Language /An elementary 5-dimensional model applied in different sciences
Language families

Different types of languages:

In topological classification of languages linguists use to divide them in about 5 main types. It must be added however that hardly any language or family is purely of one variant. The five types are designated:

- Isolating languages (analytical or root languages)

- Agglutinating languages

- Inflecting languages

- Polysynthetic or incorporating languages

- Analytic languages

Could these different types be interpreted with help of aspects in a dimension chain?


Isolating languages:

One typical example: Chinese:
Some features according to the literature:
- Isolated, rigid morphemes as words, no endings. (Much of monosyllabic morphemes.)
- "Word classes" not defined by the shape, instead through word order and use of "auxiliary words", e.g. "wisdom" = "thing" + "wise", (LL).
- Movements in intonation are significant factors in separating sense.
- A current development towards more form words and more mobility of these form elements.

The feature that parts of speech not are designed as such, that the morphemes to a great degree correspond to complex concepts that can be both nouns, verbs and adjectives, etc., allow us to regard the type of language as high-dimensional relative to other types on the level of word classes. Note, however, that pronouns exist; cf. the interpretation of pronouns as derived from primary poles 0 — 00 from step 5→4.
   The interpretation may also be justified by the scripture, with much preserved from a historically early stage of ideograms and signs that have indicated concepts through depicting entire situations.
   A simple "grammar", where the class of words gets defined through the complex whole and word order as direction of the sentence and intonation, seems to imply that much of "syntax" or the listener's interpretation have to rely on the speech situation, here suggested as from step 5→ 4 in the level chain. It seems to be the case for such items as tense for instance, judging from given examples. ("Direction" as d-degree 4 first from situation of speech.)

The trend towards more "form words" as debranched quanta could be taken as a general indication of steps from higher dimension degrees to lower ones.

However, in opposition to these "high-dimensional" views, some linguists believe that simple words in Chinese are reduced ones and at an earlier stage were two- or multi-syllable words. This means that many different words with different meanings coincided when reduced, converging to the same morpheme. Bjorn Collinder (BC,s) for instance suggests a trend towards an isolating language as towards a late stage of simplification. It is pointed out as one example that Modern English has developed many features of an "isolating" language type.

The simple grammar can also be described as 1-dimensional, a quantification where sense of the message is designed in the additive, linear word order (O--O--O--O...).
   Since intonation also is crucial for the semantic meaning, we could find a connection with step 1→ 00 in the dimension chain, the step towards the d-degree of motions as motion of tone.

The two opposite views imply
a) a complex semantic sense of morphemes, not yet differentiated in word classes and with intonation, in itself probably a very deep level of "language,"
b) the complexity as a reduction to simple often monosyllabic morphemes where only a linear (as 1-dimensional) grammar decides the sense and word classes. (Cf. morphemes in the big level chain assumed as the level characterized in step 2 —1.)
   Hence, it's suggested here to regard this family type with features of both 1st and last step in the dimension chain, steps corresponding in the loop model:


Agglutinating and Inflecting languages:


Agglutinating languages
, (sometimes also called inflectional):
Typical examples: Uralic languages, Turkish, Japanese, Swahili, Etruscan. (Etruscan is said to have strong features of an agglutinating language. It had pronouns, but mostly suffixes instead of prepositions.) Some features according to the literature, most of them existing in Uralic languages:
- Rigid word stems (radicals), rich in inflectional endings, i.e. with many suffixes.
(Or many prefixes as in Swahili.)
- Suffixes (or prefixes) get lined one after the other.
- Each suffix has one grammatical function.
- Often vowel harmony, vowel of suffixes resembles the word stem.
- Many cases develop. (Uralic 6, became 15-16 in Finnish, about 25 in Hungarian.)
(As in Finnish, the Etruscan didn't differentiate genders he / she, only personal versus non-living things, hence in gender less differentiations than in Indo-European.)


