Inflection class system, Russian nouns, lexeme paradigm cells, morphological patterns


The complexity of an inflection class system is the average extent to which elements in the system inhibit motivated inferences about the realization of lexemes’ paradigm cells. Research shows that systems tend to exhibit relatively low complexity in this sense. However, representations of inflectional systems tend to include only affixal and regular patterns, leaving questions about how irregular patterns and non-affixal ‘layers’ of inflectional exponence affect the complexity of a system. We address these questions by exploring four layers of inflectional exponence of Russian nouns, including irregular patterns within each layer. Our data show that the Russian noun system exhibits relatively low complexity even when irregular and non-affixal exponence are included in it. The implicative structure of the system and the uneven distribution of lexemes across classes mitigate the uncertainty associated with irregular and non-affixal exponence. We also find that irregularity in some layers of exponence increases the complexity of the system, but in others it does not. This finding is consistent with the conclusion that the complexity of the whole system is not merely the sum of the complexity of its parts. Low systemic complexity in inflectional systems is, thus, an emergent property that may extend to inflectional patterns regardless of whether they are affixal and/or regular.

Original Publication Citation

Parker, Jeff & Sims, Andrea. (2020). Irregularity, paradigmatic layers, and the complexity of inflection class systems: A study of Russian nouns. 10.1093/oso/9780198861287.003.0002.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Oxford University Press







University Standing at Time of Publication

Assistant Professor

Included in

Linguistics Commons