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Language Typology

The world's types of language in accordance with classification based on a language's type of morphology: a classical Victorian-era affair, as proper as a “cuppa” tea, demonstrating how “the Sun never sets on” — grammar!

Prologue/Review

Sometimes a morpheme may itself be but a prosodic pattern. Think of the following examples (capitalization indicating the stressed syllable): PROtest (noun) > proTEST (verb). Here we have an underlying initial stress (typical for Germanic), and then to make the noun into a verb, the prosodic pattern of unstressed-stressed is imposed on the lexeme. In other words:

  LEXEMEnoun goes to LEXEMEverb
   
  by means of the prosodic-morphological process of
   
  LEXEMEtrochaic goes to LEXEMEimabic.
NOTE: accent-pattern stressed-unstressed = trochaic; unstressed-stressed = iambic.

NOTE: the verb PROtest (with initial stress) is a verb different from proTEST; the former means 'to hold a protest', in the Sixties' sense, and is derived directly from the noun, without this prosodic-morphological process.
Just like there are two types of morphology phonologically (concatenative v. non-concatenative), semantically there are two types of morphology, too. On the one hand, there is derivational morphology. It is the morphology involved in 1) making new words, and 2) changing the part of speech of words. The most straightforward example of (1) is compounding: super + man = superman. For (2): German noun Zahl 'number' > verb zählen 'to count'.

On the other hand — as opposed to derivational morphology — there is inflectional morphology, which involves morphology that tends to be more “grammary” in nature — that is, on the one hand, a lexeme’s (grammatical) reaction to a particular syntactic instance (sentence) it finds itself in (e.g, case-endings in fusional languages such as Latin or Polish or Icelandic, so on and on); or, on the other hand, a kind of tweaking of a less “grammary”/syntactic motivation, which would be to say something ranging closer to derivational morphology: something lexically based, before the lexeme is inserted into Syntactic Instance (=sentence) — e.g, there is the plural -s ending in English, and the -ed past-marker: the categories of plurality or past'ness do not represent syntactic information (such as subject or object, agent or patient, so on) but something more lexical in nature, yet not so lexical as to change the lexeme's part of speech, not to cause the lexeme to become a different lexeme.

Introducing Two Types

Certain languages, like Latin, are notorious for having an absolute MESS of inflectional morphology — just look at a noun or verb paradigm in a Latin textbook. These paradigms are examples of inflectional morphology ” in particular, that of a fusional language, one of the types of languages in traditional language typology.

But other languages, like Turkish, might have just as much inflectional morphology as in Latin, with sizable paradigms as well, but there one could not say there is a “mess” of inflectional morphology: because in these languages the paradigms are not fusional buy agglutinative = another type.

Fusional means every ending is not quite its own suffix, for through time its form has become fused into the actual word (lexeme). This makes the paradigms messy and hard to learn, in the sense that there are no clear suffixes, just hints of certain vestiges of suffixes that in their extreme instances seem to take on almost as many forms as there are words that make use of them. Other languages, though, might keep their paradigms nice and neat with suffixes clearly being suffixes - this is with agglutinative languages, like Turkish, where a lexeme is followed by a clear-cut definite living suffix, which may then, in turn, be followed by anothr suffix nice a neatly tacked on, as clear cut as the box cars following the steam engine down the track talk.

Morphological Types are Useful

Morphology is very useful for classifying languages according to types. Agglutinative and fusional fall in a certain typological/morphological spectrum between isolative and polysynthetic. 'Isolating' is the word for a language with no morphology. August Schleicher called this type of language 'monosyllabic'. An ideal (and perhaps therefore unreal) isolating language would have only lexemes and syntax with no morphology, and a simple phonology. On the other hand, an ideal/extreme (and so unreal?) polysynthetic language would have no syntax but just morphology — no lexemes, just morphemes!

'Polysynthetic' is the word for a language with such a huge amount of agglutination and/or fusion that, ideally, there would be no words, only affixes affixing to affixes to affixes and so on! Or, it can be that there are only verbal lexemes, and everything else is an affix! The Native American languages are supposed to either be this or have this tendency. Notice how I said 'tendency'. We are talking here about abstract ideals, I would submit. By the way, Schleicher did not take this type into account; Whorf talks about this type a lot in regards to his controversial theory of different languages actually determining how we perceive Reality — and arguing that Native American languages had more to do with 'real Reality' than did the Indo-European languages. Schleicher considered, first, monosyllabic, then agglutinative, and then fusional, saying that one evolves into the other (monosyllabic to agglutinative), which then evolves into the next (agglutinative to fusional). The next evolutionary step would logically be polysynthetic. But, like I said, he did not go that far. To me, it seems an ideal isolating/monosyllabic language would have just nouns — they would become verbs temporarily through the appropriate context in the sentence (but only in translation?); whereas polysynthetic languages, ideally, would have just verbal morphemes. Nominal lexemes on the one hand (isolating); verbal morphemes on the other (polysynthetic)…

…and what would come after polysynthetic? A language where the morphology and phonology are one and the same! Where every distinctive feature is a morpheme! Is that a root-based language like the Semitic ones? — a different type not discussed as a set type by Schleicher! Hmmm... And then, for the sake of completeness, let us ask what happens if we took this type of language where Morphology=Phonology (the morphophonological type) to the extreme/Ideal... Would not that be the ultimate language, some sort of Superlanguage to make Leibniz and Russell simply drool - and yet, at the same time, would not that be a reversion to animal cries…? (And would there be a difference?) Interestingly, in the Semitic language Hebrew phonemes themselvers are analyzed as each being its own morpheme and lexeme — though this is a mystical view, that of Kabalah…

…additions to FrankenLanguage: phonemes which themselves are semantic roots…

i vs.a

√i pronounced “eee” fundamentally means narrow, small because of the phonetic symbolism of this sound being articulated with the tongue causing a narrow/small closure in the vocal tract (in the area of the palate). One of the several uses of √i is to stand for the singular.

