Version of 2009-03-22

Wersja polskaWersja dwujęzycznaBilanguage version

Grzegorz Jagodziński

Syntactic and Contensive Typology

  1. Introduction
  2. Humboldt’s syntactic typology
  3. Misteli’s syntactic typology
  4. Various ways of understanding agglutination
  5. Majewicz’s syntactic typology
  6. Morpheme order
  7. Form of syntactic markers
  8. Various ways of understanding incorporation
  9. Word order in syntactic relations
  10. Milewski’s typology of syntactic functions
  11. New typology of syntactic functions
  12. Klimov’s contensive typology
  13. Links

In linguistics, the notion of the text means not only a written fragment but also every transmission which has been created in a given language. Thus an oral utterance may also be a text (and it is so the most frequently). Even if they say that linguistics is the study of language, most often it deals with text analyses in real.

Every text in any language is modelled as a well-ordered sequence of components – sentences, clauses, nominal groups, words (each type need not always occur), which can be divided into smaller units with well-defined functions – morphemes, which can be divided into units of a yet lower range – phonemes. We shall assume here that this model is enough close to reality, even if neither full nor perfect.

In every language there exist semantic or lexical morphemes which name, indicate, arrange or describe objects of the real world. But the language consists not only of semantic morphemes. They must be ordered somehow, according to the grammar rules, in order that a sensible text may arise, and therefore they form determined morphological structures. Together with semantic morphemes, syntactic or grammatical morphemes occur in these structures most frequently. They do not indicate objects but regulate relations between semantic morphemes and enable creating sentences and other kinds of expressions. The most simple set of morphemes which fulfill both semantic and syntactic function at the same time is termed a syntactic unit. In the Polish language a single word or a group of words can act as such a unit.

Morphological structures vary very much in particular languages of the world. Therefore linguists have been trying to accomplish typological classifications of languages for a long time, according to simple criteria referring to these structures. Speaking with some simplification, these classifications are based on the construction of words and their composition.

Humboldt’s syntactic typology

In 1836 Wilhelm von Humboldt worked out a classification of languages based on the degree of compactness of syntactic units. This classification is often applied even today. According to it, 4 types of languages are distinguished:

  1. isolating,
  2. agglutinative,
  3. inflexional,
  4. alternating.

Other syntactic typologies





Other syntactic typologies




Morpheme order

Form of syntactic markers

In incorporating languages

Word order in syntactic relations

Milewski’s typology of syntactic functions

4 different markers

New typology of syntactic functions

Klimov’s contensive typology

More on syntactic typology