American Indian languages
American Indian heritage
Some Native American languages are described as "agglutinative" languages. This means that words in those languages are
made up of multiple morphemes, or parts, each contributing a piece of the word's meaning.
One example of agglutination would be the Cherokee word datsigowhtisgv'i which means "I was seeing
something facing me." The prefix "da-" means the object is facing the speaker, "tsi-" is the conjugation for a
first-person subject ("I"), "gowhti" is the root to see, "-sg-" means a verb has progressive or ongoing action,
and "v'i" is past tense.
A language with words like this is sometimes also called
especially if speakers of the language can use many morphemes together in the same word.
"Polysynthetic" and "agglutinative" are often used interchangeably when referring to Native American languages,
but they are not actually synonyms. There is another type of polysynthetic language
known as a fusional language,
which can also have long words with many morphemes, but the morphemes do not each have a distinct meaning
the way they do in agglutinative languages. Since fusional polysynthesis is rare in indigenous American languages,
most polysynthetic languages in the Americas are also agglutinative.
Here are some examples of agglutinative Native American languages:
What Is An Agglutinative Language?
Wikipedia: Agglutinative languages
Native Languages of the Americas website © 1998-2015 Contacts and FAQ page
Back to our Native American definitions
Would you like to help support our organization's work with endangered American Indian languages?