The database documents instances where the marking of subject person on verbs is syncretic (two or more person values represented by a single form), covering 111 genetically and geographically diverse languages. The database also records properties which might be conditioning factors for syncretism: tense/aspect/mood, inflectional class, gender of subject, and syntactic context.

Note that the database does not record:

  • Syncretism of subject person in transitive verbs where the person of the object is marked as well. The interaction of subject and object person – leading often to deletion of the subject person marker – is a phenomenon which warrants a seperate treatment. The database does record instances of subject person where the object person is marked by some non-person feature alone (number and/or gender).
  • Syncretism of object person.


The 'Languages' panel of the search interface allows you to refine a query by either language or language family, by making a selection from the relevant drop-down menu. A query can be run on this selection alone or combined with search criteria from the Features and/or Conditions panels.

When using this panel, you should select either a language or a language family, but not both. Selecting an option from both menus results in an 'AND search' and will therefore only return results if the correct language family is selected, which by definition makes an 'AND search' in this context redundant.


The 'Features' panel of the search interface allows users to select the desired person/number values by checking the relevant boxes. For example, in order to find instances of syncretism where 1st person singular is involved, ‘1sg’ should be selected; in order to find examples where 1st person and 2nd person singular are syncretic, both ‘1sg’ and ‘2sg’ need to be selected, and so on.

Interpreting the results

The result of the query is a string of person/number values connected by the ‘=’ sign; thus ‘1sg=2sg’ is to be read ‘1st person singular and 2nd person singular are syncretic’. The result also specifies whether there are any restricting conditions on the syncretism:

  • tense/aspect/mood: the syncretism only occurs in particular tense/aspect/mood paradigms. E.g. in Bulgarian, ‘2sg=3sg’ occurs in the imperfect and aorist, but not in the present.
  • inflection class: the syncretism only occurs in particular inflection or lexical classes. E.g. in Kunama, ‘2pl=3pl’ occurs for class I (suffixing) verbs, but not for class II (prefixing) verbs.
  • gender: the syncretism only occurs for subjects of particular gender classes. E.g. in Ekagi, ‘1sg=3sg’ where ‘3sg’ is feminine, but not where it is masculine.
  • syntax: the syncretism is restricted to a particular syntactic environment. E.g. in Ewe, ‘2sg=3sg’ in sentence-medial position, but not in sentence-initial position.