Professor Matthew Baerman

Professorial Research Fellow (SMG)
PhD (Berkeley), MArch (Harvard), BA (Yale)


Affiliations and memberships

Member of the Academia Europaea


Postgraduate research supervision


Emily Lindsay-Smith, Matthew Baerman, Sacha Beniamine, Helen Sims-Williams, Erich R. Round (2024)Analogy in Inflection, In: Annual review of linguistics10(1)

Analogy has returned to prominence in the field of inflectional morphology as a basis for new explanations of inflectional productivity. Here we review the rising profile of analogy, identifying key theoretical and methodological developments, areas of success, and priorities for future work. In morphological theory, work within so-called abstractive approaches places analogy at the center of productive processes, though significant conceptual and technical details remain to be settled. The computational modeling of inflectional analogy has a rich and diverse history, and attention is now increasingly directed to understanding inflectional systems through their internal complexity and cross-linguistic diversity. A tension exists between the prima facie promise of analogy to lead to new explanations and its relative lack of theoretical articulation. We bring this to light as we examine questions regarding inflectional defectiveness and whether analogy is reducible to grammar optimization resulting from simplicity biases in learning and language use. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Linguistics, Volume 10 is January 2024. Please see for revised estimates.

Oliver Bond, Helen Sims-Williams, Matthew Baerman (2020)Contact and Linguistic Typology, In: Raymond Hickey (eds.), The Handbook of Language Contactpp. 129-148 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd

As an enterprise, linguistic typology is perhaps best understood in terms of the shared ideology of its practitioners. In studying contact‐induced change typologists can begin to understand which features of language are readily acquired or arise through contact. This chapter focuses on recent developments in research on language contact in relation to contemporary thought in linguistic typology. While typology in general is concerned with identifying sets of variables and developing probabilistic theories explaining their distribution, morphological typology relates these goals to the shape, properties, and distribution of morphological systems. The chapter examines some of the ways in an understanding of the diversity of morphological systems can help provide support for contact‐based explanations of linguistic variables. It presents a case study to show that the typological properties of a language may also be changed through contact that leads to loss, rather than augmentation or reorganization.

O Fedden, T Feist, Matthew Baerman, D Brown, Greville G. Corbett, G Senft (2015)Mian and Kilivila Collection The University of Surrey

The Mian and Kilivila Collection contains information pertaining to the nominal classification systems of two indigenous languages of Papua New Guinea, Mian and Kilivila. Kilivila has a single system of classifiers, with a great number of distinctions, while Mian has a dual system, which combines four genders and six classifiers. The Digital Collection on this website permits users to gain a greater understanding of these systems by exploring images of Mian and Kilivila objects and people. Users are also able to test what they have learnt about the classifications systems of these two languages by taking the online Quiz.

Matthew Baerman, DP Brown, Greville G. Corbett (2009)Morphological Complexity: a typological perspective
Matthew Baerman, Greville G. Corbett (2010)A typology of inflectional class interaction.
A Krasovitsky, Matthew Baerman, D Brown, Greville G. Corbett, P Williams (2010)Morphosyntactic Change in Russian: A Corpus-based Approach, In: B Hansen, J Grković-Major (eds.), Diachronic Slavic syntax: Gradual changes in focus74pp. 109-119 Verlag Otto Sagner
Matthew Baerman, Dunstan Brown, Greville G. Corbett (2017)Morphological Complexity Cambridge University Press

Inflectional morphology plays a paradoxical role in language. On the one hand it tells us useful things, for example that a noun is plural or a verb is in the past tense. On the other hand many languages get along perfectly well without it, so the baroquely ornamented forms we sometimes find come across as a gratuitous over-elaboration. This is especially apparent where the morphological structures operate at cross purposes to the general systems of meaning and function that govern a language, yielding inflection classes and arbitrarily configured paradigms. This is what we call morphological complexity. Manipulating the forms of words requires learning a whole new system of structures and relationships. This book confronts the typological challenge of characterising the wildly diverse sorts of morphological complexity we find in the languages of the world, offering both a unified descriptive framework and quantitative measures that can be applied to such heterogeneous systems.

Matthew Baerman, DP Brown, Greville G. Corbett (2002)Case syncretism in and out of Indo-European, In: M Andronis, C Ball, H Elston, S Neuvel (eds.), Papers from the 37th Meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society1pp. 15-28 Chicago Linguistic Society
Matthew Baerman, Greville G. Corbett, DP Brown (2010)Defective Paradigms: missing forms and what they tell us163 Oxford University Press

An important design feature of language is the use of productive patterns in inflection. In English, we have pairs such as 'enjoy' ~ 'enjoyed', 'agree' ~ 'agreed', and many others. On the basis of this productive pattern, if we meet a new verb 'transduce' we know that there will be the form 'transduced'. Even if the pattern is not fully regular, there will be a form available, as in 'understand' ~ 'understood'. Surprisingly, this principle is sometimes violated, a phenomenon known as defectiveness, which means there is a gap in a word's set of forms: for example, given the verb 'forego', many if not most people are unwilling to produce a past tense. Although such gaps have been known to us since the days of Classical grammarians, they remain poorly understood. Defectiveness contradicts basic assumptions about the way inflectional rules operate, because it seems to require that speakers know that for certain words, not only should one not employ the expected rule, one should not employ any rule at all. This is a serious problem, since it is probably safe to say that all reigning models of grammar were designed as if defectiveness did not exist, and would lose a considerable amount of their elegance if it were properly factored in. This volume addressed these issues from a number of analytical approaches - historical, statistical and theoretical - and by using studies from a range of languages.

