Show Summary Details

Page of

Printed from Oxford Research Encyclopedias, Linguistics. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a single article for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 28 November 2022

Inflection Classes in Verbs in the Romance Languageslocked

Inflection Classes in Verbs in the Romance Languageslocked

  • Marc-Olivier HinzelinMarc-Olivier HinzelinUniversity of Hamburg

Summary

The Romance languages inherited from Latin a system of four inflection classes in verbs featuring a dedicated theme vowel (or its absence). The presence of the theme vowel in inflectional forms differs from language to language and from inflection class to inflection class. In Latin, the theme vowels are found in most forms; in Romance, their presence has declined but they are still featured at least in the infinitive of most inflection classes. Most Romance languages simplified the Latin system by reducing the number of inflection classes while retaining the class distinction by theme vowels. In many Romance languages, new inflection classes have evolved. The existence of verbs with a stem-forming augment is often described as a subclass in traditional grammars. But the augment appears in a well-defined set of paradigm cells warranting the introduction of a new class. In a synchronic analysis, French and Oïl varieties show mostly a distinction based on length of the stem or, from another perspective, pattern of syncretism as many forms are homophonous. This is partly due to the fact that some very frequent forms do not feature any longer inflectional suffixes in their phonetic realization (although these are retained in spelling).

New irregularities in the stem found in all Romance languages suggest the emergence of an additional class distinction based on the form, number, and distribution of the stems. Morphomic patterns arose which may be interpreted as inflection classes. The most radical change took place in French: Some analyses claim that none of the traditional classes distinguished by theme vowels survives; only stem distinctions may be used to establish inflection classes. Other studies still assume theme vowels in French, at least with verbs ending in -ir in the infinitive. Suppletion or other processes may lead to heteroclisis (i.e., forms of the same verb pertaining to different inflection classes).

Subjects

  • Historical Linguistics
  • Language Families/Areas/Contact
  • Morphology

You do not currently have access to this article

Login

Please login to access the full content.

Subscribe

Access to the full content requires a subscription