern Mandarin, Standard Beijing Mandarin or simply Mandarin, is a dialect of Mandarin that emerged as the lingua franca A lingua franca (; ; for plurals see ), also known as a bri ...
does not possess overt inflectional morphology. While some languages indicate grammatical relations with inflectional morphemes, Chinese utilizes word order and
particles In the physical sciences Physical science is a branch of natural science Natural science is a branch A branch ( or , ) or tree branch (sometimes referred to in botany Botany, also called , plant biology or phytology, is the ...
. Consider the following examples: * Latin: **Puer puellam videt. **Puellam puer videt. Both sentences mean 'The boy sees the girl.' This is because ''puer'' (boy) is singular nominative, ''puellam'' (girl) is singular accusative. Since the roles of puer and puellam have been marked with case endings, the change in position does not matter. * Modern Standard Chinese: **我给了他一本书 (''wǒ gěile tā yī běn shū'') 'I gave him a book' **他给了我一本书 (''tā gěile wǒ yī běn shū'') 'He gave me a book' The situation is very different in Chinese. Since Modern Chinese makes no use of inflection, the meanings of ''wǒ'' ('I' or 'me') and ''tā'' ('he' or 'him') shall be determined with their position. In
Classical Chinese Classical Chinese, also known as Literary Chinese (古文 ''gǔwén'' "ancient text", or 文言 ''wényán'' "text speak"; modern vernacular: 文言文 ''wényánwén'' "text speak text"), is the language of the classic literature from the en ...
, pronouns were overtly inflected to mark case. However, these overt case forms are no longer used; most of the alternative pronouns are considered archaic in modern Mandarin Chinese. Classically, 我 (''wǒ'') was used solely as the first person accusative. 吾 (''Wú'') was generally used as the first person nominative. Certain
varieties of Chinese Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's most populous country, ...
are known to express meaning by means of tone change, although further investigations are required. Note that the ''tone change'' must be distinguished from ''tone sandhi''.
Tone sandhi Tone sandhi is a phonological change occurring in tonal languages Tone is the use of pitch Pitch may refer to: Acoustic frequency * Pitch (music), the perceived frequency of sound including "definite pitch" and "indefinite pitch" ** Absol ...
is a compulsory change that occurs when certain tones are juxtaposed. Tone change, however, is a morphologically conditioned alternation and is used as an inflectional or a derivational strategy. Examples from
Taishan __NOTOC__ Taishan may refer to: *Mount Tai Mount Tai () is a mountain of historical and cultural significance located north of the city of Tai'an Tai'an () is a prefecture-level city Image:Yangxin-renmin-huanyin-ni-0022.jpg, A road sign show ...
and Zhongshan (both Yue dialects spoken in
Guangdong Province Guangdong (, ), alternately romanized as Canton Province or Kwangtung, is a coastal province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, adm ...
) are shown below:Chen, M. Y. (2000). ''Tone Sandhi: Patterns across Chinese dialects''. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. * Taishan * Zhongshan The following table compares the personal pronouns of Sixian dialect (a dialect of Taiwanese Hakka) with Zaiwa and Jingpho (both Tibeto-Burman languages spoken in Yunnan and Myanmar, Burma). The superscripted numbers indicate the Tone letter, Chao tone numerals. In Shanghainese, the third-person singular pronoun is overtly inflected as to case and the first- and second-person singular pronouns exhibit a change in tone depending on case.


Japanese (agglutinative)

Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan Japan ( ja, 日本, or , and formally ) is an island country An island country or an island nation is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or ...

Japanese
shows a high degree of overt inflection of verbs, less so of adjectives, and very little of nouns, but it is mostly strictly
agglutinative Agglutination is a linguistic process pertaining to derivational morphology Morphology, from the Greek and meaning "study of shape", may refer to: Disciplines *Morphology (archaeology) In archaeology, morphology is the study of the shape of ...
and extremely regular. Fusion of morphemes also happen in colloquial speech, for example: the causative-passive fuses into , as in , and the non-past progressive fuses into as in . Formally, every noun phrase must be case marker, marked for case, but this is done by invariable particles (
clitic In morphology Morphology, from the Greek and meaning "study of shape", may refer to: Disciplines * Morphology (archaeology), study of the shapes or forms of artifacts * Morphology (astronomy), study of the shape of astronomical objects such as ne ...
postpositions). (Many grammarians consider Japanese particles to be separate words, and therefore not an inflection, while others consider agglutination a type of overt inflection, and therefore consider Japanese nouns as overtly inflected.)


Auxiliary languages

Some International auxiliary language, auxiliary languages, such as Lingua Franca Nova, Glosa, and Lingua sistemfrater, Frater, have no inflection. Other auxiliary languages, such as Esperanto, Ido, and Interlingua have comparatively simple inflectional systems.


Esperanto

In Esperanto, an agglutinative language, nouns and adjectives are inflected for case (nominative, accusative) and number (singular, plural), according to a simple paradigm without irregularities. Verbs are not inflected for person or number, but they are inflected for tense (past, present, future) and mood (indicative, infinitive, conditional, jussive). They also form active and passive participles, which may be past, present or future. All verbs are regular.


Ido

Ido (language), Ido has a different form for each verbal tense (past, present, future, volitive and imperative) plus an infinitive, and both a present and past participle. There are though no verbal inflections for person or number, and all verbs are regular. Nouns are marked for number (singular and plural), and the accusative case may be shown in certain situations, typically when the direct object of a sentence precedes its verb. On the other hand, adjectives are unmarked for gender, number or case (unless they stand on their own, without a noun, in which case they take on the same desinences as the missing noun would have taken). The definite article "la" ("the") remains unaltered regardless of gender or case, and also of number, except when there is no other word to show plurality. Pronouns are identical in all cases, though exceptionally the accusative case may be marked, as for nouns.


Interlingua

Interlingua, in contrast with the Romance languages, has almost no irregular verb conjugations, and its verb forms are the same for all persons and numbers. It does, however, have compound verb tenses similar to those in the Romance, Germanic, and Slavic languages: ''ille ha vivite'', "he has lived"; ''illa habeva vivite'', "she had lived". Nouns are inflected by number, taking a plural ''-s'', but rarely by gender: only when referring to a male or female being. Interlingua has no noun-adjective agreement by gender, number, or case. As a result, adjectives ordinarily have no inflections. They may take the plural form if they are being used in place of a noun: ''le povres'', "the poor".


See also

*Agreement (linguistics) *Diction * Intonation (linguistics) * Introflection *Lexeme *Marker (linguistics) *Morpheme *Nominal TAM *Periphrasis *Righthand head rule *Suppletion *Synthetic language *Tense–aspect–mood *Uninflected word *Linguistic relativity


Notes


Citations


Footnotes


References

* * *


Further reading

* * * * * * * * *


External links


SIL articles

* SIL:What is ''inflection''?
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Lexicon of Linguistics articles

* Lexicon of Linguistics:Agglutinating LanguageFusional MorphologyIsolating LanguagePolysynthetic Language
* Lexicon of Linguistics:InflectionDerivation
* Lexicon of Linguistics:ConjugationDeclension
* Lexicon of Linguistics:BaseStemRoot
* Lexicon of Linguistics:Defective Paradigm
* Lexicon of Linguistics:Strong Verb
* Lexicon of Linguistics:Inflection Phrase (IP)INFLAGRTense
* Lexicon of Linguistics:Lexicalist Hypothesis
{{Authority control Grammar Linguistic morphology Linguistics terminology