Matthew Baerman, Greville G. Corbett (2013)Person by other means, In: D Bakker, M Haspelmath (eds.), Languages Across Boundaries: Studies in Memory of Anna Siewierskapp. 1-14 De Gruyter

Person is required in an account of the syntax and the morphology of many languages, while others lack it. Between these two types are languages where person lacks unique morphological exponents (suggesting it is not a morphosyntactic feature) but interacts systematically with the expression of other features (suggesting it is a feature). In particular in a range of languages, notably in the Nakh-Daghestanian and Tucanoan families, the expression of gender and person are intertwined. The recurring pattern is that a default form in the gender system (inanimate or neuter) also serves for first and second person. After careful examination, possible analyses without a person feature become less attractive. While these genuinely difficult systems may still lead us to posit a morphosyntactic person feature, we must recognize that its status is intriguingly different from that which is normally found.

Greville G. Corbett, Matthew Baerman, DP Brown, S Collier (2010)Morphological Complexity: introduction. .
Greville G. Corbett, Matthew Baerman, D Brown (2002)Domains of syncretism: a demonstration of the autonomy of morphology, In: M Andronis, C Ball, H Elston, S Neuvel (eds.), CLS 37: The Panels: 2001: Proceedings from the Parasessions of the 37th Meeting of the Chicago linguistics Society. Vol 37-2, 385-398 Chicago: Chicago Linguistic Society
Greville G. Corbett, Matthew Baerman, D Brown (2001)Case syncretism in and out of Indo-European. Chicago: Chicago Linguistic Society

CLS37: The Panels. Papers from the 37th Meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society, 15-28

Matthew Baerman, Greville G. Corbett (2012)Stem alternations and multiple exponence, In: Word Structure5(1)pp. 52-68

In a canonical inflectional paradigm, inflectional affixes mark distinctions in morphosyntactic value, while the lexical stem remains invariant. But stems are known to alternate too, constituting a system of inflectional marking operating according to parameters which typically differ from those of the affixal system, and so represent a distinct object of inquiry. Cross-linguistically, we still lack a comprehensive picture of what patterns of stem alternation are found, and hence the theoretical status of stem alternations remains unclear. We propose a typological framework for classifying stem alternations, basing it on the paradigm-internal relationship between the features marked by stem alternations versus those marked by affixes. Stem alternations may mark completely different features from the affixes (§2), or the same features (§3). Within the latter, the values may match (§3.1) – a rare situation – or be conflated (§3.2). Conflation in turn may involve natural semantic/morphosyntactic classes (§3.2.1), or phonological conditioning (§3.2.2), or be morphologically stipulated (§3.2.3). These patterns typically reveal stems’ continued allegiance to lexical as opposed to inflectional organizing principles.

A Krasovitsky, Matthew Baerman, DP Brown, Greville G. Corbett (2011)Changing semantic factors in case selection: Russian evidence from the last two centuries, In: Morphology21(3)pp. 573-592

We present a corpus-based study of variation in case assignment of the direct object of negated verbs in Russian over the past 200 years. Superficially the system of case forms available over this relatively short period has remained largely the same, but the way in which certain cases are used has been radically altered. This is particularly apparent in the treatment of the direct object of negated verbs. We argue that various semantic factors have been involved in bringing about this change, and that the role and significance of these factors has been changing over the period under investigation. This has implications for our understanding of the role of semantics in case assignment.

M Baerman, DP Brown, Greville G. Corbett (2009)Morphological complexity: the view from typology
M Baerman, DP Brown, Greville G. Corbett (2002)The Surrey Syncretisms Database

Syncretism is a surprising yet widespread and poorly understood phenomenon in natural language. Given a regular distinction such as present versus past, as in English help/helped, work/worked, laugh/laughed, we might not expect to find instances like bid, which can be present or past (we now bid five pounds, though yesterday we bid ten pounds). The form bid, is said to be an instance of syncretism, a single form fulfilling two or more different functions. Thus syncretism is found even in English, whose inflectional morphology (system of different word-forms) is simple in comparison with many languages. The database encodes information on inflectional syncretism in 30 genetically and geographically diverse languages, representing such morphosyntactic features as case, person, number and gender, in all the inflectional classes where they are relevant.

GG Corbett (2007)Deponency, syncretism and what lies between., In: M Baerman, Greville G. Corbett, D Brown, A Hippisley, (eds.), Deponency and Morphological Mismatches.pp. 21-43
M Baerman, Greville G. Corbett, D Brown (2009)The Surrey Defectiveness Database (consisting of a Typological Database and a 100-language Survey) University of Surrey

The term 'defectiveness' refers to gaps in inflectional paradigms — specifically, gaps which do not appear to follow from natural restrictions imposed by meaning or function. The Latin noun for 'change' is a textbook example: bizarrely, it lacks nominative and dative singular forms, and has no genitive plural. The fact that inflectional paradigms may have such anomalous gaps in them has been known since at least the days of the classical grammarians, but now as then, we understand little about them. And though the existence of defective paradigms is indisputable, few people could name more than a handful of examples. The project A Typology of Defectiveness, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, completed in February 2009, has aimed to expand our empirical knowledge of this intriguing phenomenon and to clarify its significance for the study of language. This website hosts two complementary databases. The Typological Database examines the different types of defective paradigms according to various typological parameters. This database illustrates different types of defective paradigm according to various morphological and morphosyntactic parameters: a) Word class: what word class do the defective lexemes belong to? b) Morphosyntactic category: what morphosyntactic features characterize the missing forms? c) Paradigmatic correlation: can the gap(s) in the paradigm be described in terms of an easily definable morphological category (e.g. a word missing a particular morphological stem) or a morphosyntactic category (e.g. a verb missing its past tense or 1st person singular)? The 100-language Survey looks for plausible examples within a controlled sample, in order to gain a picture of how prevalent defectiveness actually is in the languages of the world.

