An agglutinative language is a language that uses agglutination extensively: most words are formed by joining morphemes together. This term was introduced by Wilhelm von Humboldt in 1836 to classify languages from a morphological point of view. It was derived from the Latin verb agglutinare, which means "to glue together."
An agglutinative language is a form of synthetic language where each affix typically represents one unit of meaning (such as "diminutive," "past tense," "plural," etc.), and bound morphemes are expressed by affixes (and not by internal changes of the root of the word, or changes in stress or tone). Additionally, and most importantly, in an agglutinative language affixes do not become fused with others, and do not change form conditioned by others.
Synthetic languages that are not agglutinative are called fusional languages; they sometimes combine affixes by "squeezing" them together, often changing them drastically in the process, and joining several meanings in one affix (for example, in the Spanish word comí [I ate], the suffix -í carries the meanings of indicative mood, active voice, past tense, first person singular subject and perfective aspect).
Agglutinative is sometimes used as a synonym for synthetic, although it technically is not. When used in this way, the word embraces fusional languages and inflected languages in general.
The distinction between an agglutinative and a fusional language is often not sharp. Rather, one should think of these as two ends of a continuum, with various languages falling more toward one end or the other. For example, Japanese is generally agglutinative, but expresses fusion in otōto (弟 younger brother), from oto+hito (originally oto+pito). In fact, a synthetic language may present agglutinative features in its open lexicon but not in its case system (e.g. German and Dutch).
Agglutinative languages tend to have a high rate of affixes/morphemes per word, and to be very regular. For example, Japanese has only two irregular verbs (and not very irregular), Luganda has only one (or two, depending on how 'irregular' is defined), Turkish has only one and in the Quechua languages all the verbs are regular. Georgian is an exception; not only is it highly agglutinative (there can be simultaneously up to 8 morphemes per word), but there is also a significant number of irregular verbs, varying in degrees of irregularity.
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