Synthetic language

A synthetic linguistic structure in language typology by August Wilhelm Schlegel, a linguistic structure, in which the grammatical function of a word is made by flexion, ie in the word indicated. Languages ​​in which predominates this design principle, called synthetic languages. The opposite principle of construction show the analytical languages. Wilhelm von Humboldt holds the distinction between synthetic and analytic languages ​​for gradual and less relevant. , The syntactic relations of the individual words appear in a sentence by morphological characterizations of the word itself.

Languages ​​synthetic type

The synthetic languages ​​include the following types:

  • Agglutinating languages ​​( such as Turkish or Hungarian),
  • Polysynthetic languages ​​(such as the Iroquois languages) and
  • Inflectional languages ​​( merging languages) like most Indo-European languages ​​.

In general it can be said that very few purely synthetic languages ​​represented one of these groups. Rather outweighs any of these language concepts in a concrete language.

The Western European languages ​​generally tend to mitigate their flexion and thus to the analytical linguistic structure.

Synthetic and analytical forms

Serve as an example a comparison Latin word forms with their German translations:

  • ( Read =) A Latin form of the verb is casual Legar ( = I may be read ); this means that in this Latin verb the grammatical categories first person, singular, present tense, subjunctive and passive are expressed, which you can play in English with four words.
  • The Latin noun templum ( = temple ) has an ablative Templo ( = through the temple ); here is expressed in Latin, in a word form, including one with the German translation three words needed.

The two Latin words are examples of the synthetic linguistic structure (meaning and grammatical categories in a word), the corresponding German translations examples of the analytical method (meaning and grammatical categories spread over several words).

Considering that this trend can also be observed within the German, a line of text of the Creed was led from three time periods; the decreasing degree of synthesis is expressed that the number of words increases for the same section of text:

  • Old High German, the end of the 8th century: " Kilaubu in kot fater almahticun, kiskaft himiles enti erda " (9 words)
  • Middle High German, 12th century: "I got to father geloube almechtigen, schepfære himels and the earth " (11 words)
  • Neuhochdeutsch ( " Apostles Creed " ): "I believe in God, the Father, the Creator of heaven and earth" (15 words)

Weakening and strengthening of synthetic elements in NHG

The general tendency for example in German is an increase analytical cost synthetically cultivated forms: weakening of the synthetic forms.


To observe are the elimination of the German preterite synthetically generated ( I sang or I bought ) in favor of more analytical ' haben' - perfect tense (I have sung / bought ) or the omission of the genitive ( my father's car) in favor of a dative construction ' of ' (the car from my father ) and in dialects with possessive pronouns ( my father his car ). Even though the forms mentioned, not all qualify as high- linguistically, indicated in them a development trend of. Also, the synthetic subjunctive more often used for Z. ( he sing / sang it ) shows degradation trends by the description with ' would ' ( he'd sing ).


Only occasionally, opposing tendencies by emergence of new synthetic forms.


An increase of synthetic elements in German is emerging especially in the prepositions, pull the dative or accusative with it. These evolve through mergers with the articles to a kind of " inflected prepositions ". The most is the preposition 'to', in which it has already come in the singular in the written language in all three grammatical genders to a merger with the dative article: from to the train station to the track and the ticket information here was to railway station, the railway and for ticket information. With other prepositions this merger is currently only partially, that is, in masculine and neuter, put in place, in any case have the same form in the dative. Also in the plural ( to the tracks = zun tracks ) and indefinite articles ( zunem, Zuner ) mergers take place on dialectal or colloquial level. Other examples: the, to the, at, through, for, behind, in, into, from, front, etc.. Prerequisite for a grammaticalization of these prepositional mergers will be, however, that their mode of origin for the speaker is no longer recognizable, which could for example be done by the omission of to as a single preposition in the language at the same time continued existence of dative mergers to, for, etc.. Another trigger for a grammaticalization sound change processes could be that are not reveal any obvious connection between the actual and the preposition Präpositionalverschmelzungen more.

