Suppletion is a morphological phenomenon where different inflectional forms are not related phonologically. Mel'čuk defines it in the following way:

"For the signs X and Y to be suppletive their semantic correlation should be maximally regular, while their formal correlation is maximally irregular." (Mel'čuk 1994: 358)

Russian čelovek (человек) 'person', which has the plural ljudi (люди), is a typical instance of suppletion. Suppletion is found in many inflecting languages, and "increasingly ... is coming to be seen as a clue to the way in which the inflected forms of a word are related to each other paradigmatically ... and are stored in the memory" (Carstairs-McCarthy 1994: 4410). We have examined a range of genetically diverse languages, created a database, and used it to construct a typologically informed theory of suppletion.


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 list. 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.

Querying by different elements of suppletion

In the database, we define semantic and morpho-syntactic categories for which the instances of suppletion can be found. The search interface provides the user with drop-down menus for each of those categories (the semantic and syntactic category of the lexeme that has suppletion in its paradigm;  and a list of morpho-syntactic categories along which suppletion happens: number, case, gender, possession, person, tense, mood, aspect, negation, other).

A simple query would be to search for a particular semantic category, e.g. CHILD. For this query the database will return all records where the lexeme meaning CHILD has suppletion in its paradigm.

Refining searches

Searches can be refined by choosing values from more than one field. For example, we can search for instances of suppletion for number in the lexeme meaning CHILD by selecting both the value 'CHILD' for semantic category and the value 'Plural' for Number.