A Krasovitsky, M Baerman, D Brown, Greville G. Corbett, A Long, H Quilliam (2009)Database of Short Term Morphosyntactic Change: variation in Russian 1801-2000

Languages change by gaining and losing word forms over time, but an equally significant role in their history is played by subtle shifts in the function of existing forms. Investigating such developments requires us to analyse patterns of use in large amounts of historical data, but such data are simply unavailable for most languages. Russian is a happy exception. It is a language with a rich and relatively stable system of inflectional morphology. Yet while the system of forms has changed relatively little, the use of these forms has undergone a remarkable degree of change over the last 200 years, a period for which a substantial quantity of varied material is available. The database is the product of a project funded by the Arts and Humanties Research Council (grant number RG/AN4375/APN18306); a full list of project outputs may be found at By investigating a corpus of literary texts created between 1801 and 2000 (10 million words in total), we have shown how dramatically a language can change even as the actual word forms remain unchanged. The database was designed to help address two theoretical questions: • What is the nature of morphosyntactic change in a language whose morphological system remains stable? • What factors condition the choice between competing forms? The database provides statistical analyses of the competition between grammatical forms for six morphosyntactic phenomena within equal time periods, described below. We give the user the means to investigate morphological, syntactic, stylistic and socio-linguistic factors involved in historical change , and so to observe how innovative usage spreads across contexts. Besides the results of this original study, we also give the results of earlier, less complete, studies by other scholars. An annotated bibliography of these sources is available at The data are the result of several person-years of effort; we have published some of the findings, and we welcome further use of the database by other researchers. We want the database to be accessible to historical linguists with no knowledge of Russian, as well as to Russianists, and so we give the examples in transliterated form. The database available at

Greville G. Corbett, A Krasovitsky, A Long, M Baerman, D Brown (2005)Predicate nouns in Russian

SLS2006: The First Conference of the Slavic Linguistics Society, Bloomington IN.

Greville G. Corbett, M Baerman, D Brown, A Krasovitsky, A Long (2005)Diachronic processes in Russian morphosyntax (a corpus based approach)
M Baerman, DP Corbett, AR Brown, Hippisley (2007)Deponency and Morphological Mismatches Oxford University Press

Deponency is a mismatch between form and function in language that was first described for Latin, where there is a group of verbs (the deponents) which are morphologically passive but syntactically active. This is evidence of a larger problem involving the interface between syntax and morphology: inflectional morphology is supposed to specify syntactic function, but sometimes it sends out the wrong signal. Although the problem is as old as the Western linguistic tradition, no generally accepted account of it has yet been given, and it is safe to say that all current theories of language have been constructed as if deponency did not exist. In recent years, however, linguists have begun to confront its theoretical implications, albeit largely in isolation from each other. There is as yet no definitive statement of the problem, nor any generally accepted definition of its nature and scope. This volume brings together the findings of leading scholars working in the area of morphological mismatches, and represents the first book-length typological and theoretical treatment of the topic. It will establish the important role that research on deponency has to play in contemporary linguistics, and set the standard for future work.

Greville G. Corbett, M Baerman, D Brown, A Krasovitsky, A Long (2008)Animacy in the development of the Russian predicative adjective in the 19th and 20th centuries
M Baerman, Greville G. Corbett, DP Brown (2009)Typology of Defectiveness

The term 'defectiveness' refers to gaps in inflectional paradigms — specifically, gaps which do not appear to follow from natural restrictions imposed by meaning or function. The Latin noun for 'change' is a textbook example: bizarrely, it lacks nominative and dative singular forms, and has no genitive plural. The fact that inflectional paradigms may have such anomalous gaps in them has been known since at least the days of the classical grammarians, but now as then, we understand little about them. And though the existence of defective paradigms is indisputable, few people could name more than a handful of examples. The project A Typology of Defectiveness, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, completed in February 2009, has aimed to expand our empirical knowledge of this intriguing phenomenon and to clarify its significance for the study of language. This website hosts two complementary databases. The Typological Database examines the different types of defective paradigms according to various typological parameters, while the 100-language Survey looks for plausible examples within a controlled sample, in order to gain a picture of how prevalent defectiveness actually is in the languages of the world.

