Isolating Languages

Isolating Languages

 

one of the four basic language types, according to the Schlegel-Humboldt classification.

Isolating languages are contrasted to agglutinative, inflectional, and polysynthetic (incorporative) languages. The basic features of the isolating-language type are the invariability of the words (the absence of inflected forms) and the expression of syntactic relations primarily through word order. The concept of isolating languages is usually taken in a narrower sense, including only root-isolating languages (but not stem-isolating ones, according to F. Misteli), that is, those languages in which the stem coincides with the root (and the root morph with the word form). Isolating languages are also usually characterized by several concomitant features: the predominance of root monosyllabism and considerable limitations on the structure of the syllable; the existence of syllabic musical tones; and the impossibility of grouping all words into grammatical classes, such as parts of speech—that is, the possibility that a given word will fulfill more than one grammatical function. “Pure” isolating languages do not exist. The languages closest to the type are ancient Chinese (and, to a lesser extent, modern Chinese), Vietnamese, and some of the languages of West Africa, such as Ewe.

REFERENCES

Sapir, E. Iazyk. Moscow, 1934. (Translated from English.)
Konrad, N.I. “O kitaiskom iazyke.” Voprosy iazykoznaniia, 1952, no. 3.
Skalichka, V. “K voprosu otipologii.” Voprosy iazykoznaniia, 1966, no. 4.
Kuznetsov, P.S. Morfologicheskaia klassifikatsiia iazykov. Moscow, 1954.
Korotkov, N.N. Osnovnye osobennosti morfologicheskogo stroia kitai-skogo iazyka. Moscow, 1968.

A. A. LEONT’EV

References in periodicals archive ?
We may conclude that, especially in fusional languages, morphology plays a major role in individuating words, much more than in isolating languages where the syntactic position of a word establishes its function.
Strongly isolating languages like Chinese show a very low degree of mobility.
This is the main characteristic of isolating languages such as Mandarin or Vietnamese.
Vietnamese is a heavily isolating language, whereas English is only partially isolating: