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syncretismthe combination of elements from different religions or different cultural traditions. Syncretism in religious belief and practices has been especially associated with contexts, e.g. colonialism, in which a major religion is brought into contact with local religions, but it can also be seen as a general feature of the transformation of religions or cultures and of DIASPORAS. See also CULT, CARGO CULT, POSTCOLONIAL THEORY.
(1) The absence of differentiation that characterizes an undeveloped state of certain phenomena. Examples are art during the initial stages of human culture, when music, singing, poetry, and the dance were not distinguished from one another, and a child’s mental functions during the early stages of its development.
(2) The blending or inorganic merging of heterogeneous elements. An example is the merging of different cults and religious systems in late antiquity— the religous syncretism of the Hellenistic period.
(3) In philosophy, syncretism denotes a variant of eclecticism.
in linguistics, the merging of once formally distinct grammatical categories or meanings into one form, which, as a result, becomes polysemous or polyfunctional. In Latin, for example, syncretism in the case system led to a combining of the functions of the instrumental and locative cases in the ablative case. Syncretism can occur not only in the morphology but also in the syntax of a language. The concept of syncretism is paradigmatic, differing from the syntagmatic neutralization of oppositions. Syncretism is an irreversible systemic shift in the process of the development of a language; neutralization is a living process associated with the use of linguistic units in speech.