Morphological Typology (illustrations from SpecGram)
Descriptions adapted from The Lingua File:
Types of synthetic language (i.e. languages that have prefixes/suffixes):
Analytic languages: also known as isolating languages because they’re composed of isolated, or free, morphemes. Free morphemes can be words on their own, such as cat or happy. Languages that are purely analytic in structure don’t use any prefixes or suffixes, ever. However, it’s rare to find a language that is purely analytic or synthetic since most languages have characteristics of both. Morphological typology is like a spectrum in which languages fit in somewhere from analytic to polysynthetic (a subtype of synthetic languages we’ll get to in a moment). Mandarin Chinese and Vietnamese are good examples of analytic languages. […] English, on the other hand, is one of the most analytic Indo-European languages, but is still usually classified as a synthetic language. […]
Agglutinating Languages:With these languages, morphemes within words are usually clearly recognizable in a way that makes it easy to tell where the morpheme boundaries are. Their affixes usually only have a single meaning. Turkish,Korean, Hungarian, Japanese, and Finnish are all in this group.
Fusional Languages: Similar to agglutinating languages, except that the morpheme boundaries are much more difficult to discern. Affixes are often fused with the stems, and can have multiple meanings. A prime example of a fusional language is Spanish, especially when it comes to verbs. In the wordhablo ”I speak”, the -o morpheme tells us that we’re dealing with a subject that is singular, first person, and in the present tense. It’s difficult to find a morpheme that means “speak”, however, since habl- is not a morpheme. Fusional languages can be tricky!
Polysynthetic Languages: These languages are undoubtedly some of the most difficult to learn. They often have verbs that can express the entirety of a typical sentence in English, which they do by incorporating nouns into verbs forms. For example, the Sora language of India has one word that means “I will catch a tiger”. Many Native American languages are polysynthetic.