The Surrey Syncretisms Database

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Syncretism is a surprising yet widespread and poorly understood phenomenon in natural language. Given a regular distinction such as present versus past, as in English help/helped, work/worked, laugh/laughed, we might not expect to find instances like bid, which can be present or past (we now bid five pounds, though yesterday we bid ten pounds). The form bid, is said to be an instance of syncretism, a single form fulfilling two or more different functions. Thus syncretism is found even in English, whose inflectional morphology (system of different word-forms) is simple in comparison with many languages.  The database encodes information on inflectional syncretism in 30 genetically and geographically diverse languages, representing such morphosyntactic features as case, person, number and gender, in all the inflectional classes where they are relevant.

The database was created for the project 'Where word forms collide: a typology of syncretism' , funded by the Economic and Social Research Council under grant number R000237939.  This support is gratefully acknowledged. We also thank the European Thematic Network 'Language Typology Resource Centre' and University of Surrey Research Committee for additional funds which have allowed for an enhanced web interface.

Database by Matthew Baerman, Dunstan Brown and Greville Corbett, University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey, United Kingdom.

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