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Journal Article

Inflection and derivation as traditional comparative concepts


Haspelmath,  Martin       
Department of Linguistic and Cultural Evolution, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Max Planck Society;

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Haspelmath, M. (2024). Inflection and derivation as traditional comparative concepts. Linguistics, 62(1), 43-77. doi:10.1515/ling-2022-0086.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000E-196D-D
This article revisits the distinction between inflectional and derivational patterns in general grammar and discusses the possibility that this wellknown 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 article 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.