In linguistics, conjugation (//) is the creation of derived forms of a verb from its principal parts by inflection (alteration of form according to rules of grammar). Verbs may inflect for grammatical categories such as person, number, gender, tense, aspect, mood, voice, case, possession, definiteness, politeness, causativity, clusivity, interrogativity, transitivity, valency, polarity, telicity, volition, mirativity, evidentiality, animacy, associativity, pluractionality, and reciprocity. Verbs may also be affected by agreement, polypersonal agreement, incorporation, noun class, noun classifiers, and verb classifiers. Agglutinative and polysynthetic languages tend to have the most complex conjugations albeit some fusional languages such as Archi can also have extremely complex conjugation. Typically the principal parts are the root and/or several modifications of it (stems). All the different forms of the same verb constitute a lexeme, and the canonical form of the verb that is conventionally used to represent that lexeme (as seen in dictionary entries) is called a lemma.
The term conjugation is applied only to the inflection of verbs, and not of other parts of speech (inflection of nouns and adjectives is known as declension). Also it is often restricted to denoting the formation of finite forms of a verb – these may be referred to as conjugated forms, as opposed to non-finite forms, such as the infinitive or gerund, which tend not to be marked for most of the grammatical categories.
Conjugation is also the traditional name for a group of verbs that share a similar conjugation pattern in a particular language (a verb class). For example, Latin is said to have four conjugations of verbs. This means that any regular Latin verb can be conjugated in any person, number, tense, mood, and voice by knowing which of the four conjugation groups it belongs to, and its principal parts. A verb that does not follow all of the standard conjugation patterns of the language is said to be an irregular verb. The system of all conjugated variants of a particular verb or class of verbs is called a verb paradigm; this may be presented in the form of a conjugation table.
Indo-European languages usually inflect verbs for several grammatical categories in complex paradigms, although some, like English, have simplified verb conjugation to a large extent. Below is the conjugation of the verb to be in the present tense (of the infinitive, if it exists, and indicative moods), in English, German, Yiddish, Dutch, Afrikaans, Icelandic, Faroese, Swedish, Norwegian, Latvian, Bulgarian, Serbo-Croatian, Polish, Slovenian, Macedonian, Urdu or Hindi, Persian, Latin, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Albanian, Armenian, Irish, Ukrainian, Ancient Attic Greek and Modern Greek. This is usually the most irregular verb. The similarities in corresponding verb forms may be noticed. Some of the conjugations may be disused, like the English thou-form, or have additional meanings, like the English you-form, which can also stand for second person singular or be impersonal.
|Singular persons||Plural persons|
|Neapolitan||èssere||songo, so||sî||è||simmo||site||songo, so|
|Welsh (standard form)||bod||rydw||rwyt||mae||rydych||rydyn||maen|
eed (spoken: een)
|(اند (ان |
and (spoken: an)
- 1 Archaic, poetical; used only with the pronoun 'thou'.
- 2 In Flemish dialects.
- 3 In the bokmål written standard.
- 4 In the nynorsk written standard. vera and vere are both alternate forms.
- 5 Attic.
- 6 'eínai' is only used as a noun ("being, existence").
- 7 Ptc: qenë.
- 8 In the Tosk and Geg dialects, respectively.
- 9 Existential: هست (hæst) has another meaning. Usage of (æ) is considered to be colloquial, now. See, Indo-European copula
- 10 With the Singular they 3rd person pronoun.
Verbal agreement or concord is a morpho-syntactic construct in which properties of the subject and/or objects of a verb are indicated by the verb form. Verbs are then said to agree with their subjects (resp. objects).
Many English verbs exhibit subject agreement of the following sort: whereas I go, you go, we go, they go are all grammatical in standard English, she go is not (except in the subjunctive, as "They requested that she go with them"). Instead, a special form of the verb to go has to be used to produce she goes. On the other hand I goes, you goes etc. are not grammatical in standard English. (Things are different in some English dialects that lack agreement.) A few English verbs have no special forms that indicate subject agreement (I may, you may, she may), and the verb to be has an additional form am that can only be used with the pronoun I as the subject.
