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Syncretism is the situation where one morphological form corresponds to two or more morphosyntactic descriptions.


E.g. English bet (in I bet you ten pounds) is syncretic between Present and Past, as seen in comparison with I give/gave you ten pounds.

An example of syncretism in inflectional paradigms is seen in German verbs. In present-tense, there is syncretism between first- and and third-person in the plural. This syncretism extends to the first- and third-singular forms in in past-tense.

  • German gehen 'to go' (present)
    SG PL
    1 gehe gehen
    2 gehst geht
    3 geht gehen
  • German gehen 'to go' (past)
    SG PL
    1 ging gingen
    2 gehst gingt
    3 ging gingen

In Ancient Greek, the nominative and vocative of the feminine singular/plural case forms are identical (e.g. khóoraa 'a land', khôoraa 'O, land', khôoray 'lands', khôoray 'O, lands'). The same is true for the nominative and accusative of the neuter singular/plural case forms: dôoron 'house-nom./', dôora 'house-nom./'.

? The following part is missing or incomplete: correct greek spelling.
Please do not remove this block until the problem is fixed.


The term has originally been used in the sense of "combining different religions", and was transferred to linguistics in the 19th century.


Syncretism database of the Surrey Morphology Group Utrecht Lexicon of Linguistics


  • Baerman, Matthew & Brown, Dunstan & Corbett, Greville G. 2005. The syntax-morphology interface: A study of syncretism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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