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The middle sign is in Hungarian, which agglutinates extensively. (The top and bottom signs are in Romanian and German, respectively, both inflecting languages.)

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 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. 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 bisyllabic 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 of an agglutinative language.

Agglutination is used very heavily in some Native American languages, such as Nahuatl, Quechua, Tz'utujil, Kaqchikel, Cha'palaachi 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, the Euskaldun (native Basque speakers) have spoken for centuries. The conjugations of verbs, for exemple, are done by adding different prefixes or sufixes to the root of the verb: dakartzat, which means 'I bring them', is formed by da (indicates present tense), kar (root of the verb ekarri-> bring), tza (indicates plural) and t (indicates subject, in this case, "I"). Another example would be the declination: Etxean = "In the house" where etxe = house.

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 another agglutinating language: the expression Avustralyalılaştıramadıklarımızdan is pronounced as one word in Turkish, but it can be translated into English as "one of those whom we could not make resemble the Australian people."

All Dravidian languages, including Kannada, Telugu, Malayalam and Tamil, are agglutinative. Agglutination is used to very high degrees both in formal written forms in Tamil (e.g. sevvaanam "red sky") and in colloquial spoken forms of the language (e.g. sokkathangam "pure gold").

Esperanto is a constructed auxiliary language with highly regular grammar and agglutinative word morphology. See Esperanto vocabulary.

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. The same way, there are the words that have their meaning but probably are never used such as legeslegmegszentségteleníttethetetlenebbjeitekként, which means "like those of you that are the very least possible to get desecrated", but hard to understand when heard. 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.

A very popular Turkish agglutination is Çekoslovakyalılaştırabildiklerimizden miydiniz?, which actually is one word, however, the question suffixes (miydiniz in this case) are written separately and the word stands for Were you one of those people whom we made resemble from Czechoslovakia?.

On the other hand, Afyonkarahisarlılaştırabildiklerimizdenmişsinizcesine is a longer word and it does not surprise people as it contains no spaces and the latter stands for As if you are one of the people that we made resemble from Afyonkarahisar. A recent addition to the claims has come with the introduction of the following word in Turkish muvaffakiyetsizleştiricileştiriveremeyebileceklerimizdenmişsinizcesine, which means something like (you are talking) as if you are one of those that we can not easily convert into an unsuccessful-person-maker (someone who un-educates people to make them unsuccessful).

See also

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

AGGLUTINATION (Lat. ad, and gluten, glutinare, literally to fasten together with glue), a term used technically in philology for the method of word-formation by which two significant words or roots are joined together in a single word to express a combination of the two meanings each of which retains its force. This juxtaposition or conjoining of roots is characteristic of languages such as the Turkish and Japanese, which are therefore known as agglutinative, as opposed to others, known generically as inflexional, in which differences of termination or combinations in which all separate identity disappears are predominant.

The term was also formerly used by associationist philosophers for those mental associations which were regarded as peculiarly close. Combination in its simplest form has been called Agglutination by W. Wundt.


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