Delineating Derivation and Inflection

Pius ten Hacken

in The Oxford Handbook of Derivational Morphology

Published in print September 2014 | ISBN: 9780199641642
Published online March 2015 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

Delineating Derivation and Inflection

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  • Grammar, Syntax and Morphology


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Whereas the core opposition between inflection and derivation is fairly obvious, the precise boundary between the two is more difficult to determine. The problem is typical of the application of terminological definitions to natural concepts that are based on prototypes. In traditional grammar, the distinction was taken to be obvious and ultimately based on an extensional definition of inflection. A skeptical tradition (e.g. Bloomfield) questions the general validity of the concepts. Currently, Distributed Morphology as well as Jackendoff’s Parallel Architecture exemplify this skeptical tradition, whereas the theories proposed by, for instance, Lieber and Anderson assume the distinction to be theoretically significant. In the latter case, criteria have to be selected to delineate the two concepts. Given their definitional nature, these criteria can as a matter of principle not be refuted by data. Against this background, some example criteria are presented with their consequences for classification.

Keywords: inflection; derivation; word formation; definition; terminology; prototype; preference rule; paradigm; agreement; universals

Article.  7564 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Grammar, Syntax and Morphology

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