Morphological typology

From Academic Kids

Linguistic typology
Morphological typology
Analytic language
Synthetic language
Fusional language
Agglutinative language
Polysynthetic language
Oligosynthetic language
Morphosyntactic alignment
Theta role
Syntactic pivot
Nominative-accusative language
Ergative-absolutive language
Active language
Tripartite language
Time Manner Place
Place Manner Time
Subject Verb Object
Subject Object Verb
Verb Subject Object
Verb Object Subject
Object Subject Verb
Object Verb Subject
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Morphological typology was developed by brothers Friedrich and August von Schlegel. It is a classification system for languages.

The scale below is continuous and relative. It is not absolute. You can't necessarily say that a language is analytic or synthetic, but you can say that it is more synthetic than Chinese but less synthetic than Korean.


Analytic languages

In analytic languages there are little or no morphological changes. Words tend not to be inflected. Grammatical categories are indicated by word order (for example, inversion of verb and subject for interrogative sentences) or by bringing in additional words (for example, a word for "some" or "many" instead of a plural inflection like English -s). Individual words carry a general meaning (root concept); nuances are expressed by other words. Context and syntax are more important than morphology.

Analytic languages include some of the major East Asian languages (Chinese, Vietnamese). English is also moderately analytic (probably one of the most analytic of Indo-European languages)

Synthetic languages

In synthetic languages, words are formed by a root and a number of morphemes added to it. The morphemes might or might not be distinguishable from the root; they might be fused with it or among themselves, and they can also be realized as stress, pitch or tone shifts, or regular phonetic changes. Word order is less important than in analytic languages, since individual words contain more meaning. In addition, there tends to be plenty of concordance (agreement, cross-reference between different parts of the sentence). Morphology in synthetic languages is more important than syntax.

Most Indo-European languages are moderately synthetic.

There are two subtypes of synthesis, according to whether morphemes are clearly differentiable or not. These subtypes are agglutinative and fusional (or inflectional or flectional in older terminology).

Agglutinative languages

In these languages the morphemes are always clearly differentiable from each other phonetically; that is, the bound morphemes are affixes, and they can be individually identified. Agglutinative languages tend to have a high number of morphemes per word, and to be highly regular.

Agglutinative languages include Korean, Turkish and Japanese.

Fusional languages

In fusional languages, morphemes are not always readily distinguishable from the root or among themselves. Several morphemes may be fused into one affix, and affixes may interact and fuse in turn. Morphemes may also be expressed by changes in stress, pitch or tone, which are of course inseparable from the root, or by internal phonetic changes in the root (such as vowel gradation or Ablaut).

Most Indo-European languages are fusional to different degrees.

Polysynthetic languages

In 1836, Wilhelm von Humboldt added a third category: polysynthetic languages. (The term polysynthesis was first used in linguistics by Peter Duponceau who borrowed it from chemistry). These languages have a high morpheme-to-word ratio. Note that there is no clear-cut line on when a synthetic language deserves to be called polysynthetic.

Among common features of polysynthetic languages there are:

  • A highly regular morphology
  • A tendency for verb forms to include morphemes that refer to several arguments besides the subject (polypersonalism).

Another feature of polysynthetic languages is commonly expressed as "the ability to form words that are equivalent to whole sentences in other languages". Of course, this is rather useless as a defining feature, since it is tautological ("other languages" can only be defined by opposition to polysynthetic ones, and viceversa).

Many of the Amerindian languages are polysynthetic. Inuktitut is one example, and one specific example is the phrase: tavvakiqutiqarpiit which roughly translates to "Do you have any tobacco for sale?".

Morphological typology in reality

Each of the types above are idealizations; they do not exist in a pure state in reality. All languages are of mixed types, though they generally fit best into one category. English is synthetic, but it is more analytic than Spanish, and much more analytic than Latin. Mandarin Chinese is the usual model of analytic languages, but it does have some bound morphemes. Japanese is highly synthetic (agglutinative) in its verbs, but clearly analytic in its nouns.

br:Tipoloji morfolojik es:Tipología morfológica


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