Glossary of Linguistic Terms



Inflection is variation in the form of a word, typically by means of an affix, that expresses a grammatical contrast which is obligatory for the stem’s word class in some given grammatical context.

In contrast to derivation , inflection:

  • does not result in a change of word class
  • usually produces a predictable, nonidiosyncratic change of meaning


  • In the following English sentence, come is inflected for person and number by the suffix -s:
    • The mailman comes about noon.


  • In the following Spanish noun phrase, las and rojas are inflected for agreement with manzanas in grammatical gender by -a and in number by -s:
    • las manzanas rojas ‘the red apples’
Page/s: 139
Source: Richards, Platt, and Weber 1985

Richards, Jack, John Platt, and Heidi Weber. 1985.Longman dictionary of applied linguistics. Harlow, Essex, England: Longman.

Page/s: 1548
Source: Quirk, Greenbaum, Leech, and Svartvik 1985

Quirk, Randolph, S. Greenbaum, G. Leech, and J. Svartvik. 1985.A comprehensive grammar of the English language. London: Longman.

Page/s: 26, 233, 234
Source: Payne, T. 1997a

Payne, Thomas E. (1997) .Describing morphosyntax: A guide for field linguists. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press.

Page/s: 620
Source: Mish 1991

Mish, Frederick (editor). 1991.Webster's ninth new collegiate dictionary. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster. 1,564 pages. 0877795088; indexed 0877795096; deluxe 087779510X.

Page/s: 112
Source: Hartmann and Stork 1972

Hartmann, R.R.K., and F.C. Stork. 1972.Dictionary of language and linguistics. London: Applied Science.

Page/s: 157
Source: Crystal 1985

Crystal, David. 1985.A dictionary of linguistics and phonetics. 2nd edition. New York: Basil Blackwell.

Page/s: 2, 99
Source: Bybee 1985

Bybee, Joan L. 1985.Morphology: A study of the relation between meaning and form. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

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