AskDefine | Define agglutinative

Dictionary Definition

agglutinative adj
1 forming derivative or compound words by putting together constituents each of which expresses a single definite meaning [syn: polysynthetic]
2 united as if by glue [syn: agglutinate]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. Sticky, tacky, adhesive.
  2. Having words derived by combining parts, each with a separate meaning.


  • Dutch: agglutinerend
  • French: agglutinant
having words derived by combining parts
  • Dutch: agglutinerend
  • French: agglutinant

Extensive Definition

In linguistics, agglutination is the morphological process of adding affixes to the base of a word. Languages that use agglutination widely are called agglutinative languages. These languages are often contrasted with fusional languages and isolating languages. However, both fusional and isolating languages may use agglutination in the most-often-used constructs, and use agglutination heavily in certain contexts, such as word derivation. This is the case in English, which is an isolating language, but has an agglutinated plural marker -(e)s and derived words such as shame·less·ness.
Agglutinative suffixes are often inserted irrespective of syllabic boundaries, for example, by adding a consonant to the syllable coda as in English tie — ties. Native speakers of strongly agglutinating languages untrained in linguistics cannot usually break down an agglutinated word into its components. Agglutinative languages also have large inventories of enclitics, too, which can be and are separated from the word root by native speakers in daily usage.

Examples of agglutinative languages

Examples of European agglutinative languages are the Finno-Ugric languages, such as Finnish, Estonian and Hungarian. These have highly agglutinated expressions in daily usage, and most words are bisyllablic or longer. Grammatical information expressed by adpositions in Western Indo-European languages is typically found in suffixes. For example, the Finnish word talossanikin means "in my house, too". Derivation can also be quite complex. For example, Finnish epäjärjestelmällisyys has the root järki "logos", and consists of negative-"logos"-causative-frequentative-nominalizer-adessive-"related to"-"property", and means "the property of being unsystematic," "unsystematicalness." The word has lots of stem changes, so Finnish is not the best example for an agglutinative language.
Agglutination is used very heavily in some Native American languages, such as Nahuatl, Quechua and K'iche, where one word can contain enough morphemes to convey the meaning of what would be a complex sentence in other languages.
Agglutination is also a common feature in the native language of the Basque people, the ancient Euskara tongue which has likely been spoken by the Euskaldun (native Basque speakers) for perhaps at least 2000 years.
Almost all of the Philippine languages also belong to this category. This enables them, especially Filipino, to form new words from simple base forms.
Japanese is also an agglutinating language, adding information such as negation, passive voice, past tense, honorific degree and causality in the verb form. Common examples would be hatarakaseraretara (働かせられたら), which combines causative, passive, and conditional conjugations to arrive at the meaning "if (subject) had been made to work...", and tabetakunakatta (食べたくなかった), which combines desire, negation, and past tense conjugations to mean "(subject) did not want to eat".
Turkish is yet another agglutinating language: the expression Avustralyalılaştıramadıklarımızdanmışsınız is pronounced as one word in Turkish, but it can be translated into English as "supposedly you are one of those whom we could not make Australian."

Extremes of agglutination

It is possible to construct artificial extreme examples of agglutination, which have no real use, but illustrate the theoretical capability of the grammar to agglutinate. This is not a question of "long words", since some languages permit limitless combinations with compound words, negative clitics or such, which can be (and are) expressed with an analytic structure in actual usage.
The English language, missing inflectional agglutination, can use only derivational Latin agglutination, as in e.g. antidisestablishmentarianism. Agglutinative languages often have more complex derivational agglutination than isolating languages, so they can do the same to a much larger extent. For example, in Hungarian, a word such as elnemzetietleníthetetlenségnek, which means "for [the purposes of] undenationalizationability" can find actual use. Using inflectional agglutination, these can be extended. For example, the official Guinness world record is Finnish epäjärjestelmällistyttämättömyydellänsäkäänköhän "I wonder if — even with his/her quality of not having been made unsystematized". It has the derived word epäjärjestelmällistyttämättömyys as the root and is lengthened with the inflectional endings -llänsäkäänköhän. However, this word is grammatically unusual, since -kään "also" is used only in negative clauses, but -kö (question) only in question clauses.
agglutinative in Danish: Agglutination
agglutinative in Indonesian: Aglutinasi
agglutinative in Polish: Aglutynacyjność
agglutinative in Portuguese: Aglutinação
agglutinative in Swedish: Agglutination
agglutinative in Ukrainian: Аглютинація (мовознавство)
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