Inflection refers to word formation that does not change category and does not create new
lexemes, but rather changes the form of lexemes so that they fit into different grammatical
Play  plays
Play  playing
Cat  cats
Dog  dogs
Types of Inflection
1. Number
2. Person
4. Case
5. Tense and Aspect
6. Voice
7. Mood and Modality
1. Number
It means marking nouns for singular, dual or plural using inflections.
E.g., Singular: cat
 Plural: cats
2. Person
In some languages verbs have different endings depending on whether the subject of
the sentences is the speaker, the hearer or someone else.
E.g., Latin 1st amo “to love” 2nd amas
3rd amat
Some languages make a distinction between inclusive and exclusive forms. In an
inclusive form the speaker is include himself. Exclusive the speaker exclude himself from
the speech. See p.g., 90
3. Gender
Some languages inflect for grammatical gender ( masculine , feminine or inanimate). Sometimes the
assignment of gender to words is arbitrary. See p.g., 90
4. Case
In languages that employ the inflectional category of case, nouns are distinguished on the basis of
how they are deployed in sentences, for example, whether they function as subject, direct object,
indirect object, as a location, time or instrument.
a. Nominative case: forms are used as subject of the sentence.
b. Accusative: a term used for a direct object.
c. Genitive: it is used for the possessor.
d. Ablative: it is used for the object of prepositions
In some languages they distinguish the subject further based on whether it is the subject of a
transitive verb or interansitiv verb
e. Ergative: S of tr. verb
f. Absolutive: S of InTr. verb
5. Tense and Aspect
Tense and aspect are inflectional categories that usually pertain to verbs. Both have to do with time,
but in different ways.
Tense refers to the point of time of an event in relation to another point – generally the point at
which the speaker is speaking. In English we have present – past …etc.
Aspect is another inflectional category that may be marked on verbs. Rather than showing the time
of an event with respect to the point of speaking, aspect conveys information about the internal
composition of the event or “the way in which the event occurs in time”. One of the most frequently
expressed aspectual distinctions that can be found in the languages of the world is the distinction
between perfective and imperfective aspect. With perfective aspect, an event is viewed as
completed; we look at the event from the outside, and its internal structure is not relevant. With
imperfective aspect, on the other hand, the event is viewed as on-going; we look at the event from
the inside, as it were.
Other forms of aspect focus on particular points in an event. Inceptive aspect focuses on the
beginning of an event. Continuative aspect focuses on the middle of the event as it progresses,
and completive on the end. See page 96
A third category of aspectual distinction can be called quantificational. Quantificational
aspectual distinctions concern things like the number of times an action is done or an event
happens – once or repeatedly – or how frequently an action is done. Among the quantificational
aspects are semelfactive, iterative, and habitual aspects. Actions that are done just once are
called semelfactive. Iterative aspect referes to something that is done repeatedly and habitual
aspect is for something that is usually done. See page 97 examples (19)
6. Voice
Voice is the category of inflection that allows different nouns phrases to be focused in
sentences. In the active the sentence is with an agent and it is the one that has the focus. In the
passive the sentence has a patient and the patient is the focus.
7. Mood and Modality
This category of inflection show the distinction based on the kind of speech act which is used in
a verb.
- Declaratives
- Imperative
- Interrogative
- Subjunctive : If I were a king, I would …)
Inflection in English
1. Singular / Plural: cat - cats
2. Possessive : mother’s
3. Pronouns : I -- me -- my
4. Regular and Irregular
Why do we have irregular forms?
See p.g., 100
Why English has so little inflection
Based on history English has more inflections than now. But they were lost. See page 101-102
There are two reasons why English has lost inflections:
1. The first one has to do with the stress system of English. Stress was on the first syllable. So
ends of words were unstressed and thus they were lost.
2.Some scholars attribute the lose to language contact in the northern part of Britain and this in
turn spread to many words in English.
Inflection and Productivity
Inflection rules are more productive than derivation ones
because almost all words follow them.
Inherent versus contextual inflection
See page 107
10 Minutes