Polysynthetic Language

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Polysynthetic Language


a type of synthetic language in which all grammatical meanings are usually conveyed in a word composed of a long sequence of morphemes.

Most polysynthetic languages have an ergative-type structure, as is the case with the Chukchi-Kamchatka, Eskimo-Aleut, and Abkhazo-Adyg languages and many Indian languages of North and Central America. The maximum degree of affix stringing is observed in the verb form, which includes a series of suffixal, or prefixai and suffixal, morphemes indicating person (objective conjugation), number, version, mode of action, tense, mood, and so on. All forms are constructed according to the principle of agglutination by strict positional rules. Moreover, word-formation affixes are also often present in the word. The verb form in polysynthetic languages usually represents the content of an entire sentence, as in the Adygei qə-š′ə-s’°-fə-r-i-γ ǎ-tx̌əγ (“he made him write to you here”). Nominal forms are represented by shorter morphemic chains, since analytic elements are found in the substantive, as in the Eskimo ayΧasi-ki-η (“my two boats”). The phenomenon of incorporation also occurs in polysynthetic languages.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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