Inflectional languages:
Typical examples: Indo-European, Latin, Arabic (Semitic) languages. Some features according to the literature:
- Type of word class is marked by separate morphemes.
- Stems can be inflected through vowel change, for instance through "umlaut" in plural forms, or in tense inflection in the "strong verbs". The vowel alters to resemble the one in suffixes.
- Several different grammatical functions can be expressed with only one (1) suffix.
- Quite a few cases (2 in IE, 6 in Latin, 5 in ancient Greek, 4 in Old Swedish).
- Verb endings instead of pronouns (as in agglutinative languages, mainly 1st and 2nd person).
- The original word stems said to be verbs.
- Indo-European did not know prepositions but words for directions as additions.

Semitic languages among the inflectional ones were previously agglutinating (LB).
   A suggestion of how to regard the relation between these two families in the dimension chain:

One general aspect here is of course that double-direction in the loop model towards the middle in step 3-2 implies inflection as such, increasing toward the middle. Compare the angle step 4 → 3, assumed as a step in polarity type from 180° to 90°.


Comparison agglutinating - inflecting languages:

It has been discussed if the features of inflecting languages are older than that of the agglutinating ones or the inverse. A linguist as Bjorn Collinder points out that language development isn't unidirectional.
   A direction agglutinating ——> inflectional languages = towards increasing complexity, may be regarded as towards a higher dimensional level. So does the opposite direction too, through angle steps complicating the structure. Both aspects can be reconciled in the loop model of the dimension chain above.


a) Morphemes
:
It's possible to find a contradiction too in the direction of differentiations of word stems: the separation of radicals from within the semantics through narrowing "base formants", more pronounced in agglutinating languages (?), - compared with word stem "classes" of e.g. Latin after end phonemes, i. e. from the outer level of phonetics?

If initial morphemes in agglutinating languages are branched into verbs and nouns (ambiguous in reference BC), it could be interpreted as the first differentiation of word classes (parts of speech), after the isolating languages and their concepts.
   The inflecting languages as Indo-European on the other hand, where the development of morphemes is said to have gone from verb stems to nouns (V → N), should in that case imply a relation at straight angle to the agglutinating languages in this respect.
V
< |
N
   

b) Vowel harmony - vowel changes:
About vowel changes in suffixes and word stems, agglutinating languages may be regarded as an "earlier" stage dimensionally, seen in outward direction: stems are indeclinable in agglutinating languages - as in isolating ones. Vowel change concerns the endings of words = outwards in words. ("Vowel harmony".)
   In inflecting languages, word stems may also change, e.g. to more similarity with the endings, an effect inwards in the words, as a turning towards inward direction in the chain of steps 3 —><—2.

Vowel harmony in agglutinative languages is also a phonetic history: the superimposed phonetic level "from outside" acts as 'a bending force'.
While the verb stems in inflectional languages may be regarded as inflected by and in service of grammar, e. g. in tenses in "strong verbs", as from the "deeper" level of syntax.


c)
System of affixes:
The system for affixes in the secondary differentiations within word classes shows the most characteristic difference between agglutinating and inflecting families. A comparison, if the principle of endings (according to CEL) is purified:
- Agglutinating languages: affixes are added one after another, e. g.:
noun + affix 1 + affix 2 + affix 3 etc. One example from Swedish, although not belonging to this family: kung-ar-na-s (= the Kings' in genitive):
(noun) + -ar (plural) + -na (definite form) + -s (genitive).
- Inflectional languages as Latin: many such secondary determinations as tense, person etc. are expressed with one and the same suffix.

