Glossary of Linguistic Terms



Inflection is variation in the form of a word, typically by means of an affix, that expresses a grammatical contrast which is obligatory for the stem’s word class in some given grammatical context.


In contrast to derivation, inflection:

  • does not result in a change of word class
  • usually produces a predictable, nonidiosyncratic change of meaning


  • In the following English sentence, come is inflected for person and number by the suffix -s:
    • The mailman comes about noon.


  • In the following Spanish noun phrase, las and rojas are inflected for agreement with manzanas in grammatical gender by -a and in number by -s:
    • las manzanas rojas ‘the red apples’