Verbs in written French exhibit more intensive agreement morphology than English verbs: je suis (I am), tu es ("you are", singular informal), elle est (she is), nous sommes (we are), vous êtes ("you are", plural), ils sont (they are). Historically, English used to have a similar verbal paradigm. Some historic verb forms are used by Shakespeare as slightly archaic or more formal variants (I do, thou dost, she doth, typically used by nobility) of the modern forms.
Some languages with verbal agreement can leave certain subjects implicit when the subject is fully determined by the verb form. In Spanish, for instance, subject pronouns do not need to be explicitly present, even though in French, its close relative, they are obligatory. The Spanish equivalent to the French je suis (I am) can be simply soy (lit. "am"). The pronoun yo (I) in the explicit form yo soy is only required for emphasis or to clear ambiguity in complex texts.
Some languages have a richer agreement system in which verbs also agree with some or all of their objects. Ubykh exhibits verbal agreement for the subject, direct object, indirect object, benefaction and ablative objects (a.w3.s.xe.n.t'u.n, you gave it to him for me).
Basque can show agreement not only for subject, direct object and indirect object, but it also on occasion exhibits agreement for the listener as the implicit benefactor: autoa ekarri digute means "they brought us the car" (neuter agreement for listener), but autoa ekarri ziguten means "they brought us the car" (agreement for feminine singular listener).
Languages with a rich agreement morphology facilitate relatively free word order without leading to increased ambiguity. The canonical word order in Basque is subject–object–verb. However, all permutations of subject, verb and object are permitted.
Nonverbal person agreement
In some languages, predicative adjectives and copular complements receive a form of person agreement that is distinct from that used on ordinary predicative verbs. Although this is a form of conjugation in that it refers back to the person of the subject, it is not “verbal” because it always derives from pronouns that have become cliticised to the nouns to which they refer. An example of nonverbal person agreement, along with contrasting verbal conjugation, can be found from Beja (person agreement affixes in bold):
- wun.tu.wi, “you (fem.) are big”
- hadá.b.wa, “you (masc.) are a sheik”
- e.n.fór, “he flees”
- fèmba.di, “I am a Tungus”
- dɨ.fen, “I am standing”
In Turkic, and a few Uralic and Australian Aboriginal languages, predicative adjectives and copular complements take affixes that are identical to those used on predicative verbs, but their negation is different. For example, in Turkish:
- koş.u.yor.sun “you are running”
- çavuş.sun “you are a sergeant”
Under negation this becomes (negative affixes in bold):
- koş.mu.yor.sun “you are not running”
- çavuş değil.sin “you are not a sergeant”
For this reason, the person agreement affixes used with predicative adjectives and nominals in Turkic languages are considered to be nonverbal in character. In some analyses, they are viewed as a form of verbal takeover by a copular strategy.
Factors that affect conjugation
Common grammatical categories according to which verbs can be conjugated are the following:
- Finite verb forms:
- Non-finite verb forms.
Other factors which may affect conjugation are:
- Degree of formality (see T-V distinction, Honorific speech in Japanese, Korean speech levels)
- Clusivity (of personal pronouns)
One common feature of Pama–Nyungan languages, the largest family of Australian Aboriginal languages, is the notion of Verb Conjugation Classes which are a set of groups into which each lexical verb falls that determines how it is conjugated for Tense–aspect–mood. These classes can, but do not universally, correspond to the transitivity or valency of the verb in question. Generally, of the two-to-six conjugation classes in a Pama-Nyungan language, two classes will be open with a large membership and allowing for new coinages and the remainder will be closed and of limited membership.
Wati Verb Classes
In Wati languages, verbs generally fall into four classes:
- l class
- ∅ class
- n class
- ng class
labelled using common morphological components of verb endings in each respective class in infinitival forms. In the Wanman language these each correspond to la, ya, rra, and wa verbs respectively.
|speared||is spearing||will spear||spear it!||used to spear||spears|
|stayed||is staying||will stay||stay!||used to stay||stays|
|went||is going||will go||go!||used to go||goes|
|hit||is hitting||will hit||hit it!||used to hit||hits|
See also a similar table of verb classes and conjugations in Pitjantjatjara, a Wati language wherein the correlating verb classes are presented below also by their imperative verbal endings -la, -∅, -ra and -wa respectively
|took||is taking||will take||take it!||used to take||takes|
|dug||is digging||will dig||dig!||used to dig||digs|
|went||is going||will go||go!||used to go||goes|
|hit||is hitting||will hit||hit it!||used to hit||hits|
Ngayarta Verb Classes
- l class
- ∅ class
In the case of Ngarla, there is a notably strong correlation between conjugation class and transitivity, with transitive/ditransitive verbs falling in the l-class and intransitive/semi-transitive verbs in the ∅-class.
