Polysynthetic Language

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Related to Polysynthetic Language: Analytic language, Fusional language
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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.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.
References in periodicals archive ?
Criteria often associated with polysynthetic languages:
Until now we have little relevant data on this problem for the polysynthetic languages of northern Australia (though see Baker 1999), and practically no data from anywhere that incorporates detailed phonetic data on pause.
We briefly relate the significance of this phonetic possibility to our understanding of the diachronic phonology of polysynthetic languages in Section 6.
It has been asserted for some polysynthetic languages, such as Mohawk, that speakers remember exactly, in gestaltlike form, which words they have heard before, without being aware of their component parts (Mithun 1998: 178).
Admittedly, Kunwinjku has a more established orthographic tradition, its orthography being learned in school by L1 speakers who have produced some substantial written materials, so we cannot discount the possibility that the difference simply reflects the difficulties faced in writing long words by speakers first learning to write polysynthetic languages. (20) Nonetheless, an equally plausible hypothesis is that the use of spaces and hyphens by Dalabon speakers shows an accurate insight into the phonological structure of their language, and that the difference from Kunwinjku reflects the greater possibilities in Dalabon for splitting up comparable polysynthetic verbs into several prosodic units.
Polysynthetic languages like Halkomelem have many affixes.
While complex, this view of transitivity is necessary to handle polysynthetic languages such as Halkomelem.
We begin to suspect that inflectional and polysynthetic languages have much in common.