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Encyclopedia > Deflexion (linguistics)

Deflexion is a linguistic process related to inflectional languages (like all members of the Indo-European language family) reflecting a gradual decline of the inflectional morphemes (atomic semantic units) bound to lexemes (abstract word units). Typically, word endings to indicate noun cases and verbal tenses are affected, leading to the loss of some inflectional affixes. Complete loss in relation to the original language is normally associated with pidgin and creolization.[citation needed] In grammar, inflection or inflexion is the modification or marking of a word (or more precisely lexeme) to reflect grammatical (that is, relational) information, such as gender, tense, number or person. ... Proto-Indo-European Indo-European studies Indo-European is originally a linguistic term, referring to the Indo-European language family. ... In morpheme-based morphology, a morpheme is the smallest lingual unit that carries a semantic interpretation. ... Definition A lexeme is an abstract unit of morphological analysis in linguistics, that roughly corresponds to a set of words that are the same in basic meaning. ... A pidgin, or contact language, is the name given to any language created, usually spontaneously, out of a mixture of other languages as a means of communication between speakers of different tongues. ... It has been suggested that this article or section be merged into Creole language. ...

Directly related to deflexion is the fact that the languages become less synthetic and more analytic in nature. A synthetic language, in linguistic typology, is a language with a high morpheme-to-word ratio. ... An isolating language is a language in which the vast majority of morphemes are free morphemes and are considered to be full-fledged words. By contrast, in a synthetic language, a word is composed of agglutinated or fused morphemes that denote its syntactic meanings. ...

Deflexion is a common feature of the history of many Indo-european languages. Generally this process is attributed to language contact.[citation needed] Specifically, the phenomenon occurs at the presence of large, influential groups of speakers that acquired the leading idiom as a second language, thus by nature is limited to economical trade-offs widely considered as acceptable. Though gradual, English experienced a dramatic change from Old English being a moderately inflected language using a complex case system, to Modern English, considered a weakly inflected language or even analytic. Important deflexion changes first arrived into the English language with the North Sea Germanic (Ingvaeonic) shifts, shared by Frisian and Low German dialects, like merging accusative and dative cases into an objective case. Viking invasions and the subsequent Norman conquest accelerated the process. The importance of deflexion in the formative stage of a language can be illustrated by modern Dutch, where deflexion accounts for the overwhelming majority of linguistic changes in the last thousand years or more. Afrikaans virtually originated from Dutch by deflexion. French is another example of a language where deflexion has been exceptionally strong. The Anglo-Frisian languages (also known as Ingvaeonic languages, North Sea Germanic languages or sometimes Insular Germanic) are a group of West Germanic languages consisting of Old English, Old Frisian, and their descendants. ... This article needs to be cleaned up to conform to a higher standard of quality. ... Low German (also called Plattdeutsch, Plattdüütsch or Low Saxon) is a name for the regional language varieties of the West Germanic languages spoken mainly in Northern Germany where it is officially called Niederdeutsch (Low German), and in Eastern Netherlands where it is officially called Nedersaksisch (Low Saxon). Low refers...

According to the unidirectionality hypothesis[1], deflexion should be subject to a semantically driven one-way cline of grammaticality. However, exceptions to the gradual diachronic process have been observed where the deflexion process diminished or came to a hold, or where inflexional case marking was occasionally reinforced.

Notes and references

  1. ^ Hopper, Paul J. and Elizabeth Closs Traugott: Grammaticalization, 1993, Cambridge University Press.



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