(Edited to provide context and clarify what I'm interested in)

Context: I am reading a paper that involves comparing German, Dutch, and English. German is the outlier for the phenomena and measures discussed in the paper; I believe this is partially explainable by the difference in the degree of synthesis (as approximated by average morphemes/word ratio). As well, I think that repeating the procedures described in this paper on a language more synthetic than German would show a trend. Another paper relevant to the first has some measures related to Russian, so I am curious about Russian in particular - how synthetic is it, relative to any of the other languages involved (especially the two outliers of the three used in the first study)? I am interested in a morphemes/word ratio in particular as a simple cross-linguistic and quantitative point-measurement that also allows for easy relative comparisons.

Accordingly, if there's some general typology survey out there that gives average morpheme/word ratios for a bunch of languages (including enough of the ones I might find useful or generally interesting) - that would suffice. Alternatively, if someone only knows of papers surveying the specific languages I've mentioned - that's fine, too.

Searches for "morpheme per word" (with an optional search term of a specific language) don't seem to yield anything with actual numbers, although I'm certain I've seen numbers for English and German before.

  • Hello EM23. Welcome to Linguistics SE! Can you reword your question so that you ask for more specific resources? For example, since you're interested in Russian vs German, I'd consider eliminating English from this question and then, if you want, ask another question including English vs another language.
    – Alenanno
    Commented May 15, 2012 at 11:03

1 Answer 1


I believe it started with a classic Joseph Greenberg's 1954 paper, A quantitative approach to the morphological typology of language, in Method and perspective in anthropology, ed. R. F. Spencer (pp. 192-220).

You can easily find such calculations virtually everywhere, e.g. in Laurie Bauer's textbook, p. 235. Why not do it yourself? It'd be fun.

  • Thanks for finding a published value for English! It would be fun to find the number myself, but I don't have access to a morphologically annotated Russian corpus and I don't know Russian at all, so I can't produce an approximation on a small sample of text myself.
    – EM23
    Commented May 16, 2012 at 1:03

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