Morphological typology



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1.1 Morphological typology

Morphological typology is a way of classifying the languages of the world (see linguistic typology) that groups languages according to their common morphological structures. The field organizes languages on the basis of how those languages form words by combining morphemesAnalytic languages contain very little inflection, instead relying on features like word order and auxiliary words to convey meaning. Synthetic languages, ones that are not analytic, are divided into two categories: agglutinative and fusional languages. Agglutinative languages rely primarily on discrete particles (prefixessuffixes, and infixes) for inflection, while fusional languages "fuse" inflectional categories together, often allowing one word ending to contain several categories, such that the original root can be difficult to extract. A further subcategory of agglutinative languages are polysynthetic languages, which take agglutination to a higher level by constructing entire sentences, including nouns, as one word.

1.2 Typological classification of languages

Morphological classification seeks to describe not specific languages (in which several morphological types are always present), but basic structural phenomena and trends in  languages. Morphological classification was founded and developed in the course of the 19th century by such German linguists as A. Schlegel, H. Steinthal, W. Humboldt, and  A. Schleicher.

The American linguist E. Sapir attempted to systematize the criteria of morphological  classification; he introduced the concept of the degree of quality, based on the fact that one or another type may be present to a greater or lesser degree in a given language (for example,  a language may be almost amorphous or agglutinative to the highest degree). Sapir invented  a flexible classification scale and compared the data of morphological classification with  actual data provided by specific languages.

Since the early 20th century, that is, since the marked increase in linguistic knowledge about  the structure of languages of different types and families, the creation of a general typological  classification has ceased to be either the main or the most pressing task of typology. It has  become obvious that a classification free from the shortcomings of the traditional morphological  classification of language simprecision of basic concepts, lack of demarcation between  classificational criteria of different types, vagueness of concepts about essential and adequate  criteria, and lack of relatedness to real language structures and also containing phonological,  syntactic, and semantic characteristics of the structure of language, cannot be created at  the present time.

However, there are certain trends in typology that make fruitful use of the data of morphological classification. For example, the American linguist J. Greenberg introduced a number of new  criteria, as well as the principle of quantitative evaluation of language characteristics, into  Sapir’s classification. The Czech linguist V. Skalidka and other representatives of descriptive  typology are studying the infrastructural laws by which certain typological features are combined in a given language; that is, they are working out a system for characterizing language types.  The Soviet linguist B. A. Uspenskii classifies linguistic features and groups of features according to systematized criteria. He then classifies languages according to the presence or absence of  various groups of features; the languages are compared with a certain model language structured in accord with the general principles of morphological classification interpreted according to this model language.




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