ATOV: Inflection, Lemma, Lexeme, Limnology

Inflection/Inflexion: “modification of a word to express different grammatical categories such as tense, mood, voice, aspect, person, number, gender and case…The inflection of verbs is also called conjugation, and the inflection of nouns, adjectives and pronouns is also called declension.”

Lemma: the canonical form of an inflected word (i.e. what’s in the dictionary).1

Lexeme: the lemma and all of its inflections.

So a lemma might be (run) and the lexeme would be (run, runs, ran, etc.).  Our vocabulary is full of lexemes; dictionaries are full of lemmas.  A lemma is a lexeme without inflection.  A lexeme is a lemma plus all possible inflections.

Limnology: study of lakes and fresh water (Greek limne means “pool of standing water, tidal pool, marsh, lake”)2

  1.  How does lemma etymologically relate to dilemma?  Prescriptively/connotatively, a dilemma is a choice between two equally negative outcomes.  Di is the Greek root for “two” and lemma means “premise, assumption.”  Somehow, the idea of “a conclusion” is added in there.
  2.  The Ancient Greek limne most likely comes from the Proto-Indo-European word that also gives us the English slime.