LINGUIST List 27.3303

Wed Aug 17 2016

Review: Morphology; Semantics; Syntax: Stump (2015)

Editor for this issue: Michael Czerniakowski <>

Date: 24-Apr-2016
From: Peter Arkadiev <>
Subject: Inflectional Paradigms
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Book announced at

AUTHOR: Gregory T. Stump
TITLE: Inflectional Paradigms
SUBTITLE: Content and Form at the Syntax-Morphology Interface
SERIES TITLE: Cambridge Studies in Linguistics 149
PUBLISHER: Cambridge University Press
YEAR: 2015

REVIEWER: Peter M. Arkadiev, Institute of Slavic Studies RAS

Reviews Editor: Helen Aristar-Dry


Inflectional Paradigms, the new book by Gregory Stump, is related to his earlier book on Paradigm Function Morphology (Stump 2001) and can be seen as an extension and development of the work done by him and his collaborators during the past fifteen years. On the other hand, the book incorporates many important recent developments of morphological theory, such as the conception of “canonical inflection” (Corbett 2005, 2007, Brown et al. eds 2013). The goal of the book is twofold: first, to put forward strong novel arguments in favour of the paradigm-based approach to morphology, and, second, to propose an articulated and formalized theoretical model of inflectional paradigms able to capture a variety of phenomena, which, according to the author, empirically support the paradigm-based approach. For reasons of space, in this review I will mainly focus on the empirical and conceptual arguments, mentioning the technical details of Stump’s framework (which is the refinement and extension of the framework presented in Stump 2001) only in passing.

The book contains a wealth of examples, coming from a variety of languages from different parts of the world. The best represented language is Stump’s favorite Sanskrit, featuring almost in every chapter and offering examples of most of the phenomena discussed in the book. Other languages discussed include Ancient Greek, Baure, Bhojpuri, French, Hua, Hungarian, Kashmiri, Latin, Moru, Nepali, Noon, Old Norse, Pali, Spanish, Swahili, Turkish, Twi, and certainly, English, both modern and old. Many of the datasets from these languages serve not only for illustrative purposes, but also as testing grounds for analysis and formal modeling.


The book consists of an Introduction and fourteen chapters of moderate length. In Chapter 1 “What are inflectional paradigms?” (p. 8–30) Stump examines the defining properties of inflectional paradigms and argues for the superiority of paradigm-based approaches to morphology over morpheme-based ones, pointing out that the former are better compatible with such morphological phenomena as underdetermination, extended, overlapping and non-concatenative exponence, and form-content conflicts like deponency. Stump also spells out the two hypotheses which are argued for in the whole book (p. 23):

The irreducibility hypothesis: Some morphological regularities are, irreducibly, regularities of paradigm structure.

The interface hypothesis: Paradigms are the interfaces of inflectional morphology with syntax and semantics.

According to the irreducibility hypothesis, an adequate account of a language’s morphology must capture the regularities not only of its word-internal morphotactics, but of the “variety of systematic relations among distinct cells in the same paradigm as well as among cells in distinct paradigms” (p. 24) as well. The interface hypothesis, in turn, implies that while syntax is insensitive to the details of inflectional realization, the latter is in turn insensitive to the varied syntactic contexts in which individual word forms occur (p. 27), the relation between the two being mediated by the inflectional paradigm relating morphosyntactic feature sets to inflectional exponents.

Chapter 2 “Canonical inflectional paradigms” (p. 31–42) presents an elaboration and formalization of the notion “canonical inflection” proposed by Corbett in the works mentioned above. According to Stump, canonical inflectional paradigms possess the following characteristics (p. 35–41):

1) Every lexeme has a single stem that is the basis for realizing every cell in its paradigm.

2) Every cell in a lexeme’s paradigm has a distinct realization.

3) The system of paradigms for lexical categories (parts of speech) are such that no two paradigms have the same stem and corresponding cells in distinct paradigms exhibit the same inflectional marking.

4) There are no constraints on combining morphosyntactic properties.

5) Every property associated with a given cell has an overt exponent in the realization of that cell.

6) Every property associated with a given cell has only one overt exponent in the realization of that cell.

7) No two properties associated with a cell are simultaneously expressed by a single exponent.

8) No two distinct properties have exponents that are phonologically identical.

9) For every property associated with two or more cells, the exponent of that property is invariant across those cells.

10) The dual function of morphosyntactic property sets, which determine the word form’s syntax and semantics, as well as its inflectional realization.

