Typology Of Languages Essay

1654 words - 7 pages

Morphological typology refers to the nomenclature of the method used to classify languages depending on the way in which their morphemes are joined together. In one side of the spectrum we can find analytic languages, which only use isolated morphemes. Then we would have agglutinative languages and fusional languages which use bound morphemes, melting them together in order to convey several meanings. Located on the other side of the spectrum are the so called polysynthetic languages, which compress lots of separate morphemes into single words.

Nevertheless, before getting into depth in the morphological typology of languages, and also the patterns of word formation, it must be explained ...view middle of the document...

On the other hand, a grammatical word consists of a number of grammatical elements which (i) always occur together, rather than scattered through the clause; (ii) occur in a fixed order, and (iii) have a conventionalised coherence and meaning (Dixon & Aikhenvald).

Finally there are some other distinctions which present the concept of word as orthographic units or lexical units. However, the first classification can be only applied to languages with a writing system.

Traditional morphological typology starting in the 19th century focused on the internal structure of words as the main key for differentiation. These parameters are of two kinds. The first one is based on the transparency of morphological boundaries between the morphemes within a grammatical word, and the second one relates to the degree of internal complexity of words (E. Sapir 1921).

Transparency of word internal boundaries

There are three main classifications based on this parameter: isolating, agglutinative, and fusional.

Isolating languages, also called analytic, show a low ratio of correspondence between words and morphemes, presenting in most cases a one-to-one ratio. Grammatical relations are expressed by separate words instead of by affixes. Sentences are composed of independent roots and it could be said that there is no morphology at all. Let’s consider Vietnamese, which is one of the most isolating languages, with this example from (Thompson 1987):

We can see that, according to the translation provided, all these words are invariable, presenting no differences even though they can covey several tenses. If we compare this to Spanish for example, in which the number of tenses is huge, it is obvious that we are before totally different language systems. It is in general true that every word in Vietnamese consists of one morpheme; however, the existence of productive compounding and its lexicalisation results in the creation of words of more complicated structure, e.g. hôm nay (today) ‘today’, hôm kia (day that) ‘day before yesterday’, hôm kía (day that; more remote than kia) ‘two days before yesterday’.

Agglutinative languages present long words formed of many morphemes, normally with a one-to-one correspondence between a morpheme and its meaning; therefore, these morphemes are not melted together like in fusional languages. I am going to present this with an extract from Aikhenvald of the Hungarian noun declension paradigm for ember ‘man’:

As shown above, morphemes are easily differentiated between them and each of them normally only conveys one grammatical meaning. Agglutinative languages tend to have many morphemes per word but their morphology tends to be reasonably regular. Basque, Hungarian or Turkish are classic examples. A noun is easily segmentable into a lexical stem, a number affix and a case affix.

In fusional languages, there is no clear boundary between morphemes, and thus semantically...

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