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Linguistic Typology

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Volume 21, Issue 3


Person as an inflectional category

Johanna Nichols
  • University of California, Berkeley, Slavic Languages 2979, 6303 Dwinelle, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA
  • Linguistic Convergence Laboratory, National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia
  • Faculty of Arts, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
  • Email
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
Published Online: 2017-12-07 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/lingty-2017-0010


The category of person has both inflectional and lexical aspects, and the distinction provides a finely graduated grammatical trait, relatively stable in both families and areas, and revealing for both typology and linguistic geography. Inflectional behavior includes reference to speech-act roles, indexation of arguments, discreteness from other categories such as number or gender, assignment and/or placement in syntax, arrangement in paradigms, and general resemblance to closed-class items. Lexical behavior includes sharing categories and/or forms and/or syntactic behavior with major lexical classes (usually nouns) and generally resembling open-class items. Criteria are given here for typologizing person as more vs. less inflectional, some basic typological correlations are tested, and the worldwide linguistic-geographical distribution is mapped.

Keywords: areal typology; grammaticalization; inflection; linguistic geography; morphology; person; personal pronouns; population history; sampling; syntax


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About the article

Published Online: 2017-12-07

Published in Print: 2017-12-20

Citation Information: Linguistic Typology, Volume 21, Issue 3, Pages 387–456, ISSN (Online) 1613-415X, ISSN (Print) 1430-0532, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/lingty-2017-0010.

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