AskDefine | Define synchronic

Dictionary Definition

synchronic adj
1 occurring or existing at the same time or having the same period or phase; "recovery was synchronous with therapy"- Jour.A.M.A.; "a synchronous set of clocks"; "the synchronous action of a bird's wings in flight"; "synchronous oscillations" [syn: synchronous, synchronal] [ant: asynchronous]
2 concerned with phenomena (especially language) at a particular period without considering historical antecedents; "synchronic linguistics"; "descriptive linguistics" [syn: descriptive] [ant: diachronic]
3 (of taxa) occurring in the same period of geological time

User Contributed Dictionary



From sc=Grek + sc=Grek


  1. occuring at a specific point in time.
  2. In the context of "linguistics": relating to the study of a language at only one point in its history.

Usage notes

  • The synchronic comparison of two languages focusses on categorising phenomena typologically, whereas a diachronic comparison may be looking for common origins or causes of these phenomena, viewed as genetic relationships.

Derived terms

Extensive Definition

In linguistics, a synchronic analysis is one which views linguistic phenomena only at one point in time, usually the present, though a synchronic analysis of a historical language form is also possible. This may be distinguished from a diachronic analysis, which regards a phenomenon in terms of developments through time. Diachronic analysis is the main concern of historical linguistics; most other branches of linguistics are concerned with some form of synchronic analysis.
Synchronic and diachronic approaches can come - equally correctly - to quite different conclusions. For example, a Germanic strong verb like English sing - sang - sung is irregular when viewed synchronically: the native speaker's brain processes these as learned forms, whereas the derived forms of regular verbs are processed quite differently, by the application of productive rules. This is an insight of psycholinguistics, relevant also for language didactics, both of which are synchronic disciplines. However a diachronic analysis will show that the strong verb is the remnant of a fully regular system of internal vowel changes; historical linguistics seldom uses the category "irregular verb".
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