M Baerman, Greville G. Corbett, DP Brown, A Hippisley (2006)The Surrey Deponency Databases

The databases record instances of deponency, which is the term we have adopted to describe mismatches between morphology and morphosyntax. The prototypical example are the deponent verbs of Latin, which involve a mismatch between passive form and active meaning. That is, a normal Latin verb had active forms such as amō 'I love' and amāvī 'I have loved', which contrasted with the passive forms amor 'I am loved' and amātus sum 'I have been loved' (in this case, with a masculine subject). A deponent verb, on the other hand, looks like the passive but functions like the active, as in mīror 'I admire', mīrātus sum 'I have admired'. In the the databases we construe deponency in an extended fashion, covering any mismatch between the apparent morphosyntactic value of a morphological form and its actual value in a given syntactic context. Two databases are housed on this site, accessible through the links above. The cross-linguistic database looks at the presence of morphological mismatches in a controlled sample of genetically and geographically diverse languages (based on the 100-language sample from the World Atlas of Language Structures). The typological database records the logical space of deponency: what features may be affected, and what are the characteristics of the resulting paradigm? Every logical combination of parameters is represented by one exemplar (or where none has been found, this is noted too). The typological database is supplemented by a set of formal analyses of examples which hold particular interest for morphological theory.

M Baerman, Greville G. Corbett, DP Brown (2010)Defective paradigms, In: Proceedings of the British Academy 145
M Baerman, D Brown, Greville G. Corbett (2015)Understanding and Measuring Morphological Complexity Oxford University Press

This book aims to assess the nature of morphological complexity, and the properties that distinguish it from the complexity manifested in other components of language.

M Baerman, DP Brown, Greville G. Corbett (2005)The Syntax-Morphology Interface: a Study of Syncretism Cambridge University Press. xix + 281pp.
Matthew Baerman, Greville G. Corbett (2010)Defectiveness: Typology and Diachrony, In: M Baerman, Greville G. Corbett, DP Brown (eds.), Defective Paradigms: Missing Forms and What They Tell Uspp. 1-18 Oxford University Press
Greville G. Corbett, M Baerman (2006)Prolegomena to a typology of morphological features, In: Morphology16(2)pp. 231-246

Morphological features characterize variations in morphological form which are independent of syntactic context. They contrast with morphosyntactic features, which characterize variations in form correlated with different syntactic contexts. Morphological features account for formal variation across lexemes (inflectional class), as well as morphosyntactically incoherent alternations within the paradigm of a single lexeme. Such morphological features are not available to the syntax, as is made explicit in the principle of 'morphology-free syntax'. Building on work on stress patterns in Network Morphology and on stems in Paradigm Function Morphology, we take initial steps towards a typology of these morphological features. We identify four types: inflectional class features (affixal and prosodic), stem indexing features, syncretic index features and morphophonological features. Then we offer a first list of criteria for distinguishing them from morphosyntactic features (independently of the principle of morphology-free syntax). Finally we review the arguments demonstrating the need to recognize morphological features. © Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007.

A Krasovitsky, A Long, M Baerman, D Brown, Greville G. Corbett (2008)Predicate nouns in Russian, In: Russian Linguistics32(2)pp. 99-113
M Baerman, Greville G. Corbett (2007)Linguistic typology: Morphology, In: Linguistic Typology11(1)pp. 115-117

Typology in its modern form is connected with the search for universals. This works to the advantage of certain types of questions, those which allow a more or less coherent answer for any language. Phonology, syntax, and semantics are usually the starting point, and such topics as phonological inventories, word order, and the range of expressible semantic distinctions constitute the bulk of research. These also form the core questions of general linguistics, so this research emphasis is only to be expected. Conversely, one area that receives relatively little attention from typologists is morphology. This too is hardly surprising: of all the aspects of language, morphology is the most language-specific and hence least generalizable. Indeed, even the very presence of a meaningful morphological component is language-specific. © Walter de Gruyter 2007.

Cross-linguistic database and typological database

Matthew Baerman (2023)Agreement in Kadu Inflectional merger as morphosyntactic abstraction, In: Diachronica40(1)pp. 1-29 John Benjamins Publishing Co

Krongo, a member of the Kadu family (Nuba Mountains, Sudan), has four agreement classes: feminine, masculine, neuter and plural (Reh 1985). Nominal number-marking prefixes play a key role in class assignment: productive plural prefixes trigger plural agreement, and productive singular prefixes trigger neuter agreement. In most other Kadu languages, there is no distinction between plural and neuter classes. Comparative and typological evidence shows that Krongo's system represents the older state of affairs. It is argued that the motivation for the merger of these two classes was a morphosyntactic abstraction over agreement rules. Two distinct rules, one for singular prefixes and one for plural prefixes, were replaced by a single rule that assigned the same agreement class to all productive number prefixes, regardless of whether they mark singular or plural. The result is the morphosyntactic mirror-image of an inverse number system, such as is found in, for example, Dagaare (Grimm 2012).

Matthew Baerman (2012)Paradigmatic chaos in Nuer, In: Language88(3)pp. 467-494

The case-number suffixes of the Western Nilotic language Nuer (Frank 1999) display a remarkable combination of formal simplicity and distributional complexity, which is manifested in: (i) a seemingly erratic form-function mapping that precludes attributing a consistent meaning to them, and (ii) a wealth of inflection classes only barely differentiated from each other. The suffixes looks as if they were rule-generated, but behave as if they were memorized. I advance a model of inflection combining principal parts, implicational rules and default inheritence, which attributes the bulk of the complexity is attributed to the lexical stem, revealing the underlying systematicity behind suffix assignment.

