Inflection vs. derivation

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The abessive suffix of the Mordvin languages (Erzya and Moksha) expresses the meaning “without”. Diachronically, the suffix presents an example of a process of grammaticalization in which a derivational ending has developed into a case suffix. However, the process has not been completed, as the derivational meaning has also been maintained in both Erzya and Moksha. Consequently, in contemporary Mordvin languages the abessive form has a twofold character: it can be used both adverbially (as a case form) and adnominally (as an adjective derivation). This article investigates both the derivational and inflectional aspects of the abessive in the Mordvin languages and compares its uses with some other cases.


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