Factors Affecting Changes in English from a Synthetic Language to an Analytic One

  • Received : 20070400
  • Accepted : 20070600
  • Published : 2007.06.30


The purpose of this paper is to survey the major elements that have changed English from a synthetic language to an analytic one. Therefore, this paper has looked at the differences between synthetic languages and analytic ones. In synthetic languages, the relation of words in a sentence is synthetically determined by means of inflections, while in analytic languages, the functions of words in a sentence are analytically determined by means of word order and function words. Thus, Old English with full inflectional systems shows the synthetic nature. However, in the course of time, Old English inflections came to be lost by phonetic changes and operation, which made English dependent on word order and function words to signal the relation of words in a sentence. The major phonetic changes that have shifted English are the change of final /m/ to /n/, the leveling of unstressed vowels, the loss of final /n/, and the decay of schwa in final syllables. These changes led to reduction of inflections of English as well as the loss of grammatical gender. The operation of analogy, the tendency of language to follow certain patterns and to adapt a less common form to a more familiar one, has also played an important role in changing English.