If the morphology of natural languages had only canonical inflectional paradigms, morpheme-based theories of inflection would have been sufficient to describe it. However, inflectional paradigms in actual languages are non-canonical in various respects, and it is these deviations from the “canonical ideal” that make the paradigm-based models of morphology indispensable.

Chapter 3 “Morphosyntactic properties” (p. 43–57) is fairly technical, discussing the role of morphosyntactic properties in inflectional paradigms and such notions as contextual vs. inherent properties, property sets and relations between them, constraints on co-occurrence of morphosyntactic properties, and their realization by means of exponence rules organized into ordered blocks of mutually exclusive rules and constituting the language’s paradigm function (in the sense if Stump 2001).

Chapter 4 “Lexemes” (p. 58–66), the shortest in the book, discusses the notion of lexeme defined on p. 58 as “a lexical abstraction that has either a meaning ... or a grammatical function, belongs to a syntactic category ... and is realized by one or more phonological forms”. An important notion of “stipulated lexicon” is introduced; as opposed to the mental lexicon (“a system in which specific linguistic forms and their associated grammatical and semantic content are stored” in the brain, p. 63), the stipulated lexicon is “the body of lexical information that is presupposed by the definition of a language’s grammar” (p. 64), and thus does not contain the information deducible by grammatical rules. Entries in the stipulated lexicon may be both canonical and non-canonical.

Chapter 5 “Stems” (p. 67–83) is devoted to the notion of stem, which is one of the central ones in Stump’s theory as well as in current morphological theorizing in general (see e.g. Aronoff 1994). When an inflectional paradigm is based on more than one stem (thus being non-canonical), the distribution of stems is logically independent of their formal relationships, the fact amply illustrated with data from Sanskrit nominal declension. Formal differences between stems may be due to phonological constraints (such stems are called sandhi alternants) or to the membership of a lexeme in a particular inflectional class (class-determined alternation of kindred stems), and, finally, may be independent of both, forming a class-independent alternation. In turn, stem distribution may be conditioned by automatic and non-automatic phonological rules, by morphosyntactic properties, and be morphomic, i.e. “having no invariant correlation with phonology, syntax or semantics” (p.74). The various conditions on stem alternations are formalized by the function Stem, which for each cell of a paradigm yields the stem employed in its realization.

Chapter 6 “Inflection classes” (p. 84–102) discusses the notion of inflection class and its relation to stems. Stump builds upon Corbett’s (2009) notion of “canonical inflection class” and draws a distinction between global and segregated inflection classes, the former responsible for the realization of all cells in a lexeme’s paradigm, while the latter determining only a part thereof. With respect to the latter it is argued that inflection classes are classes of stems rather than of lexemes, which, among other things, allows to capture the fact that in many languages inflection classes can be distinguished by patterns of stem alternation only (as is often the case in Sanskrit).

Chapter 7 “A conception of the relation of content to form in inflectional paradigms” (p. 103–119) is the central in the whole book, presenting the principal tenets of Stump’s new conception. The proposed model of inflectional morphology (“paradigm-linkage theory”) assumes three types of paradigm (p. 104):

1) A lexeme L’s content paradigm lists the morphosyntactic property sets with which L may be associated in syntax. Each cell of such paradigm (content cell) is a pairing of L with each such property set.

2) The form paradigm of L specifies the range of property sets which may be realized morphologically through the inflection of that lexeme’s stem(s). The form paradigm is constituted by form cells, i.e. pairings of a particular stem with a property set for which this stem inflects.

3) The realized paradigm of a lexeme is a set of realized cells containing word forms that realize cells in that lexeme’s form paradigm.

The mapping between these three paradigms is implemented by means of several functions. The form-correspondence function Corr determines for each content cell its corresponding cell in the form paradigm with the help of two other functions: Stem (see above) and pm (property mapping). In the canonical case, pm is an identity function, but most deviations from canonical inflection involve various non-trivial mappings formalized by pm. In particular, pm may add to the set of morphosyntactic properties such features as inflection class diacritics or morphomic features. The function Stem, in turn, canonically yields the single stem serving as the base of all of the lexeme’s word forms, but, again, may be complicated by various conditions, morphosyntactic as well as morphomic.

Chapter 8 “Morphomic properties” (p. 120–146) discusses those properties which are relevant to the inflectional realization of the lexeme but not to its syntax and semantics. Morphomic properties can be conditioned by particular lexemes or by morphosyntactic properties, and are formally modeled by stipulating the function pm to add morphomic properties to the set of properties associated with cells in the lexeme’s form paradigm, or even to replace certain morphosyntactic properties by morphomic ones. Detailed case studies of morphomic phenomena in Hua verb-agreement and in verb inflection in Noon, Twi and Nepali are presented.

