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In grammar , inflection ( Latin flexio , 'bend' ) describes the change in the form of a word (a lexeme ) to express its grammatical characteristics. The terms inflection and (Austrian) bend are synonymous . The corresponding verb is to bend or bend or inflect ( Latin flectere 'bend, bend' ).

Grammatical categories of inflection in German are: person , number , tense , mode , gender , case , strength inflection (for adjectives), and possibly the level of comparison . The markings for inflection ( Flexive ) often consist of appended endings ( affixes ), but sometimes also in other processes that dig deeper into the form of a word, e.g. B. Ablaut . Inflected forms are typically tied to certain parts of speech and express grammatical features that are associated with the respective part of speech, e.g. B. the tense of the verb or the case of the noun . A typical phenomenon is that languages ​​can divide a part of speech into subclasses (inflection classes) in which a certain inflection feature is represented with differently sounding inflection forms (i.e. shows different inflection paradigms ). - In contrast to this type of language just outlined, to which German also belongs, there are also languages ​​in which the connection between the part of speech (of the word stem ) and possible inflected forms is loose; For example, predicates can then be formed in such languages ​​by adding verbal endings to a noun (or non-categorical) stem. A classic example of such flexibility is the Tagalog language .

The occurrence of inflection is controlled by grammatical rules; in addition, inflection features can be more or less interpretable in terms of content. Even with more meaningful categories such as number (singular / plural), however, the interpretability is limited by the fact that grammatical rules can force their occurrence for purely formal reasons.

The languages ​​of the world differ greatly in the extent to which they indicate grammatical features through inflected forms. The term inflectional language (or actually inflectional linguistic structure ) denotes languages ​​that develop different inflection forms in words to a large extent, but is also characterized by the fact that these are expressed in a fused form, i.e. that several features are also expressed by a single affix and possibly a change in the Tribal, not through a longer chain of affixes. Opposite terms to "inflectional language" are both isolating linguistic structure (where no inflectional features are indicated, or if then by independent words) and agglutinating linguistic structure (which may include long chains of affixes instead of a single form modification of the word).

Types of inflection in German

In the grammatical definition, the types of inflection are differentiated depending on the part of speech .

Declination of nouns

Nouns are declined according to case and number , the gender is fixed.


  • the house, the house, the houses

Declination in adjectives

Adjectives are declined according to gender , case , number and comparison .

declination example
according to gender a quick one, a quick one, a quick one
after case one quick, one quick, one quick, one quick
according to number one quick, two quick
after comparison one faster, one faster

There are three types of flexion:

  • weak declination with a preceding specific article word , example: in the big round, the old man
  • Strong or pronominal declination when the article word is absent or has no inflection, example: in a large group, old man
  • mixed declension with a preceding indefinite article word, example: in a large group, an old man

Verb conjugation

Verbs are conjugated according to person , number , aspect , type of action , tense and mode .

A distinction is made between three types of inflection in verbs in parallel:

Tense inflection by adding - {t} - to the root of the simple past tense (for example, as in (I) play - play e, (I) say - said )
  • strong inner inflection with the change in the stem vowel
for example by ablaut as in (I) sing - sang (tense flexion) and umlaut as in (I) fechte - (you) fichtst (inflection according to the person) and (I) sang - sänge (inflection of the modus)
  • irregular (mixed) inflection with further changes in the stem vowel (ablaut and consonant change) as in (I) pull - pulled and sometimes additionally with the tense affix as in (I) bring - brought (vowel change, consonant change and past tense suffix - {t} -) or with suppletive forms like (I) am - (you) are - (he) is, (you) are, (we, they) are , in which different stems are included in the inflection paradigm ( suppletion ).

Congruence and group flexion

The association of words or groups of words in the sentence can be indicated by congruence . In German, this is primarily the case, number and gender congruence within a sentence , the number congruence between subject and predicate and the number and gender congruence between reference nouns and relative pronouns.

Example: We see the little boy. The sentence has a number congruence between subject and predicate, furthermore a case, number and gender congruence in the object.

Agglutinating languages such as the Turkic languages ​​express the association of (adjective) attributes (also numerals and demonstrative pronouns), not through congruence, but through group inflection. The subordinate attributes are placed in front of the noun in their basic form, which results in a group. This is then subjected to inflection as a whole, that is, only the noun provided with attributes bears number and case markers (morphemes to mark the case).

Agglutinating and fusing flexion

The term inflection is not only used for inflection in the narrower sense (fusion), but it also often includes so-called agglutination (coarse and easily separable addition of affixes ). Therefore the term inflectional language is in many cases a synonym for a synthetic language .

