9 votes

Why are there inflections?

The basic answer is "because there are". Languages work the way languages work: we can explain how something has come about in a language, but why questions are nearly always unanswerable. Your ...
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Are there languages with verb tenses, but no conjugation?

There are plenty of languages that do what you are looking for. In linguistic typology, languages that encode grammatical functions (such as tense) as separate words are called "isolating" (...
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8 votes

Origin of the ا that ends the past tense of Arabic verbs for هُم?

In fact, alif ا does not mean anything particular and that differs it from the rest of the Arabic letters. It is a kind of a service letter, now it is a support for hamza, now it is written as a ...
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7 votes
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What is it called when one "conjugates" adjectives?

As curiousdannii said, it's a type of inflection. In Latin, adjectives were traditionally classified as nouns (nomina; specifically nomina adjectiva); the nouns that weren't adjectives were called "...
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7 votes

Why are there inflections?

I'm surprised nobody mentioned the concept of grammaticalization in this context. Asking why in linguistics is almost never a good question. But grammaticalization can certainly help explain how. (See ...
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Why is the Romanian tense system so "simple", compared to other Romance languages?

The short answer: centuries of use of Old Church Slavonic instead of Latin or Romanian as a written language BUT note there is a tendency towards analytic tenses in spoken languages across Europe. ...
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7 votes

Why do verbs use 1st singular present active indicative instead of infinitive as the "canonical" or "representative" form in Latin?

Historical accident. Roman (and Ancient Greek) grammarians seem to have thought of verb paradigms somewhat like noun paradigms: the forms of puella "girl" are puella, puellae, etc, and the ...
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6 votes

Does any language conjugate adverbs?

I'm not sure about conjuation in specific, but inflection of adverbs is definitely possible. There are numerous examples in various languages: English: can man travel faster than light German: kann ...
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Is there a language where another verb form is simpler/more basic than the imperative?

Classical Arabic may provide an example: see section 6.1.3 of Brame 1970. His account is that the affirmative imperative is formed by truncating the subject prefix ta- from the 2nd person jussive, and ...
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Why does French use “be” as the auxiliary for a few verbs?

As usual in language evolution, having two auxiliaries wasn't a goal, things just happened this way (and in fact the long-term evolution is towards a single auxiliary). There is an article in French ...
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6 votes

How did verb conjugation by person, number and gender appear? Why do we still use it?

More theory than history for you, but one take on it: Language evolution is an eternal tug-of-war between ease of articulation and information density. We want to say things quickly and learn how to ...
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5 votes

Is there any language where the past tense is the base form of a verb?

First, it is important to be clear on what "most basic form" as described above covers. One notion is "structurally simplest", that is, "having the fewest added things". The other is "phonologically ...
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Where can you find a list of all nouns and verbs "forms" in each language?

Such a thing generally doesn't exist, since it wouldn't be useful. For languages with complicated verbal morphology, such a list would take up several volumes without really communicating much. In ...
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Why is verb conjugation difficult in many languages?

I don't think verbs are more confusing per se; instead, verbs tend to have more forms than nouns do. The reason for this comes from the role of verbs versus nouns in sentences, what kind of semantic ...
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What is "mupigane" in Swahili?

Mupigane is not imperative, it is a subjunctive form of -pigana “beat one another = fight” (which is reciprocal of -piga “beat”) with the final -a substituted for the subjunctive -e. The Wiktionary ...
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Is there any language in which the gender of the subject/object is marked in every verb conjugation?

In the Northeast Caucasian languages, nouns are divided into classes, that category is analogous to the Indo-European and Semitic genders. Let's take Archi, a Northeast Caucasian language. It has 4 ...
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Realization of person in conjugation

What you're describing is the very essence of the difference between inflectional and agglutinating language. Thus there are many languages that separate person from number, gender, tense, etc. The ...
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4 votes

Why are there inflections?

Your question seems to assume that languages are the way they are because of conscious design by speakers. This isn't true -- speakers don't have the option to "make [the language] simpler" or "make ...
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4 votes

Is there a language where another verb form is simpler/more basic than the imperative?

For the German language there is a form called Erikativ or Inflektiv which is just the isolated verb stem. It is arguably simpler than the imperative singular because for some strong verbs there is a ...
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4 votes

How did verb conjugation by person, number and gender appear? Why do we still use it?

The systems employed in Germanic and Slavic result in part from inheritance from Proto-Indo-European, with changes (such as the loss of agreement in Norwegian, massive reduction in English, and the ...
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What is the origin of declension/conjugation classes?

The development of arbitrary morphological classification results from innumerable factors that obscure the relationship between form and function. For example, there may be a sound change that ...
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3 votes

Why does French use “be” as the auxiliary for a few verbs?

This is not unique to the French language and not really caused by the Latin origins of the language. German and Dutch have the same thing. They use "have" as auxiliary verb for most verbs and "are" ...
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3 votes

Why are there inflections?

Think of language as a code that humans have agreed on in order to communicate with each other. A speaker encodes a thought into the language and the hearer decodes it to understand the thought of the ...
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what would be the hypothetic result of *βεβλεπνται in Ancient Greek?

It would be βεβλέπαται. The [n] between consonants would be syllabic, and syllabic [n] went to [a] in Greek. This is the origin of the -αται 3pl. ending in the forms you mention, and also of 3pl. -ατο ...
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3 votes

Why is verb conjugation difficult in many languages?

As I used to tell my students, Verbs have more fun Every clause has a verb form in it, and there are always more things you can do to a verb than to a noun. In Latin, for instance, nouns are marked (...
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3 votes

What is "mupigane" in Swahili?

Mu- is either 2pl subject or object prefix, or cl. 1 object prefix. We can rule out an object prefix interpretation based on the syntax of -pigan- "beat each other" (too many object ...
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2 votes

Common change of conjugation of the verbs in spoken languages?

There are two main senses in which people speak of conjugations (as countable things). One is (seemingly) arbitrary lexical classes such as -er, -ar, -ir verbs in Spanish. The other is classes of ...
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2 votes

Verb conjugation convergence

Corbett's 2007 paper attributes the term "overlapping suppletion" to Juge (1999). Juge, Matthew L. 1999. On the rise of suppletion in verbal paradigms. Berkeley Linguistics Society 25.183–94.
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