Chapter 9 “Too many cells, too few cells” (p. 147–169) discusses the phenomena of overabundance (when a cell in the lexeme’s content paradigm has more than one realization), overdifferentiation (when lexemes of a given syntactic category make additional morphosyntactic distinctions not shared by other members of that category), and defectiveness (when a lexeme lacks one or a set of realized cells presupposed by its content paradigm). The latter notion is discussed on the data of French verbs and incorporates an interesting proposal by Boyé (2000) establishing the implicational relations between different stems, which are able to predict patterns of defectiveness involving sets of cells associated with each stem.

Chapter 10 “Syncretism” (p. 170–183) is devoted to the notion of syncretism, i.e. homophonous realization of distinct morphosyntactic property sets. Three types of syncretism, identified in Stump (2001: ch. 7), are discussed: natural class syncretism determined by functional affinity between morphosyntactic properties, directional syncretism, when one cell depends on another for its realization (this case is exemplified by Turkish possessive inflection, despite the fact that Turkish is normally assumed to exhibit highly canonical morphology), and morphomic or symmetrical syncretism, captured by morphomic properties in the lexeme’s form paradigm supplanting the morphosyntactic properties of its content paradigm.

In Chapter 11 “Suppletion and heteroclisis” (p. 184–196) Stump examines paradigms with alternating independent stems, i.e. those whose distribution is neither sandhi-determined nor class-determined. Suppletion is understood broadly as any alternation of independent stems, including stems partially similar in form. Heteroclisis is involved when the alternating stems belong to distinct inflectional classes, and is distinguished from the closely related notion of segregated inflection classes by the criterion of generality: “Heteroclitic paradigms are exceptions against a backdrop of nonheteroclitic paradigms” (p. 186). A further distinction is drawn between “cloven” and “fractured” paradigms, in the former the choice of alternating stems correlating to properties belonging to a single inflectional category, while in the latter the distribution of stems correlated with combinations of several morphosyntactic properties, and the rather complex hypothesis concerning the relations between cloven and fractured paradigms in a single language is proposed (p. 192–194).

Chapter 12 “Deponency and metaconjugation” (p. 197–227) discusses two related phenomena involving situations when exponents realizing one morphosyntactic property set in one context realize a different morphosyntactic property set in another context. In addition to the rather old notion of deponency recently discussed from a theoretical and typological point of view in Baerman et al. (eds.) (2007), Stump introduces the novel term “metaconjugation” for instances resembling deponency but strongly tied to particular inflection classes. Metaconjugation involves identical sets of exponents realizing different morphosyntactic property sets depending on the inflection class specification of particular lexemes or stems. Stump provides a detailed analysis of a rather complex case from Sanskrit verb inflection (p. 202–217), where the properties “aorist” and “imperfect” are associated with the same sets of person-number exponents and intraparadigmatic stem alternations, and differ only in the formation of the respective stems themselves. The formal modeling of metaconjugation is implemented by means of morphomic properties introduced by the property mapping function.

Chapter 13 “Polyfunctionality” (p. 228–251) deals with a well-known phenomenon of multiple uses of the same sets of morphological exponents, all from the domain of person-number marking. Three different examples are analysed, coming from Noon, Baure and Hungarian, all employing the same or similar sets of person-number markers for several purposes. The modeling of Baure pronominal markers, occurring as proclitics or enclitics depending on the grammatical function of the indexed argument, requires separating exponence declaration specifying that a particular affix realizes a particular property and sequencing rules, responsible for the correct placement of exponents with respect to stems.

Chapter 14 “A theoretical synopsis and two further issues” (p. 252–270) presents a concise summary of the book’s main theoretical proposals and a discussion of two important topics not touched upon in the preceding chapters. The first one concerns Blevins’s (2006) distinction between constructive models of morphology, assuming the decomposition of words into stems and exponents, and the abstractive approaches capturing regularities only by means of implicative relations between whole words. Stump argues that while some properties and regularities of morphology cannot be adequately captured by purely abstractive models, implicational relations either naturally fall out from paradigm linkage and exponence rules or can be incorporated into his theory. The second issue is related to diachronic change in morphology, which Stump shows to be captured by his otherwise purely synchronic model on the basis of the development of nominal paradigms from Sanskrit to Pali. He concludes that “the paradigm-linkage hypothesis affords a natural framework for identifying the pressures that guide morphological change, including the impulse toward content-form isomorphism and the (possibly conflicting) promotion of highly frequent patterns” (p. 269).