  • Inflection in the sense of fusion occurs when word stems are changed ( inflected forms are formed ) in order to express grammatical categories.
  • Agglutination largely dispenses with this remedy; only the so-called vowel harmony is permitted.

Thus, an inflectional form for expressing grammatical categories can be formed in two ways: through agglutination and fusion (merging of morphemes). So one can distinguish agglutinating and fusing flexion.

The degree of fusion between the root of the word and the inflected ending is different. While with agglutination the inflected endings ideally only represent a single inflectional category, are simply appended to the word and are therefore easy to split up, this is not possible with fusion.

To explain some examples from the German language.

  • In the case of Kind-er-n , Kind stands for the word ( lexeme ), - {er} for the plural and - {n} for the dative. The word structure is agglutinating (strung together): The components of the word do not influence each other in terms of their form. If all inflected forms of German words were formed in this way, German would be an agglutinating language. But this is not the case.
  • Many plurals are formed differently, e.g. B. fathers . The same inflectional endings are used here as in children ; but at the same time the vowel of the word stem changes. This is no longer agglutinating, but a characteristic of fusion.
  • There are also cases like there (3rd person singular subjunctive in the past tense). Here - {e} stands for the 3rd person singular; the change from the stem vowel -e- (in geb-en ) to -a- stands for simple past; the change from this -a- to -ä- for the subjunctive. In -ä- several grammatical categories are expressed at the same time in this verb: past tense and subjunctive. The root form gäb- stands for the word + past tense + subjunctive. This is typical of fusion in inflection.

Fusion also means that the choice between the allomorphs is not only determined by the sound environment. In the case of the plural of dog - dogs and mouth - mouths , one can see that the stems contain almost the same sounds; nevertheless the plurals are formed differently. This cannot be due to the phonetic environment of the plural endings and is another hallmark of fusion.

  • The weak verbs show features of agglutination in German: rett-et-e consists of a string of unchanged word stem + inflectional ending for simple past - {(e) t} - + inflected ending for person / number - {e}.
  • The corresponding form of the strong verb haben , on the other hand, shows merging features: (he) runs - ran . The inflectional ending is lost and the stem vowel also changes.

Overall, German, like almost all languages, is a mixed language if you look at the means by which the grammatical categories are formed.

The inflection is opposed to the comparison (= increase) and the derivation (= derivation), which is used to form new words. In German, merger only plays a relatively minor role in derivation.


Many Indo-European languages - e.g. B. German , Latin , Spanish , Slavic languages , Hindi - have an inflected or synthetic language structure . Within the Semitic languages , especially in the classical Arabic language, many inflections have been preserved.

In contrast, spoken French has lost many forms of inflection over the centuries. Although these are still preserved in the written form, they cannot be distinguished from mere hearing, for example: il donne (he gives) and ils donnent (they give), don (gift) and dons (gifts).

The English language has also given up almost all inflected forms in the last few centuries, so it shows an analytical language structure . Here is a comparison of the conjugation of the verb make in the Middle English , Early New English and modern forms:

Middle English Early New English New English
I mak e I. make I. make
þu make st thou mak st you make
he / she / it make þ he / she / it make th he / she / it make s
we make n we make we make
ȝe make n ye make you make
þey make n they make they make

In contrast to inflected or synthetic languages ​​are analytical or isolating languages .

See also


  • Hadumod Bußmann (Ed.): Lexicon of Linguistics. 3rd, updated and expanded edition. Kröner, Stuttgart 2002, ISBN 3-520-45203-0 .
  • Duden. The grammar. 7th, completely new and expanded edition. Dudenverlag, Mannheim / Leipzig / Vienna / Zurich 2005, ISBN 3-411-04047-5 .
  • Heide Wegener: The nominal inflection of German - understood as a subject of study. Niemeyer, Tübingen 1995, ISBN 3-484-31151-7 .
  • Jörg Meibauer: Introduction to German linguistics. 2nd updated edition. JB Metzler, Stuttgart 2007, ISBN 978-3-476-02141-0 .
  • Karin Pittner: Introduction to German Linguistics. 2nd, revised and expanded edition. Scientific Book Society (WBG), ISBN 978-3-534-26794-1 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Inflection  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Inflection  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Bend  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Duden online: Flexion
  2. Duden online: diffraction
  3. Duden online: Bend .
  4. Duden online: bow , points 4 a) and 4 b)
  5. Duden online: biegen , point 1 b)
  6. Duden online: inflect