Matthew Baerman (2014)Covert systematicity in a distributionally complex system, In: Journal of Linguistics50(1)pp. 1-47

Current thinking on inflection classes views them as organized networks rather than random assemblages of allomorphs (Carstairs-McCarthy 1994, Malouf & Ackerman 2010, Müller 2007), but we still find systems which appear to lack any visible implicative structure. A particularly striking example comes from Võro (a variety of South Estonian). Its system of verbal inflectional suffixes is formally simple but distributionally complex: although there are never more than three allomorphs in competition, nearly two dozen inflectional patterns emerge through rampant cross-classification of the allomorphs. Allomorph choice in one part of the paradigm thus fails to constrain allomorph choice in the rest, so it looks as if the paradigms would have to be memorized en masse. The key to these patterns lies outside the system of suffixation itself, in the more conventional formal complexity of stem alternations and their paradigmatic patterning. The computationally implemented analysis presented here provides a model of inflection in which the implicational network of phonological, morphophonological and morphological conditions on formal realization are unified in a single representation.

Matthew Baerman (2016)Seri verb classes: morphosyntactic motivation and morphological autonomy, In: Language92(4)pp. 792-823 Linguistic Society of America

The verbal suffixes of Seri (a language isolate of Sonora, Mexico) divide the lexicon into classes of unparalleled complexity. The paradigm has only four forms, which mark subject number and aspect (or event number), yet there are over 250 distinct types in a corpus of just under 1000 verbs. This relation of forms to types means that by information-theoretic measures this is among the most complex inflection class system yet studied. In part this complexity is due to the sheer wealth of allomorphs and the freedom with which they combine within the paradigm; however, these properties can be found in all inflection class systems of any complexity. The unique property of Seri it that although the suffix morphology and the morphosyntactic paradigm have the same featural content, the two systems are not directly coordinated. Both suffix morphology and verbal morphosyntax are based on the concatenation of markers of plurality, and an increase in the morphological marking of plurality reflects a morphosyntactic accumulation of subject and predicate plurality (i.e. aspect). In this sense morphology is a direct exponent of featural content. But there is no consistent mapping between the two systems, and the precise calibration between morphological form and morphosyntactic function must be lexically specified; it is this specification that increases dramatically the number of inflectional types. Seri therefore represents a middle ground in between the conceptual extremes of morphosyntactically motivated and morphologically autonomous morphology that serve as a basis for much of our theory building.

Matthew Baerman, Enrique L. Palancar, Timothy Feist (2019)Inflectional class complexity in the Oto-Manguean languages, In: Amerindia41pp. 1-18 Association d'Ethno-linguistique Amerindienne

In this paper we introduce the object of study of this special issue of Amerindia, the inflectional classes of the Oto-Manguean languages of Mexico, together with their most relevant typological characteristics. These languages are rich both in the variety of their inflectional systems, and in the way these are split into inflection classes. In effect, the full typological range of possible inflection class systems can be found just in this one stock of languages. This is illustrated through a survey of the variety of morphological forms, assignment principles, and paradigm structure, as well as the effects of combining multiple inflection class systems across different exponents within a single word form.

M Baerman (2001)Unnatural classes in morphological change, In: Russian Linguistics25(2)pp. 281-284
M Baerman (2008)Historical observations on defectiveness: the first singular non-past, In: Russian Linguistics32(1)pp. 81-97

Verbs lacking a 1SG non-past (such as убедить) are a familiar problem in Russian morphology. While it can be argued that defectiveness is lexicalized, the question remains as to how this came about diachronically. This paper assesses the historic evidence. Contemporary defectives can be traced to two earlier classes of verbs which had aberrant alternations in the 1SG: (i) verbs with Church Slavonic д ~ жд, and (ii) dental stem verbs which lacked alternation altogether. Particular attention is paid to the latter type, as it has not yet received comprehensive scholarly treatment. The origin of defectiveness is traced to the suppression of these two classes over the last two centuries: lexical specification of an aberrant morphological alternation is replaced by lexical specification of a gap.

M Baerman (2007)Morphological reversals, In: Journal of Linguistics43(1)pp. 33-61

The term morphological reversal describes the situation where the members of a morphological opposition switch their functions in some context (as with Hebrew gender marking, where -Ø ~ -a marks masculine ~ feminine with adjectives but feminineymasculine with numerals). There is a long tradition of polemic against the notion that morphology can encode systematic reversals, and an equally long tradition of reintroducing them under different names (e.g. polarity, exchange rules or morphosyntactic toggles). An examination of some unjustly neglected examples (number in Nehan, aspect in Tubatulabal, tense in Trique and argument marking in Neo-Aramaic) confirms the existence of morphological reversal, particularly as a mechanism of language change. This is strong evidence for the separateness of morphological paradigms from the features that they encode.

