Is lemma defined for adverbs? For example, what is the lemma of diagonally? An even more difficult example would be "What is the lemma of nationally?" Is it nationally, national ,or nation? Or lemma is simply the word itself, for adverbs?

In wikipedia it says that lemma is the canonical form chosen from a lexeme (a set of forms carrying the same meaning). Is it true if I say that since diagonally and diagonal doesn't carry the same meaning (even it changes word class), then the two of them is not part of the same lexeme, and hence one can't be the lemma of another?

If that's the case, then is there any example of an adverb that has a different lemma?

I've read this question: What is the notion of lemma? but it doesn't seem to answer my question directly (and there is no answer in that question either).

  • 3
    In a language where adverbs are not inflected, it seems that any adverb is trivially its own lemma. So the question should possibly be: are there languages where adverbs can be inflected?. If the answer is no, it might be interesting to understand why.
    – babou
    Jul 1, 2014 at 11:27
  • Your comment is actually an answer to one of my question: "Is there any example of an adverb that has a different lemma?". Would you like to expand and put it as an answer?
    – justhalf
    Jul 1, 2014 at 11:36
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    @babou English is such a language. For example, better and best are inflected forms of both the adjective good and the adverb well; worse and worst are inflected forms of both the adjective bad and the adverb badly.
    – user2081
    Jul 1, 2014 at 12:08
  • @snailboat You are right. I was writing that in my answer while you wrote the comments. Unfortunately, English not being my mother togue led me to choose a bad example ... se correction forthcoming in answer.
    – babou
    Jul 1, 2014 at 12:22
  • Wow, I can't believe this question is downvoted without explanation on this beta site.
    – justhalf
    Jul 1, 2014 at 14:51

2 Answers 2


If adverbs are an independent part of speech that cannot be inflected, it follows from the definitions you give (which I also checked in Wikipedia), that any adverb is trivially its own lemma.

That may be often the case in English (not my mother tongue, in case it was not noticed). But not always: for example, some short adverbs can be inflected for comparative and superlatives like adjectives are: such as "fast", "faster", "fastest". In this case, all three adverbs lemmatise to "fast".

Correction: "fast" may be seen as an adjective used adverbially, while the corresponding French "vite" is an adverb, and does not inflect, hence my possibly improper choice for an example. I was trying to get an exemple different from "well - better - best" (given in wikipedia) though even well can be seen as an adjective as in "he is well". This seems less the case for "badly - worse - worst".

It seems somewhat difficult to find a clear example since words formed and used as adverbs, such as "kindly" from "kind", can be inflected but are also used as adjectives.

No other example coming to my mind at this time, I am leaving it open for people who have a better knowledge of English.

Actually, there are different kinds of adverbs, playing different roles in sentences, and it seems that some such classes are not inflected at all.

It may also vary with languages, though a look at wikipedia seems to suggest that adverbs almost never inflect (at least they never say they do). The only exception seems to be Austronesian languages, the best example being a widely known word "wiki" which has "wikiwiki" as comparative.

  • I just realized two French adverbs a specific form for comparative, bien - mieux and mal - pire, same as in English. Does it extend to other languages?
    – babou
    Jul 1, 2014 at 23:14
  • It's the norm in Standard Average European but not on its periphery. My sense is that the agglutinative languages, being highly regular, do not have it. Dec 4, 2017 at 21:13

It's very sensible to me, as I, too, am trying to understand the relationship between lemmas and lexemes.

In addition to what others have said about comparatives and superlatives, I believe regional differences in spelling should be categorized under the same lemma: colorfully and colourfully share the lemma "colorfully" (someone please correct me if I'm wrong). And they also share a lexeme.

I will argue here that there are cases where two words form a lemma yet don't share a lexeme. In biology, a chimeric organism is a type of genetic hybrid; in art/culture, a chimerical idea is a type of mixed up thought. Since a biologist wouldn't speak of a chimerical organism and an artist wouldn't say a chimeric idea (see Ngram Viewer chart), shouldn't these be classed as separate lexemes? Yet, grammatically, they are both adjectives with slightly different inflections (Calvinist/Calvinistic is another example), so shouldn't they share a lemma?

To finally get back to adverbs, then, what are we to do with chimerically? Both the biologist and the social scientist have to share this since there is no chimericly (Ngram Viewer). I'm in favor of splitting chimerically into two different lexemes. It's also possible, but seemingly rare, for a BrE writer to use chimaerically, which would add to the lemma chimerically.

examples: "The chimerically clonal grape The problems posed by clonality, collectivity, and chimerism are brought together... in the case of Pinot meunier" - Darwinian Populations and Natural Selection (2009)

"Suppose Hailey hallucinates a chimerically colored dragon." - The Sources of Intentionality (2011)

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