Synthetic language


Synthetic language

A synthetic language, in linguistic typology, is a language with a high morpheme-per-word ratio. This linguistic classification is largely independent of morpheme-usage classifications (such as fusional, agglutinative, etc.), although there is a common tendency for agglutinative languages to exhibit synthetic properties.

ynthetic and isolating languages

Synthetic languages are frequently contrasted with isolating languages. It is more accurate to conceive of languages as existing on a continuum, with strictly isolating (consistently one morpheme per word) at one end and highly polysynthetic (in which a single word may contain as much information as an entire English sentence) at the other extreme. Synthetic languages tend to lie around the middle of this scale.

Examples

Synthetic languages are numerous and well-attested, the most commonly cited being Indo-European languages such as Greek, Latin, German, Italian, Russian, Polish and Czech, as well as many languages of the Americas, including Navajo, Nahuatl, Mohawk and Quechua.

Forms of synthesis

There are several ways in which a language can exhibit synthetic characteristics:

Derivational synthesis

In derivational synthesis, morphemes of different types (nouns, verbs, affixes, etc.) are joined to create new words. For example:

:German: "Aufsichtsratsmitgliederversammlung" => "On-view-council-with-limbs-gathering" meaning "meeting of members of the supervisory board" ("with" and "limb" forming a derivation that is the German word for "member"):Greek: "υπερχοληστερολαίμια" => "overmuch/high-cholesterol-blood+-ia(suffix)" meaning "hypercholesterolemia":Polish: "przystanek" => "beside-stand-little" meaning "bus stop":English: "antidisestablishmentarianism" => "against-ending-institutionalize-condition-advocate-ideology"

:Russian: "спасибо" => "god-save-you" (thank you)

Relational synthesis

In relational synthesis, root words are joined to bound morphemes to show grammatical function:

:Italian: "comunicandovele" => "communicating-you(plural)-those(feminine, plural)" meaning "(while or by) communicating those(feminine, plural) to you(plural)":Spanish: "escribiéndomelo" => "writing-me-it(masculine/neuter)" meaning "(while or by) writing it to me":Nahuatl: "ocaltizquiya" => "already-(she)-him-bathe-would" meaning "she would have bathed him":Japanese: 見せられがたい ("miseraregatai") => "see-causative-passive-difficult" meaning "it's difficult to be shown (this)":Finnish: "juoksentelisinkohan" => "run-erratic motion-conditional-I-question-casual" meaning "I wonder if I should run around (aimlessly)":Finnish: "hiutaleannos" => "flake-ration"; "hiuta+le" has the components "hiutua" meaning "to thin" and "-le" meaning "a small thing produced by the action", and "ann+os" is derived from "antaa" meaning "to give" and "-os" meaning "a mass transferred or made by the action".:Turkish: "Afyonkarahisarlılaştıramayabileceklerimizdenmisiniz" => meaning "Are you (all) amongst the ones whom we may not be able to make citizens of Afyonkarahisar?"

Degrees of synthesis

In order to demonstrate the "continuum" nature of the isolating-synthetic-polysynthetic classification, some examples are shown below:

trictly isolating

Chinese (Mandarin)::

Each morpheme is represented by a unique word in the Chinese language.

Rather isolating

English: "He travelled by hovercraft on the sea." Largely isolating, but "travelled" and "hovercraft" each have two morphemes per word, the former being an example of relational synthesis (inflection), and the latter of derivational synthesis (derivation).

Rather synthetic

Japanese: 私たちにとって、この泣く子供の写真は見せられがたいものです。("Watashitachi ni totte, kono naku kodomo no shashin wa miseraregatai mono desu") means strictly literally, "In our case, these pictures of children crying are things that are difficult to be shown," approximately "We cannot bear being shown these pictures of children crying" in more idiomatic English. In the example, virtually every word has more than one morpheme and some have up to five (the particles "ni", "no", "wa" are enclitic case markers, i.e., they are phonologically part of the previous word).

Very synthetic

Finnish: "Käyttäytyessään tottelemattomasti oppilas saa jälki-istuntoa" means "Should he/she behave in an insubordinate manner, the student will get detention." Structurally: behaviour(present/future tense)(of his/hers) obey(without)(in the manner/style) studying(he/she who (should be)) gets detention(some). Practically every word is derived and/or inflected, and one word can be considered polysynthetic. This is, however, very formal language - almost like judicial text - and usually replaced by more analytic structure: "Kun oppilas käyttäytyy tottelemattomasti, hän saa jälki-istuntoa."

