Inflection and derivation as traditional comparative concepts
Martin Haspelmath
December 2023

This paper revisits the distinction between inflectional and derivational patterns in general grammar and discusses the possibility that this well-known distinction is not rooted in the reality of languages, but in the Western tradition of describing languages, through dictionaries (for words, including derived lexemes) and through grammar books (where we often find tables of exemplary paradigms). This tradition has led to rather different terminological treatments of the two kinds of patterns, but from the perspective of a constructional view of morphology, there is no need to incorporate such differences into formal grammatical descriptions. For practical purposes, we need clear and simple definitions of entrenched terms of general linguistics, so the paper proposes semantically based (retro-) definitions of inflection, derivation and lexeme that cover the bulk of the existing usage. Finally, I briefly explain why we need sharp definitions of comparative concepts, and why prototype-based and fuzzy definitions of traditional terms are not helpful.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/007006
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: "Linguistics (2024)" (open access)
keywords: inflection, derivation, comparative concept, morphology
previous versions: v1 [December 2022]
Downloaded:1096 times


[ edit this article | back to article list ]