Chapter 2: Canonical inflectional paradigms


Drawing on the principles of canonical typology (Corbett 2005, 2009; Brown et al. [eds.] 2013), Chapter 2 (‘Canonical inflectional paradigms’) develops the notion of a canonical inflectional paradigm:  a typological idealization relative to which the inflectional paradigms of natural languages may be compared.  A morpheme-based approach to inflection would suffice if inflectional paradigms were always canonical; but as I demonstrate at length in this book, actual inflectional paradigms deviate from the canonical ideal in a variety of ways, and each such deviation engenders a different kind of problem for morpheme-based inflection.  Even so, the notion of a canonical inflectional paradigm provides a crucial point of reference for the discussion of such phenomena.

The inflectional paradigm of a lexeme may be seen as a set of cells, each cell being the pairing of a word’s lexical and morphosyntactic content with its morphological form.  In order to develop and refine this preliminary conception of inflectional paradigms, it is essential to understand its fundamental components.  Chapters 3–6 accordingly present a detailed explanation of four basic notions:  morphosyntactic properties, lexemes, stems and inflection classes.