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Tagmemics is a linguistic theory developed by Kenneth L. Pike in his book Language in Relation to a Unified Theory of the Structure of Human Behavior, 3 vol. (1954–1960). It was primarily designed to assist linguists to efficiently extract coherent descriptions out of corpora of field work data. Tagmemics is particularly associated with the Summer Institute of Linguistics, an association of missionary linguists devoted largely to Bible translations, of which Pike was one of the earliest members.

Tagmemics makes the kind of distinction made between phone and phoneme in phonology and phonetics at higher levels of linguistic analysis (grammatical and semantic); for instance, contextually conditioned synonyms are considered different instances of a single tagmeme, as sounds which are (in a given language) contextually conditioned are allophones of a single phoneme. The emic and etic distinction can also be applied in other social sciences.


  • Cook, Walter A. 1969. Introduction to tagmemic analysis. Volume 3 in Transatlantic Series in Linguistics. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
  • Longacre, Robert E. 1965. "Some fundamental insights of tagmemics". In Language 41, pp. 65-76
  • Pike, Kenneth L. 1967. Language in relation to a unified theory of the structure of human behavior. Vol. 32 in Janua Linguarum, Series Maior. The Hague: Mouton.
  • ———. 1982. Linguistic concepts: An introduction to tagmemics. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 0-8032-3664-6.
  • Trask, R. L. 1993. A Dictionary of Grammatical Terms in Linguistics. London / New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-07809-1 / ISBN 0-415-07810-5.
  • Waterhouse, Viola G. 1974. The history and development of tagmemics. Vol. 16 in Janua Linguarum, Series Critica. The Hague: Mouton.

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