Linguistics 105 * Words and Sounds
Lecture Number Thirteen
Some Last Notes on Morphology:
Morphological Typology

  1. Analytic (Isolating) Languages.

    Analytic languages lack affixes and other types of inflectional and derivational morphology. Instead of morphology, (1) lexical morphemes function as grammatical morphemes (2) attached to phrases, not words. Vietnamese and Chinese are typical analytical languages. Here is the way Vietnamese expresses the Accordant function, expressed by a case ending in some languages and by the preposition by in English. In (1a), we see the verb for 'follow' used as a regular verb (lexeme). In (1b) the same word is used as a grammatical morpheme to mark the accordant function.

    (1) a.       Cý          ba       â       theo   cháng       ta
    there-be three rascal follow group 1stPer
    "There are three rascals following us"


          Anh      lÚm    theo    mu    nÚy
    (brother) make follow model this
    "Make it according to this model"

    As we've seen in class, Chinese has a free morpheme that marks a type of perfective, the "word" le. In English perfective aspect is marked by a combination of morphology, have X-ed, intonation ("He has read the book."), and/or qualifying verbs ("He finished reading the book."; and in Russian it's marked by the derivation of the verb, usually with prefixes or ablaut, e. g. pisat' (to write (imperf.)) / na-pisat' (to write (perf.)); ob"jasnjat' (to explain (imperf.) / ob"jasnit' (to explain (perf.)).

    Isolating languages also tend to use noun classifiers as part of their morphology. Classifiers are words which identify the noun class of a noun and are usually used with numbers and other quantifiers, perhaps as a marker of plurality. Their function is similar to that of head in English ten head of cattle. Here are some Chinese examples.

    (3) a. shi bang rou
    ten pound meat
    "ten pounds of meat"

    b. yi guo fan

    one pot rice

    "one pot of rice"

    c. san ge ren
    three unit man
    "three men"
    [no English equivalent with classifier]

  2. Synthetic (Inflectional) Languages.

    Synthetic languages sharply distinguish between lexemes and grammatical morphemes. Grammatical morphemes are primarily (1) affixes (2) attached to lexical morphemes.

    1. Agglutinative Languages

      The affixes in agglutinative languages are those with a large number of affixes which therefore tend (1) to have one meaning or function each and (2) are attached "transparently", without much allophonic effect on the preceding morpheme.

      Table 1: Finnish Nominal Declension (partial)

      talo 'house'

      kaup-pa 'shop'

      talo 'the-house'

      kaup-pa 'the-shop'

      talo-ni 'my house'

      kaup-pa-ni 'my shop'

      talo-ssa 'in the-house'

      kaup-a-ssa 'in the-shop'

      talo-ssa-ni 'in my house'

      kaup-a-ssa-ni 'in my shop'

      talo-i-ssa 'in the-houses'

      kaup-o-i-ssa 'in the-shops'

      talo-i-ssa-ni 'in my houses'

      kaup-o-i-ssa-ni 'in my shops'

    2. Fusional Languages (Latin)

      Fusional languages are those with fewer affixes and therefore (1) a single affix often expresses several functions (e.g. Nominative+Singular+Feminine) and (2) they often have complex allophonic variations. The Latin declension system in Table 2 exemplifies a fusional morphological system.

      Table 2: Latin Declension of hortus 'garden'




      Nominative (Subject)



      Genitive (of)



      Dative (for/to)



      Accusative (Direct Obj)



      Vocative (Call)



      Ablative (from/with)



  3. Noun incorporation

    Because agglutinative languages do not 'fuse' several grammatical functions under one affix but rather assigns single functions to affixes, words in these languages tend to be rather long, especially if compounded. Incorporation is a special word for referring to long compounds in agglutinative languages. Often these compounds have several stems as well as many grammatical morphemes in them. In the next two examples, the (a.) variants are incorporations, i.e. a complex compound verb with one or more incorporated nouns. Example 4b is a sentence.

    1. Takelma (moribund) Northwest United States

       4.  a. gwen - waya - sgow-t' - hi

      neck knife cut-off 3Pl/3Sg


        b. (gwen) sgow-t' - hi           waya   wa
          (neck) cut-off - 3Pl/3Sg knife with
      "He cut their necks off with a knife"

    2. Turkish




      Avrupa-l -la - tr - l - a -ma- yacak -lar- dan - sn -z - dr


      Europe-an-ize-Caus-Pass-Pot-Neg-Fut/Part -Pl -Abl -2nd-Pl-Emph/Pred


      "Surely you (all) are among those who will not be able to be caused to become like Europeans"

  4. Conclusions.

    For some reason we do not yet understand, some languages have more affixes to mark grammatical functions than others; some, in fact, like Vietnamese and Chinese, seem to have none at all. Others, like the various Eskimo dialects, have as many as 200. Those languages with lots of affixes may match them with functions one-to-one, since there are only around 100 grammatical functions. Other languages, with fewer than 100 affixes, must develop ways of expressing all the functions with fewer affixes. They do this by assigning the same affix multiple functions (e.g. English -ing may mark the inflectional Present Progressive and also derivational Objective Nominalizations like painting, drawing, cutting) and 'fusing' functions, e.g the Latin suffix -us expresses Masculine, Nominative, Singular simultaneously.

    Languages that have no affixal morphology are called isolating languages and those that do, are called synthetic languages. Synthetic languages with many affixes are known as agglutinative languages while those with fewer affixes are called fusional.
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