√a pronounced “ahhh” fundamentally means wide, big because of the phonetic symbolism of this sound being articulated with the jaw wide, creating a big space. One of the several used of √a is to stand for the plural.

m    bilabial nasal

√m fundamentally means or stands for the location of the speaker(s) because of the phonetic symbolism of this sound being articulated with the speaker(s) lips (=speaking devices) pressed into themselves, kind of like the speaker(s) pointing to themselves. One can imagine this phonetic gesture orignally had all the vocal tract (=speaking device) pressing into themselves — total constricture from throat to a wrinkled nose over tensed lips — but to be uttered had to be loosened up into a simple m sound.

√m's fundamental meaning the location of the speaker(s) is applied in at least three sense: (1) 1st person personal pronouns “I, me, myself, my, mine; we, us, ourselves, ours”; (2) the locative adverb “here (in my/our location)”; and (3) the demonstrative pronouns “this/these here (in my/our location)”.

Here are the nominative 1st person personal pronouns of FrankenLanguage, formed with semantic root √m followed by either √i (for the singular) or √a (for the plural):
mi 1st person singular nominative personal pronoun “I”

ma 1st person plural nominative personal pronoun “I”

θ    voiceless interdental fricative

√θ's fundamentally means or stands for the location of the one(s) spoken to because of the phonetic symbolism of the sound being articulated with the tongue pointing through the teeth like a finger at the one(s) spoken to.

√θ's fundamental meaning the location of the one(s) spoken to is applied in at least three sense: (1) 2nd person personal pronouns “you, yourself, your, yours”; (2) the locative adverb “there (in your location)”; and (3) the demonstrative pronouns “that/those (in your location)”.

Here are the nominative 2nd person personal pronouns of FrankenLanguage, formed with semantic root √θ followed by either √i (for the singular) or √a (for the plural):
thi 2nd person singular nominative personal pronoun “you”

tha 2nd person plural nominative personal pronoun “I”

k    voiceless velar plosive

√k fundamentally means or stands for the location of one(s) spoken about; not present in the location of the present discourse because of the phonetic symbolism of this sound being articulated from the back of the vocal tract, right under the brain, really, suggesting a topic present in the speaker's mind but not present in either the lcoation of the speaker(s) or the one(s) spoken to.

NOTE: in terms of placing in the vocal tract, roots √m is front, √k in the back, and √θ being between the two is thus mid. And so the meanings of the three roots √m, √θ and √k can by extension be expressed through the features front, mid, back respectively!

√m's fundamental meaning the location of one(s) spoken about; not present in the location of the present discourse is applied in at least three senses: (1) 3rd person personal pronouns “he, she, it; him, her, it; his, hers, its; himself, herself, itself; they, them, themselves, their, theirs”; (2) the locative adverb “there (yonder)”; and (3) the demonstrative pronouns “thas/those there yonder (not present in the location in which the discourse is taking place)”.

Here are the nominative 3rd person personal pronouns of FrankenLanguage, formed with semantic root √m followed by either ki (for the singular) or ka (for the plural):
ki 3rd person singular nominative personal pronoun “he” or “she” or “it”

ka 3rd person plural nominative personal pronoun “they”

A Linguistic-typological Head-trip

Linguistic Types based on morphology, and so morphological types:

(1)monosyllabic/isolating; example Chinese; absence of all morphology (ideally!), lexemes and morphemes are one and the same (ideally!), but regarded as lexemes, and all lexemes are (ideally!) nouns; minimal phonology

Only prototypical ideals are being expressed here! Examples are real-life and thus not prototypes.

(2)agglutinating; example Turkish; morphemes and lexemes clearly distinct; morphology and phonology clearly distinct (ideally!);

Type 2 is to be regarded as evolving into Type 2, and Type 2 is into Type 3, and so on…

(3)fusional; examples Latin and Sanskrit; phonology has caused morphology to be intimately and inextricably entwined in the lexicon; a lexeme by itself flexes to represent all that previous independent morphology would have expressed — in other words, the lexicon has taken over the mophology, the lexemes are 'strong' enough to 'flex out' its own morphology. The lexicon has grown up to become a big tough guy!

(4)polysynthetic; examples Nahuatl and Inuktituk; lexemes re-analyzed as morphemes; the rich verbal inflection of fusional languages gives way to to everything being verbal morphemes (ideally!); ideally, eerything is morphology and there is no lexicon. If you described light with Type 1, it would be a particle (the photon), but if you described light with Type 4, it would be a wave. This is linguistic Zen.

(5)root-based; examples Hebrew and Arabic; ideally, everything is phonology, or more accurately morphophonology because now phonology is one with meaning; the inventory of phonemes is also a list of the fundamental morphemes/lexemes of the languages, from which (ideally!) all the lexicon stems. This would be the proverbial Divine Language. Enter Kabalah and the beautiful world of Hebrew mysticism. "In the beginning was the Word," states the Gospel of John because the word here is divine, the Divine Languages speaks the universe into creation!
NOTE NOTE and again NOTE: we are dealing with hypothetical ideals here, and the examples given represent languages that seem to tend to show more of one of these five ideals than any of the other types of ideals.


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