I'm not clear on an aspect of linguistic terminology. I have a programming background, so maybe my conception of this is too hard-edged, but here goes.

There are some grammatical categories into which we can classify lexemes, namely Verbs, Nouns, Adverbs, etc. We call each of those categories a part of speech. So there's a super-category named Parts of Speech. In many languages, verbs are further divided into conjugations, and nouns into declensions.

I'm wondering whether there's a standard term referring to such subdivisions of the parts of speech. That is, a term meaning "conjugation or declension" that's analogous to "part of speech", meaning "verb, noun, or whatever".

I would use the term "category", but it's already used to refer to things like Tense, Aspect, Number, Gender, and so forth, which seem to me to be orthogonal to what I'm talking about. That is for instance, in a given language, verbs may inflect for TAMV, person, and number, with each conjugation doing it differently.

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    Your wording that "verbs are further divided into conjugations" and nouns into declensions is a bit inaccurate: Inflected word forms (such as different conjugations of verbs or different declensions of nouns) do not constitute their own parts of speech. The category remains the same; only the form of the lexeme changes. Commented Jun 6, 2017 at 22:42
  • The set of six inflectional categories of Verbs (preterite, perfect tense etc.) are known as a paradigm, but there's nothing comparable to that for the other word categories
    – BillJ
    Commented Jun 7, 2017 at 8:19
  • @BillJ This is false. Patterns of inflected forms of nouns, adjectives etc. are just as well called paradigms. Commented Jun 7, 2017 at 8:34
  • @lemontree Except that no one does!. We typically use the terms sub-category, sub-type or similar.
    – BillJ
    Commented Jun 7, 2017 at 8:39
  • @BillJ I disagree. But arguing over this is proabably pointless unless one of us comes up with a quantitative analysis of how these terms are being used in linguistic papers/textbook (which is not part of the question anyway). Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 13:53

1 Answer 1


These are generally termed "inflections".

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    Or sometimes "inflection classes".
    – TKR
    Commented Jun 7, 2017 at 0:14
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    @mark-beadles Thanks! I'm accustomed to calling the sound changes that specify a particular combination of categories (e.g. 1st person present indicative active) an "inflection", tho I do recall seeing it used in the sense that you indicated. Commented Jun 7, 2017 at 19:51
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    @tkr Thanks! That captures the sense I was looking for. Commented Jun 7, 2017 at 19:52

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