Analytic Languages vs Synthetic Languages

By Xah Lee. Date:

In linguistic typology, a synthetic language is a language with a high morpheme-per-word ratio, as opposed to a low morpheme-per-word ratio in what is described as an analytic language.

Analytic languages use syntax to convey information that is encoded via inflection in synthetic languages. In other words, word order is not significant and morphology is highly significant in a purely synthetic language, whereas morphology is not significant and syntax is highly significant in an analytic language. Chinese and Afrikaans, for example, are highly analytic, and meaning is therefore very context-dependent.

An agglutinative language is a type of synthetic language with morphology that primarily uses agglutination: words may contain different morphemes to determine their meaning, but each of these morphemes (including stems and affixes) remains in every aspect unchanged after their union, thus resulting in generally easier deducible word meanings if compared to fusional languages, which allow modifications in either or both the phonetics or spelling of one or more morphemes within a word, generally for shortening the word on behalf of an easier pronunciation. The term was introduced by Wilhelm von Humboldt to classify languages from a morphological point of view.[1] It is derived from the Latin verb agglutinare, which means “to glue together”.[2]

Agglutinative language

A fusional language is a type of synthetic language, distinguished from agglutinative languages by their tendency to overlay many morphemes to denote grammatical, syntactic, or semantic change. For example, the Spanish language verb comer (“to eat”) can be expressed in first-person past preterite tense as comí, a word formed removing the “-er” suffix of the verb and replacing it by “-í”, that indicate such specific meaning.

Examples of fusional Indo-European languages are: Sanskrit, Greek (classical and modern), Italian, Lithuanian, Latvian, Pashto, Polish, Russian, German, Icelandic, Croatian, Serbian, Bosnian, Macedonian, Czech, French, Irish, Albanian, Latin, Punjabi, and the Iberian Romance dialect continuum.

Fusional language