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Paradigm structures are analyses, and dataset authors have freedom in how they want to formulate this analysis. Among the main problems are:

  1. What is the inventory of paradigm cells ?
  2. How should each cell be characterised?
  3. What counts as a lexeme ?

What is the inventory of paradigm cells ?

Data creators can provide labels of their choice, but should use a cells and features table to document the meaning of these labels, and map from these labels to existing standards and conventions.

How should each cell be characterised ?

For long term usability, it is important to account for paradigm structure choices in the documentation. A particularly tricky case is that of overdifferentiation. For example, in English, one might want to expand the person/number combinations of verbs to match pronouns and define the paradigm of verbs such as:

Present Preterite
first person singular I eat I ate
second person singular you eat you ate
third person singular he/she/it eats he/she/it ate
first person plural we eat we ate
second person plural you eat you ate
third person plural they eat they ate
Imperative Present participle Past participle Infinitive
eat eating eaten to eat

However, for most verbs, it would be sufficient to stipulate:

cell form
present 3 singular eats
present others eat
preterite ate
past participle eaten
present participle eating

This choice unfortunately has the consequence of requiring extra cells only for the verb to be:

cell form
present 1 singular am
present 3 singular is
present others are
preterite 1/3 singular was
preterite others were
past participle been
present participle being

We suggest preferring structures which allow for uniform paradigm shapes and documenting these choices clearly. It is easier for users to go from such annotations to a more minimal paradigm structure, than to do the opposite. For propositions about "morphomic" paradigm structures, see Boyé & Schalchli (2016).

What should count as a lexeme

The creators of a dataset are free to produce the analysis which they believe best fit their data.

In some cases, a lexeme is entirely overabundant because it can take either of several inflection classes or stems. In other terms, a same lexeme could be split in several flexemes (see Fradin & Kerleroux 2003, Thornton 2018).

In this case, there are two main solutions:

  • Either split these lexemes so that each lexeme identifier corresponds to a single flexeme
  • Or account for the two levels by maintaining a single lexeme; and adding a flexeme table and flexeme identifiers.


  • Fradin, Bernard & Françoise Kerleroux. 2003. Troubles with lexemes. In Geert Booij, Janet DeCesaris, Angela Ralli & Sergio Scalise (eds.), Selected papers from the third Mediterranean Morphology Meeting, 177–196. Barcelona: IULA – Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  • Boyé, G., & Schalchli, G. (2016). The Status of Paradigms. In A. Hippisley & G. Stump (Eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Morphology (Cambridge Handbooks in Language and Linguistics, pp. 206-234). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. DOI: 10.1017/9781139814720.009
  • Anna M. Thornton (2018). Troubles with flexemes. In Olivier Bonami, Gilles Boyé, Georgette Dal, Hélène Giraudo & Fiammetta Namer (eds.), The lexeme in descriptive and theoretical morphology, 303–321. Berlin: Language Science Press. DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.1407011