Syntheticity and analyticity

Adam Ledgeway

in From Latin to Romance

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780199584376
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191741463 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in Diachronic and Historical Linguistics

Syntheticity and analyticity

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The principal differences in the morphosyntax of Latin and Romance have long been, albeit somewhat simplistically, viewed as representing two opposite poles of a syntheticity-analyticity continuum. This synthetic-analytic dichotomy points to a Sapirian ‘drift’ from the predominantly synthetic structures of Latin towards the characteristically analytic structures of Romance or, ‘a tendency for syntax to take over a number of functions previously within the domain of morphology’ such that ‘an element of meaning previously conveyed by a stem and an affix is now expressed by a syntagm, that is, a combination of two or more elements that would traditionally be labelled words’. This traditional interpretation of the synthesis-analysis cycle proves, however, problematic on a number of accounts, as does the fundamental typological distinction on which it crucially rests.

Keywords: morphosyntax; Latin; Romance; syntheticity-analyticity continuum; Sapirian drift

Chapter.  8006 words. 

Subjects: Historical and Diachronic Linguistics

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