LINGUIST List 11.1948

Fri Sep 15 2000

Qs: Indeclinable Words, The Minimalist Program

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <>

We'd like to remind readers that the responses to queries are usually best posted to the individual asking the question. That individual is then strongly encouraged to post a summary to the list. This policy was instituted to help control the huge volume of mail on LINGUIST; so we would appreciate your cooperating with it whenever it seems appropriate.


  1. Mike Maxwell, Indeclinable words
  2. Natascha Pomino, The Minimalist Program

Message 1: Indeclinable words

Date: Fri, 15 Sep 2000 10:14:02 -0400
From: Mike Maxwell <>
Subject: Indeclinable words

The term "indeclinable" is used in grammars to refer to words which cannot
take any inflectional affixes. I am looking for a characterization of the
kind of words which can be indeclinable. One obvious case is categories
which do not take inflection. Conjunctions, prepositions and adverbs are
often mentioned in this regard (e.g. in Latin grammars). English modal
verbs would be another example, and I could imagine proper nouns behaving
like this, although I have not run across that in grammars. The other
common case of indeclinable words is loans, particularly unassimilated loan
words. Most (all??) indeclinable nouns in Russian, Latvian, and Biblical
Greek seem to fall under this category.

Are there instances of indeclinable words in some language that do not fall
into either of these two categories? If so, are there any other unusual
characteristics of such words (perhaps their phonological makeup)? Can
indeclinable words take derivational affixes, and if so is the output

A few things I am not looking for:
 words with suppletive forms
 pluralia tantum words ('pants', 'scissors')
 words with defective (partial) paradigms
 words which lack forms for semantic reasons
 (mass nouns in English, weather verbs)
Rather, I'm looking for lexemes that do not take mark for inflection at all.
The Latin cardinal numerals from quattour to centum might be one example
(since the other numerals did inflect, with the partial exception of mille).
(BTW, if anyone can shed some light on why these particular Latin numerals
were indeclinable, I would appreciate it.)

I will summarize for the list.

 Mike Maxwell
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue

Message 2: The Minimalist Program

Date: Fri, 15 Sep 2000 23:58:44 +0100
From: Natascha Pomino <>
Subject: The Minimalist Program

Dear linguistlist-readers,

I am looking for all kind of literature (books, papers etc.) about
the Minimalist Program and Romance languages, especially Spanish, Italian
and French but also Peripheral Romance. I would appreciate it a lot if
somebody could give me some helpful information. Please write directly to me
and I will post a summary to the list.
Thank you in advance,

Natascha Pomino
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue