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Polysynthesis & Oligosynthesis

From:Tim May <butsuri@...>
Date:Saturday, August 24, 2002, 21:44
I think I know enough now to have a broad idea of what a polysynthetic
language looks like, but I've never seen an entirely satisfying
definition of what distinguishes a polysynthetic language from a
non-polysynthetic one.  Any clarification of this point would be

Also, can the essential details of Whorf's idea of oligosynthesis be
explained to me?  All I really know is:

*Whorf proposed an analysis of Nahuatl as oligosynthetic
*said analysis is considered to have been fundamentally incorrect
*oligosynthesis involves word-building from a very small set of
*I am not aware of any natlangs which are described as oligosynthetic
*Brad Coon's conlang Nova [1] is oligosynthetic

If anyone is familiar with the idea of oligosynthesis, I would be
pleased to hear more about it.


    I have not studied Nova in as much detail as I would have liked,
    primarily because the phonology put me off (although, looking at
    it now, it doesn't seem quite as difficult as I remembered -
    possibly my knowledge of phonology has increased in the
    interim). Also, some of the more interesting pages (such as the
    sample of the script) are missing.


Muke Tever <mktvr@...>