Synchrony and diachrony
Synchrony and diachrony are distinct but complementary concepts used in linguistics to indicate different perspectives of language study: the study of language at a specific moment (synchrony) and the study of language across time (diachrony). In this article we will explain the two important concepts here.
These two concepts were initially addressed by the linguist Ferdinand de Saussure, who argued that language could and should be studied as an autonomous reality at a given point in time, without the need to analyze its evolutionary processes. He claimed that the only known linguistic reality of the speaker was the language in actual functioning.
A complete and effective study of the language would have to contemplate these two aspects, focusing both on the changes that occurred in the language and on the functioning of the language at a given moment.
A synchronic study of language focuses on the characteristics that language presents during a given period of time. Like this:
- it is momentary, not studying the evolution of the language in time, but only a specific moment inserted in this evolutionary process;
- presents static and descriptive characteristics, referring to the state of the tongue at that specific moment;
- studies only language variations that coexist at a given time, such as regional, social, and situational variations;
- analyzes language as a closed set that presents regularity and homogeneity typical of a given period.
A diachronic study of language focuses on the changes that language presents over time. Like this:
- presents the evolution that words suffer through time, analyzing the transformations that occurred until the current word;
- presents dynamic and historical characteristics, going back to the origin of words;
- by focusing on the evolutionary process of language, it is characterized as the study of the succession of different diachronies, enabling comparisons.