An oligosynthetic language (from the Greek ὀλίγος, meaning "few" or "little") is any language using very few morphemes, perhaps only a few hundred, which combine synthetically to form statements. It is contrasted to polysynthetic languages. Oligosynthesis is almost entirely theoretical and would depend heavily on the creation of lengthy compound words, to an extent far exceeding that of regular synthetic languages.
There are no known natural human languages that are oligosynthetic. The Native American languages Nahuatl and Blackfoot have in the past been claimed to exhibit oligosynthetic qualities (most notably by Benjamin Whorf). However, the linguistic community has largely rejected these claims, preferring to categorize Nahuatl and Blackfoot as polysynthetic.
Because no natural language has been shown to exhibit oligosynthetic properties, some linguists regard true oligosynthesis as impossible or impractical for productive use by humans.
Oligosynthetic constructed languages
Unlike oligosynthetic languages, oligoanalytic or oligoisolating languages are ones which have few morphemes but tend toward isolating structure. For example, the constructed language Toki Pona has been described as oligoisolating.
The Newspeak spoken by Oceania in the novel 1984 tends theoretically to be an oligosynthetic language, as the aim is to reduce the morphemes. Newspeak ideas are expressed using those few roots and constructing a new idea by synthesis; for example, doubleplusungood means "extremely unsatisfactory".
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