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Chapter 4

History of the English Language, Brinton and Arnovic Chapter 4: Proto-Indo-European and Language Families

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English 3001
Michael Fox

nd The English Language: A Linguistic History 2 Edition Brinton & Arnovick Chapter 4 Classification of Languages • Languages are classified according to two different systems: typological and genealogical. Typological • based on particular structural features • no regard to derivation of language • geographic proximity is not a factor • linguists have proposed three ways of classifying by type: ◦ The first is based on number of morphemes or meaningful units per word and dates from the early nineteenth century: ▪ isolating language • generally has one morpheme per word • words do not vary their form, use no affixes and are often monosyllabic • relies on word order • e.g. Vietnamese ▪ agglutinating language • several morphemes per word • every word consists of a root and affixes • each morpheme remains distinct • one meaning expressed per morpheme • parts of words are glued together • e.g. Turkish ▪ inflecting language • several morphemes per word; a root and affixes • morphemes may be fused, modified or irregular • each affix expresses a number of different meanings • e.g. Latin ▪ this method assumes a progression from 'primative' isolating to agglutinating to a more 'advanced' inflecting type. ▪ In actuality there is evidence of languages moving in this direction and in the opposite direction ◦ the second is a broader kind of typological classification proposed in Language by Edward Sapir in 1921; better at defining changes languages undergo ▪ analytic language • does not combine inflectional morphemes or does so sparingly • grammatical relations are indicated by word order and function words, only to a limited extent by affixing • e.g. Modern English ▪ synthetic language • expresses grammatical relations by affixing • both inflecting and agglugating languages are synthetic ▪ polysynthetic language • combines a large number of morphemes, including major parts of a sentence, into a single word but keeps morphemes distinct • e.g. Nootka ◦ the final is based on the order of elements in the sentence, specifically the position of the subject (s), verb (v) and object (o). ◦ Languages primarily fall into SOV, SVO, and VSO. ◦ Features of VO: • prepositions • suffixes • auxiliary precedes verb • adjective follows noun • genitive follows noun • relative clause follows noun • case marking absent ◦ OV: • postpositions • prefixes • auxiliary follows verb • adjective precedes noun • genitive precedes noun • relative clause precedes noun • case marking present • There is no language that falls exclusively into one category, most are mixed • some see language as always moving from one category to another Genealogical or Genetic • based on the common origin of and historical relationships between languages • geographic proximity is not a factor • similarities among languages are seen as result of universal features • assumption that this is due to common origin • more useful than typological for historical work • “family tree” model ◦ metaphor of genetic relationships between languages ▪ parent and daughter/sister languages ◦ proposed in 1871 •
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