Linguistik-Klassifikation: Morphologie / Morphology
Categories and paradigms : on underspecification in Russian declension
- In morphological systems of the agglutinative type we sometimes encounter a nearly perfect one-to-one relation between form and function. Turkish inflectional morphology is, of course, the standard textbook example. Things seem to be quite different in systems of the flexive type. Declension in Contemporary Standard Russian (henceforth Russian, for short) may be cited as a typical example: We find, among other things, cumulative markers, “synonymous” endings (e.g., dative singular noun forms in -i, -e, or -u), and “homonymous” endings (e.g., -i, genitive, dative, and prepositional singular). True, some endings are more of an agglutinative nature, being bound to a specific case-number combination and applying across declensions, e.g., -am (dative plural, all nouns); and some cross the boundaries of word classes, e.g., -o, which serves as the nominative/accusative singular ending of neuter forms of pronouns (and adjectives) and as the nominative/accusative singular ending of (most) neuter nouns as well. Still, many observers have been struck by the impression that what we face here are rather uneconomic or even, so to speak, unnatural structures. But perhaps flexive systems are not as complicated as they seem. What seems to be uneconomic complexity may be, at least partially, an artifact of uneconomic descriptions.