M Baerman (1998)An overview of the Slavic population in southeastern Europe, In: Slavic and East European Journal42(1)pp. 187-188
M Baerman (2004)Directionality and (un)natural classes in syncretism, In: Language80(4)pp. 807-827

Syncretism, where a single form corresponds to multiple morphosyntactic functions, is pervasive in languages with inflectional morphology. Its interpretation highlights the contrast between different views of the status of morphology. For some, morphology lacks independent structure, and syncretism reflects the internal structure of morphosyntactic features. For others, morphological structure is autonomous, and syncretism provides direct evidence of this. In this article, I discuss two phenomena which argue for the second view. Directional effects and unnatural classes of values resist attempts to reduce them to epiphenomena of more general rule types, and require purely morphological devices for their expression

Matthew Baerman, Irina Monich, Tatiana Reid (2019)Nominal inflection classes in verbal paradigms, In: Morphology Springer Nature

It is not uncommon for inflected nominal forms to be incorporated into verbal paradigms, as in Imonda progressive construction tōbtō soh-ia ale-f ‘he is looking for fish (lit. fish search-loc stay-prs)’, where the verbal noun ‘search’ is in the locative case. Equally, nominal inflection classes are not uncommon. But the two rarely cooccur. We present two case studies (the only examples we are aware of) as a contribution to the typology of inflection class systems: the Western Nilotic language Nuer, and Old Irish. In these languages nominal inflection class distinctions in case marking have become part of the verbal paradigm through the incorporation of constructions involving deverbal nouns. This provides a unique context for observing the properties of inflection classes. In Nuer, case inflection of the verbal noun can be deduced through a cascading series of implicatures, laying bare processes which are entirely covert in the ordinary noun system. With Old Irish, its transition to the modern period was accompanied by a split in the behaviour of verbal nouns, whose inflection class system was simplified when used verbally, but left intact in other contexts, showing that incorporation into the verbal paradigm had real effects on the system.

C Rudin, C Kramer, L Billings, M Baerman (1999)Macedonian and Bulgarian li questions: Beyond syntax, In: Natural Language and Linguistic Theory17(3)pp. 541-586
Matthew Baerman (2011)Defectiveness and homophony avoidance, In: Journal of Linguistics47(1)pp. 1-29

The idea that certain morphological and phonological irregularities are due to speakers' desire to avoid homophony is widely invoked, yet has also come under strong criticism as an explanation which is neither necessary nor sufficient. In most cases there is no way to resolve the question, since the assumption that something is being avoided is itself a theoretical construct. In this article I attempt to address this last difficulty by looking at gaps in inflectional paradigms – where it is clear that something is being avoided – that plausibly correlate with potential homophony. These fall into two types: (i) lexical, where portions of the paradigms of two lexeme would be homophonous, and (ii) paradigmatic (i.e. syncretism), where forms within the paradigm of a single lexeme would be homophonous. Case studies of Tuvaluan, Russian, Mazatec, Tamashek and Icelandic confirm the effects of homophony avoidance as a genuine, if non-deterministic, principle.

Matthew Baerman (2020)Gender flip and person marking in Benchnon (North Omotic), In: Glossa Ubiquity Press

Subject agreement in the North Omotic language Benchnon (Rapold 2006) lacks dedicated person marking, but indirectly indicates person distinctions through asymmetries in the distribution of gender markers. In one verbal paradigm, first and second person subjects are expressed by feminine morphology, and in the other paradigm they are expressed by masculine morphology. This is hard to reconcile with any known notion of how gender assignment works. I show that it can be explained as the particular instantiation of a rare but cross-linguistically recurrent pattern in which a (reduced) person marking system is generated by restrictions on gender agreement: only third person subjects control semantic gender agreement, while first and second person are assigned default gender. In Benchnon the default gender switched from feminine to masculine over the course of its history, yielding two contrasting verbal paradigms. The older one is morphologically frozen, the newer one is a reflection of still-active agreement conditions. Further developments show that the older paradigm can be adapted to conform to the newer conditions, showing that the division between morphosyntactically motivated and arbitrarily stipulated morphology is a fluid one.

MATTHEW BAERMAN, IRINA MONICH (2021)Paradigmatic saturation in Nuer, In: Language Linguistic Society of America

Nouns in Nuer (Western Nilotic) nouns have been presented as an extreme example of inflectional complexity, where a ‘chaotic’ distribution of suffixes combines with dozens of different stem modifications to yield dozens of inflection classes, (Frank 1999, Baerman 2012). We show that all of the apparent surface variety can be reduced a handful of operations. The proliferation of inflection classes is due to a property we call PARADIGMATIC SATURATION: practically every combination of inflectional operations is attested, yielding the maximum variety with the minimum of means.

Alexander Krasovitsky, Alison Long, Matthew Baerman, Dunstan Brown, Greville G. Corbett (2006)Predicate Nouns in Russianpp. 8-10
Matthew Baerman (2007)Morphological typology of deponency, In: M Baerman, GG Corbett, DP Brown, A Hippisley (eds.), Deponency and Morphological Mismatches.pp. 1-19 Oxford University Press
Matthew Baerman (2002)Post-stressing complementizers in Erkech (Kozichino), In: RAZ Alexander (eds.), Revitalizing Bulgarian Dialectology. University of California Press/University of California International and Area Studies Digital Collection
Matthew Baerman (2019)Feature Duality, In: Matthew Baerman, Oliver Bond, Andrew Hippisley (eds.), Morphological Perspectives: Papers in Honour of Greville G. Corbett Edinburgh University Press