Plural - umlaut

An expansion of an already developed morphological structure can be seen at the very characteristic of the German plural marking by umlaut. According to the principle of the apple - the apples found in not actually the other denominated pluralities a system is equalized:

  • The car - the Weigh (regional instead of the car)

This process has already taken place, for example, word for the bird, whose old plural the bird was marked more by umlaut. Originally, the plural - umlaut was triggered by the Old High German forms an i- ending in the plural, so was at first exclusively in the plural of nouns whose plural ended in Old High German to a -i:

By the side syllable weakening in their course by Germanischer to NHG all vowels were ə end of the word inherited words ( only in pronunciation, not in the written word ), this can no longer understand why the plural umlaut of the speakers unconsciously to grammatical characters was reinterpreted, which is still expanding, especially in southern Germany today (the day - the Täg ).

Partly " strengthening " weak verbs

A few weak verbs are colloquially in the past participle of strong ( waving - waved / beckoned or snow - geschnien / snowing ). However, the trend is in German actually in the other direction, towards weak verbs, so a more analytical form. From Middle to High German the German language has lost almost half of their strong verbs, a process that continues today ( boiled - boiled / boiled ).

Synthesis grade

Because languages ​​are not either a synthetic or an analytic linguistic structure have, but usually / are rather more or less synthetic analytical, language typology has undertaken to the degree to which a language has synthetic properties to measure. For this purpose was developed as S = M / W ( synthesis equal number of morphemes by the number of words in a text / text excerpt ) by Greenberg synthesis index ( "degree of synthesis or large complexity of the word "). Such an index allows a comparison within a language and between languages ​​with respect to this criterion. The special role of inflection is neglected in this index, but taken into account in any of the others.

The index was changed in the following research to S = W / M, which includes all values ​​in the interval between 0 and 1; also been explored, as this index correlates with 9 other indices. In this way it can be determined how different properties of a language are connected to each other, shown as the " feature of the network connections ."

The following table gives an overview of the synthesis values ​​of some languages ​​, determined by the formula S = words / morphemes. The languages ​​were ranked according to their degree of synthesis.

Note: The higher the value of the synthesis level, the shorter tend to be the words of that language. Therefore, the Eskimo is at the end of the table, as the polysynthetic language has particularly complex words. Vietnamese, however, is a language with a particularly simple word structure. The older Indo-European languages ​​(eg, Sanskrit ) are more likely to end, the newer on top of the table (for example, Modern English ). Comparing old with modern English or Alt with Modern Persian, so this shows the tendency of more synthetic to less synthetic word structures. Also typical is the difference between spoken and written Turkish.

For the development and position of the German

In the previous section was to see that the synthesis rate of some older Indo-European languages ​​decreases to her recent speech stadiums go. Even more differentiated can be represented by studying the Horne for the German. It should be noted that the synthesis degree Horne defined as S = morphemes / words; can not be compared directly with those of the previous section, the data also.

When synthesis level is no distinction according to what function morphemes. To also take into account the function of the morphemes may be at Horne except the synthesis grade or the degree of the composition (K = number of word roots / number of words), the level of the outlet ( derivation ) (A = number of Ableitungsmorpheme / number of words ) and flexion (F = number of Flexionsmorpheme consider / number of words). The findings:

Explanation: Clearly, the trend is to reduce the flexion; when you look at only the prose, the synthesis level drops at first, then rose again. The relatively low value for the High German poem like about the selected one of Horne 's poem (Hans Carossa, The old well ) are.

As Horne in their investigations only 100 -word text ( section ) e is evaluated, one can doubt as to the representativeness of the German question. The fact that it has nevertheless observed some truth, but it can be demonstrated to the synthesis index in poems, but which is now defined with peripheral investigations as S = number of syllables / number of words:

The findings are clear: there is a decrease in the synthesis degree in poetry to the beginning of the 16th century; then the synthesis degrees ( with variations ) increases again.

Corresponding results for prose (without letters ) show the same at all and then again increase in the synthesis grade; Letters (16th - 20th century) agree so agree, are observed slightly decreasing synthesis degrees just that for the 19th and 20th centuries, which is probably due to a change in the style of language in letters.