Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adjective Of or relating to a language such as Eskimo or Mohawk, characterized by long, morphologically complex words with a large number of affixes that express syntactic relationships and meanings usually expressed as phrases or sentences in other languages.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • In philology, compounded of a number and variety of elements beyond the usual norm; exhibiting excessive intricacy of synthetic structure, as by the incorporation of objective and adverbial elements in the verb forms; incapsulated: as, a, polysynthetic word; characterized by such compounds: as, a polysynthetic language: first applied by Du Ponceau to the class of languages spoken by the Indian tribes of America. Also incorporative and (rarely) megasynthetic.
  • In mineralogy, compounded of a number of thin lamellæ) in twinning position to each other, or characterized by this kind of structure: as, a polysynthetic twin. See twin.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • adjective Characterized by polysynthesis; agglutinative.
  • adjective (Min.) repeated twinning, like that of the triclinic feldspar, producing fine parallel bands in alternately reversed positions.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • adjective grammar said of a language, characterized by a prevalence of relatively long words containing a large number of morphemes. Typically, the morphemes are bound (i.e., they cannot stand alone as independent words). An example of a polysynthetic language is Ojibwe, where:
  • adjective mineralogy Having layers of twin crystals

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adjective forming derivative or compound words by putting together constituents each of which expresses a single definite meaning

Etymologies

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

The Ancient Greek prefix poly- + synthetic, from Latin synthesis ("collection, set, composition"), from Ancient Greek σύνθεσις (sunthesis, "composition"), from συντίθημι (suntithēmi, "to put together, combine"), from συν- (sun-, "together") + τίθημι (tithēmi, "to put, place"), from Proto-Indo-European *dʰe- (“to put, to do”).

Examples

  • Africa, speak a polysynthetic language, and _per contra_, that the Otomis of Mexico have a monosyllabic one like the Chinese.

    The Myths of the New World A Treatise on the Symbolism and Mythology of the Red Race of America

  • The languages of the Huron-Iroquois family belong to what has been termed the polysynthetic class, and are distinguished, even in that class, by a more than ordinary endowment of that variety of forms and fullness of expression for which languages of that type are noted.

    The Iroquois Book of Rites

  • Paonese was of that type known as "polysynthetic," with root words taking on prefixes, affixes and postpositions to extend their meaning.

    The Languages of Pao

  • If, therefore, by the term "polysynthetic," which Mr. Duponceau, in 1819, introduced for the class of Indian languages, it be meant that its grammar consists of many syntheses, or plans of thought, it did not appear to me that the Chippewa was polysynthetic.

    Personal Memoirs of a Residence of Thirty Years with the Indian Tribes on the American Frontiers

  • "polysynthetic," which Mr. Duponceau, in 1819, introduced for the class of Indian languages, it be meant that its grammar consists of many syntheses, or plans of thought, it did not appear to me that the Chippewa was polysynthetic.

    Memoirs of 30 Years with the Indian Tribes on the American Frontiers

  • As Geoffrey Pullum pointed out in the Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax, Inuit languages like the west Greenlandic Kalaallisut spoken in Kangerlussuaq, are polysynthetic.

    Running the Polar Circle marathon

  • It is more accurate to conceive of languages as existing on a continuum, with strictly isolating (consistently one morpheme per word) at one end and highly polysynthetic (in which a single word may contain as much information as an entire English sentence) at the other extreme.

    Web Translations » Blog Archive » Most translated document?

  • French noun phrases retain their lexical grammar and adjective agreement; Cree verbs retain their polysynthetic structure.

    Champlain's Dream

  • French noun phrases retain their lexical grammar and adjective agreement; Cree verbs retain their polysynthetic structure.

    Champlain's Dream

  • The hands that held my shoulders loosened and he slipped his arms around me to draw me close to his ample, polysynthetic stuffed breasts.

    Run For The Money

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