|Class||Present||Remote Past||Past||Past Continuous||Habitual||Future||Speculative||Purposive||Optative||Present Contrafactual||Past Contrafactual||Anticipatory|
|is chopping||chopped (long ago)||chopped||used to chop||chops||will chop||could have chopped||in order to chop||ought to chop||were x chopping||had x chopped||should x chop|
|is falling||fell (long ago)||fell||used to fall||falls||will fall||could have fallen||in order to fall||ought to fall||were x falling||had x fallen||should x fall|
These classes even extend to how verbs are nominalized as instruments with the l-class verb including the addition of an /l/ before the nominalizing suffix and the blank class remaining blank:
Kunyjarta-lu mara ku-rnu parnu-nga warnta pirri-lpunyjarri, kurni-rnu kunyjarta kurri
Woman-ERG hand CAUS-PST 3SG-GEN stick dig-INS throw-PST woman teenager
‘(The) woman caused her digging stick to be in (the) hand (i.e. picked up her digging stick), (and) threw (it) at (the) girl.’
Jarrari-punyjarri waa-n ngajapa pinurru ngaya nyali ja-lu
light-INS give-FUT 1SG.LOC fire 1SG.NOM light CAUS-PURP
‘(A) match (lit. something to light with) give on (i.e. to) me, (a) fire I intend to light.’
Yidiny Verb Classes
Yidiny has a ternary verb class system with two open classes and one closed class (~20 members). Verbs are classified as:
- -n class (open, intransitive/semi-transitive)
- -l class (open, transitive/ditransitive)
- -r class (closed, intransitive)
|sit!||is sitting / will sit||sat||in order to sit||lest x sit|
|bite it!||is biting / will bite||bit||in order to bite||lest x bite|
|feel sore!||is feeling / will feel sore||felt sore||in order to feel sore||lest x feel sore|
Conjugations by language
- Category:Grammatical conjugation
- Indo-European copula
- Archivium: Italian verbs conjugator, for regular and irregular verbs
- Agreement (linguistics)
- Declension (nouns, adjectives, etc.)
- Redundancy (linguistics)
- Strong inflection
- Verb argument
- Volition (linguistics)
- Weak inflection
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- "conjugation". Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Retrieved 2016-01-26.
- "Grammatical Features - Associativity". www.grammaticalfeatures.net. Retrieved 18 March 2018.
- Passer, Matthias. "Verb Classifiers - 'Misfits' of Nominal Classification?". academia.edu. Retrieved 18 March 2018.
- Stassen, Leon; Intransitive Predication (Oxford Studies in Typology and Linguistic Theory); published 1997 by Oxford University Press; p. 39. ISBN 0-19-925893-7
- Stassen; Intransitive Predication; pp. 77 & 284-288
- Stassen, Intransitive Predication; p. 40
- Westerlund, Torbjörn,. A grammatical sketch of Ngarla (Ngayarta, Pama-Nyungan). Anu, A.C.T. ISBN 978-1-922185-15-0. OCLC 903244888.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link) CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
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- Eckert, Paul. (1988 (1991 printing)). Wangka wir̲u : a handbook for the Pitjantjatjara language learner. Hudson, Joyce., South Australian College of Advanced Education. Aboriginal Studies and Teacher Education Centre., Summer Institute of Linguistics. Underdale, S. Aust.: University of South Australia /South Australian College of Advanced Education. ISBN 0-86803-230-1. OCLC 27569554. Check date values in:
- Westerlund, Torbjörn (2017-07-03). "Verb Classification in Ngarla (Ngayarta, Pama-Nyungan)". Australian Journal of Linguistics. 37 (3): 328–355. doi:10.1080/07268602.2017.1298396. ISSN 0726-8602.
- Language description informed by theory. Pensalfini, Rob., Turpin, Myfany., Guillemin, Diana. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: John Benjamins Publishing Company. 2014. p. 157. ISBN 978-90-272-7091-7. OCLC 868284094.CS1 maint: others (link)