Inflectional paradigms come in two possible flavours: either the forms line up with the featural system whose values they express, or they do not. For example, the formatives in Table 5.1 from Chamorro (an Oceanic language of Guam) can be readily characterised in terms of aspect-mood distinctions: ha- is the realis 3sg prefix, u- the irrealis prefix, and reduplication marks the incompletive. Contrast this with the three tense-aspect paradigms from Gulmancema, a Gur language of Burkina Faso. There is a suffix -di which is found with each verb, but it cannot readily be characterised in featural terms, because it can in fact be used for any feature: with a verb like ‘pass’ it is used for the imperfective, with a verb like ‘love’ it is used for the perfective, and with a verb like ‘hear’ it is used for the aorist and perfective. In this case a description of the possible forms in the paradigm (unsuffixed, or with suffix -di) is separate from the feature values behind it. What I would like to look at here is a set of paradigms that falls in between these two extremes, where the distribution of forms appears to approximate the feature system they express. That is, there is neither complete correspondence (as in Chamorro) or complete divergence (as in Gulmancema). This is either a challenge to morphological theory, which cannot readily accommodate this, as far as I know, or it demonstrates that my interpretation of the facts is wrong, in which case this may be a useful exercise in clarifying what is or is not a possible morphological analysis. The example involves number marking on the verb in Hualapai, a Yuman language spoken in Arizona. Verbs distinguish four forms which, I will argue, can be understood as representing four degrees of number, ranging from low (singular) to high (greater plural). The morphological paradigm in turn follows an incremental principle where the addition of a morphological marker corresponds to an increase in the number value. However, the terms by which this morphological system is constructed do not correspond to the values of the morphosemantic system. In effect, the morphological system approximates the morphosemantic system without quite matching it. In §5.2 I present the structure of the verbal paradigm and argue for my particular interpretation of it in terms of morphosemantic number. In §5.3 I present the morphological paradigm and argue for an interpretation in terms of incremental quantity. In §5.4 I attempt to relate the two, arguing for what this might mean for morphological theory. All the data here is taken from the reference grammar by Watahomigie et al. (1982, revised version from 2001), or their dictionary (2003).

Matthew Baerman (2014)Historical development of Slavic inflectional accent, In: P Kosta, K Gutschmidt, S Kempgen, T Berger (eds.), The Slavic Languages (Handbooks of Linguistics and Communication Science 32.2).(117)pp. 1590-1596 Mouton de Gruyter

A description of the accentual alternations of Common Slavic is given, and the major lines of their development in the daughter languages are outlined, involving both the extension and loss of the original patterns. Transitional systems leading to phonologically fixed stress are briefly discussed.

Matthew Baerman (2001)The prosodic properties of ne in Bulgarian, In: UJ G. Zybatow (eds.), Current issues in formal Slavic linguistics.pp. 59-68 Peter Lang
Matthew Baerman (2005)Typology and the formal modelling of syncretism, In: Yearbook of Morphology2004pp. 41-72
M Baerman (2005)Syncretism, In: K Brown (eds.), Encyclopedia of language and linguistics (2nd edition). Elsevier
MATTHEW BAERMAN (2021)Morphosyntactic convergence in Kadu agreement, In: Diachronica John Benjamins Publishing

Kadu is a small family of languages spoken in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan. Table 1 compares cognate noun forms and their associated verbal subject agreement prefixes in two languages of this family, Krongo and Katcha. Krongo has the agreement prefixes n-, m- and Ø-, which may be used for either singular or plural agreement, and k-, which is used only for plural agreement. Katcha has the same agreement prefixes as Krongo, except that instead of opposing n- and k-, Katcha uses only k-.1 (References for forms in the tables are given in the Appendix.) At first glance, this juxtaposition might seem unremarkable: splits and mergers of inflectional categories are hardly a rarity. In particular, the number of agreement classes or genders in a language may grow or shrink over time (DiGarbo & Miestamo 2019). But in trying to reconstruct how this came about, it becomes clear that it could not have followed any of the known pathways of phonological, morphological or semantic change. I argue that it was of a type of change that has not previously been described. Specifically, that Katcha (and other Kadu languages) underwent a merger of classes triggered by a morphosyntactic generalization. In the original system, noun forms marked with productive singular affixes were, unsurprisingly, assigned to a different agreement class from those marked with productive plural affixes. The innovation was to combine these into a single class, so that all productive number affixes, whether singular or plural, take the same agreement. The paper is structured as follows. §2 provides background on the language family, on noun morphology, and on the agreement system. §3 presents the evidence that there were originally two distinct agreement classes, still preserved in Krongo but conflated in at least some of the other Kadu languages. §4 proposes an explanation for this diachronic change, arguing that it was triggered by joining all productively inflected singular and plural noun forms into a single agreement class. §5 concludes, arguing that a such a diachronic morphosyntactic convergence, motivated by sheer morphological markedness, has not been observed before. Superficially similar systems of ‘inverse number’ are shown to involve a different set of principles.

Matthew Baerman (2014)Suppletive kin term paradigms in the languages of New Guinea, In: Linguistic Typology18(3)

Kin terms in some languages have suppletive roots according to the person of the possessor, as in Kaluli na:la ‘my daughter’, ga:la ‘your daughter’ versus ida ‘her/his daughter’. Suppletion is generally seen as a language-specific morphological peculiarity, but in this context there are a number of lexical and morphological similarities across languages, suggesting the motivation may also lie in the nature of kin terms themselves. We offer a typological assessment suppletive kin terms through a case study of the languages of New Guinea, where the phenomenon appears to be particularly common.