The principle could be interpreted as a difference in dimension degrees:
- Addition (+) implies a linear, 1-dimensional operation.
- Multiplication (x) implies a 2-3-dimensional operation, as defining squares or in two steps cubes.
In the inflectional system the suffixes may be interpreted as points in a plane or space geometry, to regard as result of further development inwards:
   Inflecting languages could be compared with "sp- (spd-)hybridizations" in molecule bonds.
   Hence, we would have the two systems for added suffixes in the lower degrees of the loop model:

Agglutinating languages in step (2)←1, inflecting ones: step (3)←2 - as in the figure already shown:


This is also in agreement with the assumption that agglutinating languages represent an earlier, deeper and more high-dimensional type. Cf. the statement that Semitic languages (inflectional) earlier was agglutinating.
   Swahili with prefixes, an inverted direction in this respect compared with Uralic, could perhaps represent a still earlier phase in these agglutinating languages, nearer as it is the origin of Homo Sapiens.


d) Number of cases and other suffixes:
The increasing number of cases in agglutinating languages could be an expression of direction outwards (d-degree pole 4b) in the secondary chain of noun differentiations, e.g. in all their different cases for locality.
   The agglutinating type is geometrically (grammatically) less complex than the inflecting, but more complex than the isolating one.

The additive principle is probably one reason for the possibility to develop and manage this significantly higher number of cases than in a language as Latin?

In the typical inflectional Latin the number of noun inflections (AA) resembles number of electrons in different orbitals in atomic shells:


(18 + 5 is also = number of non-metals + transition elements in the Periodic system!)

Assuming that there are no endings coinciding and all distinctions gave suffixes, it should give 2 x 6 x 10 x 5 suffixes = 600 endings to remember? Up to 4 selected and united to 1 suffix for a noun.
   With the Latin system purified the verbs should get about at lest 1440 endings! (5 moods x 2 = active / passive voice, x 3 for persons x 2 for number, x 6 for tenses including duration, x 4 verb stems after final vowel, (4 "conjugations") ?!

The vowel change inwards to the word stem in e. g. tenses reduces of course the need for suffixes. It could perhaps be regarded as a kind of infix too.

It seems also to exist a difference of degree within inflecting languages themselves, as in the relationship between Semitic and Indo-European languages:
   In the 3-consonantal word stems of Semitic languages, (where the vowels often indicated grammatical features as in the strong verbs of IE), the 3rd consonant had the function to shade off and differentiate sense, was a kind of semantically narrowing suffix (LB).
   In the similar word stems of Indo-European, this 3rd consonant was (mainly in verbs) reversed to an infix, position number 2. (LB)
   This shift in position seems as a further step of turning inwards in direction, an inflection on the level of both semantics and phonetics, opposite ends of the level chain.. Note. 3 —> 2 +1, in the number of consonants.


Polysynthetic ( "transposition") languages:

Typical examples: Eskimo language, (some?), Indian languages and Australian languages (some or most of them?). Basque is reported to have some of these features.

- Many clause elements are incorporated into the verb, so it's said, hence the term "synthesizing". The type has also been described as "multi-articulated sentences grown together into word bodies" (BC, s).
- The language type is said to have some similarities with both agglutinating and inflecting languages.
- Secondary grammatical qualifiers are often "infix".

Direction of "synthesis" is inward direction in a dimension chain (from d-degree 0/00).

If verbs are interpreted as "directions", i.e. as expressions for the 4th d-degree on the level of word classes, the later d-degree steps may be regarded as developed and differentiated within the outer poles 0 and 00 of d-degree 4, in this sense potentially (virtually) "incorporated" in the verbs.
   With a couple of alternative sketches of this principle from previous parts and other files here:



A secondary chain of steps within Potentials growing towards lower
the step 4→3 on the level of d-degrees and stepwise turning towards
word classes /parts of speech). more circular structure.

However, it is difficult to see all three examples below as clause elements incorporated in the verbs. (It's obvious that pronouns come first, as suggested before: pronouns as originally from outer poles 0- and 00 in speech situation, defining d-degree 4.)



* (Infinitive, is also known in Latin grammar as "verbal noun", hence a step towards d-degree 3.)

In both examples, the "words" seem to illustrate the differentiation steps within the word class verbs, for instance in first giving the intransitive verb, then the step to unidirection, the transitive form.

Here the wished object gets the role of centre, followed as in the word class chain by an adjective. Then the verb, as hauling in this object, then the mood "optative" of the verb as affix, last arriving at the formal subject, only as affix of to the verb. (Cf. about moods.)