Polysynthetic

Mohawk: "Washakotya'tawitsherahetkvhta'se" means "He ruined her dress" (strictly, "He made the thing that one puts on one's body ugly for her"). One word expresses the idea that would be conveyed in an entire sentence in a non-polysynthetic language.

Oligosynthesis

Oligosynthetic languages are a theoretical notion created by Benjamin Whorf with no known examples existing in natural languages. Such languages would be functionally synthetic, but make use of a very limited array of morphemes (perhaps just a few hundred). Whorf proposed that Nahuatl was oligosynthetic, but this has since been discounted by most linguists.

ee also

*Analytic language
*Isolating language
*Inflection
*Morphology (linguistics)
*Linguistic typology
*Bound morpheme

External links

* SIL: [http://www.sil.org/linguistics/GlossaryOfLinguisticTerms/WhatIsAMorphologicalProcess.htm What is a "morphological process"?]
* SIL: [http://www.sil.org/linguistics/GlossaryOfLinguisticTerms/WhatIsDerivation.htm What is "derivation"?]
* SIL: [http://www.sil.org/linguistics/GlossaryOfLinguisticTerms/ComparisonOfInflectionAndDeriv.htm Comparison of inflection and derivation]
* Lexicon of Linguistics: [http://www2.let.uu.nl/UiL-OTS/Lexicon/zoek.pl?lemma=Inflection Inflection] , [http://www2.let.uu.nl/UiL-OTS/Lexicon/zoek.pl?lemma=Derivation Derivation]
* Lexicon of Linguistics: [http://www2.let.uu.nl/UiL-OTS/Lexicon/zoek.pl?lemma=Base Base] , [http://www2.let.uu.nl/UiL-OTS/Lexicon/zoek.pl?lemma=Stem Stem] , [http://www2.let.uu.nl/UiL-OTS/Lexicon/zoek.pl?lemma=Root Root]
* , chapter 9 of [http://www.uio.no/studier/emner/hf/ikos/EXFAC03-AAS/h05/larestoff/linguistics/ Halvor Eifring & Rolf Theil: "Linguistics for Students of Asian and African Languages"]


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Synthetic language — Synthetic Syn*thet ic, Synthetical Syn*thet ic*al, a. [Gr. ?: cf. F. synth[ e]tique.] 1. Of or pertaining to synthesis; consisting in synthesis or composition; as, the synthetic method of reasoning, as opposed to analytical. [1913 Webster]… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • synthetic language —       any language in which syntactic relations within sentences are expressed by inflection (the change in the form of a word that indicates distinctions of tense, person, gender, number, mood, voice, and case) or by agglutination (word… …   Universalium

  • Synthetic — Syn*thet ic, Synthetical Syn*thet ic*al, a. [Gr. ?: cf. F. synth[ e]tique.] 1. Of or pertaining to synthesis; consisting in synthesis or composition; as, the synthetic method of reasoning, as opposed to analytical. [1913 Webster] Philosophers… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • synthetic — [sin thet′ik] adj. [Fr synthétique < Gr synthetikos] 1. of, involving, or using synthesis 2. produced by synthesis; specif., produced by chemical synthesis, rather than of natural origin 3. not real or genuine; artificial 4. Linguis.… …   English World dictionary

  • Synthetic — Synthesis, the combination of two or more parts, whether by design or by natural processes. Furthermore, it may imply being prepared or made artificially, in contrast to naturally. Contents 1 In the sense of combination 2 In the sense of… …   Wikipedia

  • synthetic — synthetically, adv. /sin thet ik/, adj. 1. of, pertaining to, proceeding by, or involving synthesis (opposed to analytic). 2. noting or pertaining to compounds formed through a chemical process by human agency, as opposed to those of natural… …   Universalium

  • Synthetic oil — is oil consisting of chemical compounds which were not originally present in crude oil (petroleum), but were artificially made (synthesized) from other compounds. Synthetic oil could be made to be a substitute for petroleum, or specially made to… …   Wikipedia

  • Language, Truth, and Logic — is a work of philosophy by Alfred Jules Ayer, published in 1936 when Ayer was only 26 (though it was in fact completed by age 24). It was crucial in bringing some of the ideas of the Vienna Circle and the logical empiricists to the attention of… …   Wikipedia

  • Synthetic personalisation — is the process by which writings treat their mass audiences as if they were individuals. It developed from critical discourse analysis (CDA), a branch of sociolinguistics concentrating upon how power is articulated.Norman Fairclough, credited… …   Wikipedia

  • Synthetic phonics — is a method of teaching reading which first teaches the letter sounds and then builds up to blending these sounds together to achieve full pronunciation of whole words. The method relates to the English language only, and as of 2007 is the… …   Wikipedia


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.