Matthew Baerman, Oliver Bond, Andrew Hippisley (2019)Taking the morphological perspective, In: Matthew Baerman, Oliver Bond, Andrew Hippisley (eds.), Morphological Perspectives: Papers in honour of Greville G. Corbettpp. 1-27 Edinburgh University Press

In a field dominated by syntactic perspectives, it is easy to overlook the words that are the irreducible building blocks of language. Morphological Perspectives takes words as the starting point for any questions about linguistic structure: their form, their internal structure, their paradigmatic extensions, and their role in expressing and manipulating syntactic configurations. With a team of authors that run the typological gamut of languages, this book examines these questions from multiple perspectives, both the canonical and the non-canonical. By taking these questions seriously, and letting loose a full battery of analytical techniques, the following chapters not only celebrate the pioneering work of Greville G. Corbett but present new thinking on traditional approaches, including the paradigm, deponency and morphological features.

Matthew Baerman (2014)Inflection class interactions in Otomanguean, In: A Kihm, JL Léonard (eds.), Patterns in Mesoamerican morphologypp. 15-25 Michel Houdiard

In many languages, inflectional morphology is not uniform across the lexicon, with groups of lexemes falling into different inflection classes. These form at times highly complex systems whose structure has come under increasing scrutiny in contemporary morphological theory (e.g. Ackerman, Blevins & Malouf 2009, Finkel & Stump 2009, Brown & Hippisley 2012). The Oto-Manguean language are of particular interest because their diverse means of inflectional exponence allow for multiple parallel inflection class systems, adding an additional layer of complexity.

Matthew Baerman (2013)Inflection class interactions, In: N Hathout, F Montermini, J Tseng (eds.), Morphology in Toulouse. Lincom

Distributed and multiple exponence create the possibility that a single lexeme may simultaneously belong to multiple inflection classes, e.g. a word form may contain prefixal, suffixal and prosodic inflectional exponents, each displaying allomorphic variation. This paper sketches an initial typology of the sorts of interactions that obtain between multiple inflection class systems, ranging from cross-classification to mutual implicature. Perhaps the most interesting systems are those in between, which give evidence both of the autonomy of the individual subsystems as well as greater or lesser degree of communication between them.

The database covers 111 languages, and concentrates on person syncretism. It documents instances where particular person and number combinations share the same form (for example, the English verb 'to be' where one form is used with you (sg), we, you (pl) and they: you are, we are, you are, they are). The database also records properties which might be conditioning factors for person/number syncretism: tense/aspect/mood, inflectional class, gender of subject, and syntactic context. Each instance of syncretism is hyperlinked to an illustrative paradigm.

M Baerman, D Brown (2005)Syncretism in Verbal Person/Number Marking, In: M Haspelmath, M Dryer, D Gil, B Comrie (eds.), The World Atlas of Language Structures.pp. 122-125 Oxford University Press
Matthew Baerman, E Palancar (2014)The organization of Chinantec tone paradigms, In: S Augendre, G Couasnon-Torlois, D Lebon, C Michard, G Boyé, F Montermini (eds.), Proccedings of the Décembrettes. 8th International conference on morphology. December 6-7, 2012pp. 46-59

The tonal paradigm of verbs in Tlatepuzco Chinantec counts as one of the most complex and opaque ever described, with five tone values distributed over twelve cells (distinguishing person/number and aspect) to yield c. 70 distinct paradigm types, with no consistent mapping between morphological form and morphosyntactic function. We suggest that useful generalizations will emerge only when we consider units of analysis larger than the individual inflected form, which we dub inflectional series. For Tlatepuzco Chinantec this means concatenating the three aspectual forms for each person/number value. The resulting units allow us to see structural relationships between the elements of the paradigm which were previously inaccessible.

M Baerman (2009)The diachrony of defectiveness, In: Chicago Linguistic Society43(2)pp. 251-265
Matthew Baerman, Dunstan Brown, Greville G. Corbett (2002)The Surrey Syncretisms Database

The Surrey Syncretism Database encodes information on inflectional syncretism in 30 genetically and geographically diverse languages, representing such morphosyntactic features as case, person, number and gender. Syncretism is defined as when some set of words fail to distinguish morphosyntactic feature values which we believe, based on language-internal criteria, to be underlyingly present (for example, in Latin, the dative and ablative cases may be distinct in some contexts but collapsed into a single form in others). For each language all instances of syncretism are recorded.

The database documents instances where the marking of subject person on verbs is syncretic (two or more person values represented by a single form), covering 111 genetically and geographically diverse languages. The database also records properties which might be conditioning factors for syncretism: tense/aspect/mood, inflectional class, gender of subject, and syntactic context.

Matthew Baerman, RFITSMGM Baerman (2015)The Oxford Handbook of Inflection Oxford University Press, USA

This is the latest addition to a group of handbooks covering the field of morphology, alongside The Oxford Handbook of Case (2008), The Oxford Handbook of Compounding (2009), and The Oxford Handbook of Derivational Morphology (2014). It provides a comprehensive state-of-the-art overview of work on inflection - the expression of grammatical information through changes in word forms. The volume's 24 chapters are written by experts in the field from a variety of theoretical backgrounds, with examples drawn from a wide range of languages. Alexeme's inflection-class membership is part of its lexical identity, and may therefore serve a disambiguating function; for instance, the lie1 in He just lay at home inflects as a strong verb, while the lie2 in He just lied at home inflects as a weak ...

Matthew Baerman (2009)Case syncretism, In: A Spencer, A Malchukov (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Case.pp. 219-230 Oxford University Press

Case syncretism is the combination of two or more morphosyntactic cases in a single morphological form. A four-part typology of case syncretism is given, with some patterns attributable to what was originally a functional motivation, while others appear to be purely morphological.