Category Archives: inflectional morphology

inflectional morphology

“inflectional morphology”

Inflectional morphology is one of the two main branches of morphology, the other being derivational morphology. In a nutshell, inflectional morphology distinguishes different inflections of the same lexeme, whereas derivational morphology distinguishes different lexemes that are related to one another; but they both use much the same range of morphological resources to do it. For example, the -ing of painting is inflectional in (1) and derivational in (2).

(1) He was painting a picture.
(2) We bought a painting

In (1), painting is just one of the four distinct forms of the lexeme PAINTv (the verb PAINT), contrasting with paints, painted and paint.
In (2) it is a distinct lexeme, the noun PAINTING, whose two inflected forms are painting and paintings.

Here are the main differences between inflectional and derivational morphology

• Inflectional morphology relates forms of the same lexeme; derivational morphology relates distinct lexemes.
• Inflections are distinct word classes with distinct grammar (e.g. there are rules that mention `singular’ and `plural’), whereas derivational morphology creates new lexemes which are grammatically indistinguishable from underived members of the same word classes (e.g. apart from their morphology, the grammar does not distinguish derived nouns like PAINTING from simple ones like BOOK).
• Inflectional morphemes are always ‘outside’ derivational ones; e.g. the plural of PAINTING is {paintings}, not {paintsing

In WG the difference between derivational and inflectional morphology lies in the relation ‘whole’, which is reserved for inflectional morphology. A word’s whole is its fully inflected form, so this can only be produced by inflectional morphology; so what inflectional morphology has to explain is whatever differences there may be between the word’s whole and its `stem’ – e.g. the difference between the stem {dog} and the whole {dogs}. This difference is a matter of inflectional morphology because it is due to the inflection Plural.
In contrast, derivational morphology is only concerned with stems, not wholes. It explains the relations between the stems of different lexemes, for example, the relation between {dog} and {doggy}, which are stems of different lexemes.

Both derivational and inflectional morphology may use the same morphemes and morphological patterns, so these are best described separately. In WG they are described in terms of x-forms; e.g. the ‘ing-form’ of an English word may be used as:

• the whole of an active participle (e.g. He was walking.) – inflectional
• the stem of an adjective (e.g. an interesting book) – derivational
• the stem of a noun (e.g. a drawing) – derivational