The previous section has concentrated almost entirely on English morphological phenomena. In fact, languages differ considerably in the extent and nature of the morphological processes employed in their grammars. Vietnamese, for example, has no bound morphemes, so that the only morphology in the language is compounding. By contrast, there are languages in which morphology is extremely intricate and accounts for much of the grammar's complexity. In this section, we will look at some examples of the types of morphological system that are found in the languages of the world, and the kinds of functions realised by that morphology. A range of the examples we consider will be seen to provide further support for the Separation Hypothesis introduced at the end of the previous section.
The agglutinative ideal
In the last century, linguists introduced a classification of morphological systems which is still often referred to today. This classification distinguished isolating, agglutinating and inflectional languages. We start with isolating languages. These, exemplified by Vietnamese, Chinese and a number of other Far Eastern languages, as well as a number of West African languages, have few, if any, bound morphemes. Thus, in Vietnamese, there is no morpheme corresponding to English -er in driver, this concept being conveyed by a compound with roughly the structure ‘drive + person’.
At the other extreme are languages such as Turkish, Finnish, Hungarian, the Bantu languages of Africa, many languages of the Americas and Australasia and most of the languages of Russia.