“Inflectional paradigms” is an excellent book combining clarity of exposition, rich empirical coverage and theoretical sophistication. The book offers a discussion of a variety of morphological phenomena, both well-known, like syncretism or suppletion, and rather unfamiliar, like metaconjugation, integrating them into a coherent framework. The main theoretical point of the book, i.e. that inflectional paradigms lie at the heart of the syntax-morphology interface and are indispensable for the understanding of morphological phenomena (the irreducibility hypothesis and the interface hypothesis) is supported by a wealth of empirical and conceptual arguments and appears to be proven beyond any reasonable doubt. Nevertheless, I would like to point out that there exist kinds of morphology arguably better amenable to the “incremental” morpheme-based analyses. Thus, the morphological makeup of polysynthetic languages like Eskimo (de Reuse 2009) or Adyghe (Korotkova & Lander 2010, Lander & Letuchiy 2010), where the boundaries between inflection and derivation are very hard to draw, and the existence of morphological recursion and virtually unconstrained application of non-obligatory but syntactically relevant morphological processes renders the very notion of morphological paradigm elusive, presents obvious challenges for Stump’s framework and requires a different model of the syntax-morphology interface. Anyway, the phenomena to deal with which Stump’s framework is designed, abound in many if not most languages of the world; therefore even if this theory is not equally well applicable to all languages, it is certainly able to provide insights and adequate and, moreover, computationally implementable, accounts of an important subset of empirical data.

The book is quite well edited with very few typos. Here I list those which I have noticed in the data: there are font problems in table 3.2 on p. 49; in table 6.13 on p. 98 “rājān” is the correct Vṛddhi form; in table 8.3 on p. 125 the 2nd plural optative present active should be “rundhyāta”, not *“arundhyāta”, while the 3rd dual optative present active should be “rundhyātām”, not *“mrundhyātām”; in table 12.11 on p. 207 the “a” from “akrīṇi-tām” is misattached to the preceding line.

To conclude, I would like to recommend Stump’s new book to all interested in morphological typology and theories of syntax-morphology interface, including not only linguists of a more theoretical stance, but typologists and descriptive linguists as well


Aronoff, Mark. 1994. Morphology by Itself. Stems and Inflectional Classes. Cambridge (MA), London: The MIT Press.

Baerman, Matthew, Corbett, Greville G., Brown, Dunstan, Hippisley, Andrew (eds.). 2007. Deponency and Morphological Mismatches. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Blevins, James P. 2006. Word-based morphology. Journal of Linguistics 42: 531-573.

Boyé, Gilles. 2000. Problèmes de morpho-phonologie verbale en français, en espagnol et en italien. Thèse doctorale, Université Paris VII.

Brown, Dunstan, Chumakina, Marina, Corbett, Greville G. (eds.) 2013. Canonical Morphology and Syntax. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Corbett, Greville G. 2005. The canonical approach to typology. In Linguistic Diversity and Language Theories, Z. Frajzyngier, A. Hodges, D. S. Rood (eds.), 25-49. Amsterdam, Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Corbett, Greville G. 2007. Canonical typology, suppletion and possible words. Language 83: 8-42.

Corbett, Greville G. 2009. Canonical inflectional classes. In Selected Proceedings of the 6th Decembrettes, F. Montermini, G. Boyé, J. Tseng (eds.), 1-11. Sommerville (MA): Cascadilla Press.

de Reuse, Willem J. 2009. Polysynthesis as a typological feature. An attempt at a characterization from Eskimo and Athabaskan perspectives. In Variations on Polysynthesis: The Eskaleut languages, M.-A. Mahieu, N. Tersis (eds.), 19-34. Amsterdam, Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Korotkova, Natalia, Lander, Yury. 2010. Deriving suffix ordering in polysynthesis: Evidence from Adyghe. Morphology 20: 299-319.

Lander, Yury, Letuchiy, Alexander. 2010. Kinds of recursion in Adyghe morphology. In Recursion in Human Language, H. van der Hulst (ed.), 263-284. Berlin, New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

Stump, Gregory T. 2001. Inflectional Morphology. A Theory of Paradigm Structure. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Peter M. Arkadiev, PhD in linguistics (2006), is a senior research fellow in the Department of Typology and Comparative Linguistics of the Institute of Slavic studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow. His main interests are linguistic typology with a focus on morphology, case marking and argument structure and its formal realization, and tense-aspect-modality. He works mainly on Baltic and Circassian, as well as on areal and broad cross-linguistic projects.

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