LSA-SSILA session on inflectional classes

Enrique L. Palancar epalancar at HOTMAIL.COM
Wed May 9 20:16:38 UTC 2012

The Surrey
Morphology Group (University of Surrey) is organizing a joint LSA-SSILA session
entitled “Inflectional classes in the languages of the Americas” for the 2013
Annual Meeting to be held during the LSA 2013 Annual Meeting in Boston, MA from
3 to 6 January 2013.


morphology expresses grammatical information, and in an ideal world, each
distinct form would correspond to a distinct meaning. But inflectional markers
may also display apparently unmotivated morphological differences. For example,
the present indicative of the second person in Spanish has the ending -es for
some verbs and –as for others (e.g. rompes ‘you break’ vs. cantas ‘you sing’),
while in the subjunctive, the situation is reversed (e.g. rompas ‘you may break’
vs. cantes ‘you may sing’). Often such inflectional allomorphy pervades the
entire paradigm, as indeed it does in Spanish, so that a given word class falls
into morphologically distinct inflection classes. Inflection classes are
seemingly useless in functional terms, and yet they are widely found across
languages and remarkably resilient over time.


classes, as they resist a syntactic or phonological explanation, are in
themselves an interesting object of study for a theory of language because they
introduce into the linguistic system a layer of complexity which is purely
morphological. This has motivated a recent interest in their study. See for
example Ackerman et al. (2009), Finkel and Stump (2007), or Müller (2007) among


our knowledge of inflectional classes to date is still largely based on
European languages and is thus limited by their typological characteristics. To
elucidate a sound typology of inflectional classes, a comprehensive theory must
expand its horizons beyond well-known languages. 


this connection, the languages of the Americas are notable for the richness of
their morphological systems. The general emphasis in the analyses of such
languages has been led by a quest to elucidate the complexities of their
morphosyntax, that is, the aspects of their morphologies which are motivated by
their syntax. This is understandable, but much less is known, for example,
about the ways verbal lexemes are grouped in some American Indian languages
into various classes based solely on their inflectional properties, although a
number of studies have indeed revealed layers of morphological complexity in
some of these languages that go far beyond the requirements of syntax, such as
for example Angulo (1933) and more recently Blevins (2005) and Campbell (2011),
among others. 


the other hand, in the canonical case membership in an inflectional class is
random; that is to say, a given lexeme is a member of a certain inflectional
class not because of its phonological or semantic properties. However, there
are interesting borderline cases where membership in a class is partially
random and partially motivated by more general principles. Such borderline
cases reveal ways that allow inflectional classes to emerge in linguistic
systems and ways that may help language users to maintain them over time. In
this regard, studies based on lesser known languages can help to enhance our
understanding of the role played by such factors in how inflectional classes
operate, especially when there are major classes competing in the partition of
the lexicon of a given language. 


this session, we welcome papers with either a descriptive or a theoretical
approach to the inflectional classes of one or several of the indigenous
languages of the Americas. Such studies can help us to establish a firm
empirical foundation for the study of the relation between the lexicon and the


following is a list of possible topics that we would like the session to tackle
in some way or another.


Differences between semantic verb classes and more canonical inflectional

Principles governing lexeme class membership in inflectional classes.

Degree of inflectional overlap across the paradigms of different classes.

Degree of predictability of class assignment from a given form in the paradigm.

Inflectional class structure: apart from affixal morphology, what is the role
of stem alternation patterns in inflectional classes?

Diachronic aspects of inflectional classes.


submit your abstract in keeping with LSA 2013 Annual Meeting Abstract
Guidelines and Specifications (available at by e-mail attachment (as Word,
RTF or PDF files – please use PDF if special fonts are used) to:


e.palancar at


in the body of your e-mail message:


of the abstract: 




remember that for a LSA-SSILA meeting, it is customary that the abstract,
including examples if needed, should be no more than one typed page (a second
page may only be used for references). 


deadline for submission of abstracts is June 30, 2012. 


abstracts will be refereed anonymously by the session's organizing committee as
well as by external reviewers, and authors will be notified of inclusion to the
proposed session by July 15. A final decision of LSA-SSILA acceptance of the
session falls outside of the organizers’ control and will be communicated to
authors by late summer. Should the session not be accepted, the abstracts will
be considered instead for the general session.


organizing committee:


Baerman: m.baerman at

G. Corbett: g.corbett at

C. Brown: d.brown at

L. Palancar: e.palancar at 


information regarding the 87th LSA Annual Meeting can be found at



Ackerman, Farrell, James P. Blevins, & Robert Malouf. 2009. Parts and
wholes: Implicative patterns in inflectional paradigms. In James P. Blevins
& Juliette Blevins (eds.), Analogy in grammar: form and acquisition.
Oxford: OUP, 54-82.

Angulo, Jaime. 1933. The Chichimeco Language, International Journal of American
Linguistics 7: 152-194.

- Blevins, Juliette. 2005. Yurok verb classes. International
Journal of American Linguistics 71(3): 327-349.

Campbell, Eric. 2011. Zenzontepec Chatino Aspect Morphology and Zapotecan Verb
Classes. International Journal of American Linguistics 77(2): 219-246.

Finkel, Raphael and Gregory T. Stump. 2007. Principal parts and morphological
typology. Morphology 17.39-75.

Müller, Gereon. 2007. Notes on paradigm economy. Morphology 17.1-38. 		 	   		  
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