Should such a language be interpreted as an early or a late stage?

With respect to the morphemes - or parts of the words, it seems as if that which in agglutinating and inflecting languages is only affixes, has more substance (left?). As adverbial morphemes - from a role of independent expressions? (The prehistory of tenses in inflecting languages?)

Polysynthetic languages are spoken by what linguists call "border people". By applying a linguistic theory within phonetics, they would correspond to an older language type.
   If so, they have also had a longer time to develop. With respect to syntax, it could imply a secondary synthesis of previously developed, more distinct, separated words - the result of "abbreviations", made possible within isolated language groups?

Cf. the immune system, where an "alphabet" of 3 amino acids are said to exist (?). Like our type of abbreviations, ABB, SKF etc.: to regard as a superposed level of language. A "later" development of abbreviations.)

An additional question: If western linguists hear a row of sounds (calling them word-bodies), not understanding the language, why shouldn't those people hear western speech in the same way, as just a row of sounds we call phonemes?

And what's the conclusion? It seems as if we have to regard the "polysynthetic" languages as in both main directions in a "haploid" chain:
0 <= 4 == 3 =><= 2 == 1 ==> 00, where the inward direction (as from phonemes in that gradient of the big level chain !) is chosen in the name.
Cf. "infix" as in the middle step. Basque for instance has many infixes.


Analytical language:

Typical examples: the development of the Latin language as inflecting to its daughter languages.
Features according to the literature:
- More and more "free form-words". "independent words" and word categories replaced endings.
- Pronouns replaced the verb endings. 50% of the pronouns existed in the twelfth century.
- Prepositions developed, were released and replaced case endings.
- Mood endings on verbs became auxiliaries.

Such a development has been going on, as mentioned about pronouns and prepositions, not only in Indo-European languages but also in the Semitic ones and for instance in Chinese. It has been described as a "grammatical dissolution".
   Generally, such languages could be said to illustrate the steps into lower dimensional degrees—> 2 — 1 — 0/00.

In Uralic (agglutinating) languages for instance, there has been a development of nouns, which reduced may become case endings (BC). In inflecting (fusional) languages one development goes from case endings to prepositions. Such data imply a gradual reduction outwards of word categories and a "dissolution" as liberation of quanta.

In terms of the dimensional model steps outwards imply an increasing number of dimensions translated into motional moments. Very elementary:

It corresponds to increasing mobility of language "form elements", which in this sense becomes independent words.

The trend towards analytical language is here vaguely proposed as a stepwise substantiation of such "grammatical motions" as expressions for relations in whole sentences.


Summery:

From the aspect of "development inwards" towards higher d-degrees:
- Isolating languages: the lining up of isolated words decide word class, ~ 1.
- Agglutinating languages: the lining up of endings determines the secondary developments within word classes, ~ 2,
- Inflecting, synthetic or fusional languages: - coordinate and stores the determinations of secondary chains within word classes into one (1) suffix, - 3 <— 2,
- Polysynthetic languages: coordinate and store both secondary and primary chains on the level of word classes in verbs to "word bodies", ~ 4 <—3.

From the aspect of development towards lower dimensional degrees:
An increasing differentiation of word categories (the parts of speech)? From isolating languages to polysynthetic ones - to agglutinating, - to fusional - to analytic languages.
   Then, as a "feedback", or meeting between opposite poles in terms of the dimension model, a combination of isolating - analytic characters (?), when looking at the development underway in contemporary English.

The consecutive order of the development of the different language types, here sketched with aspects from the dimension model, becomes essentially the same as Bjorn Collinder suggests in his book "Språket" ("The Language").


A note:

Geographical distribution on Northern Hemisphere:

*

To part II:

The Speech Organs

© Åsa Wohlin
Free to distribute if the source is mentioned.
Texts are mostly extractions from a booklet series, made publicly available in year 2000

 

 

 

 

 

 


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