It appears to me that German is a language whose vocabulary is strongly based on combining a few lexemes with a variety of prefixes, or just yuxtaposing. By contrast, romance languages seem to use far more "unique" roots. I wonder if such a distinction is made when classifying languages in some respect.

I'm no linguist and I can't find a way to ask the correct question or to phrase it so as to find the answer on my own with a Google search.

  • 1
    Romance with a capital r.
    – Lambie
    Mar 16, 2023 at 16:36

1 Answer 1


A language that tends to build words through affixation or compounding is called an agglutinative language.

The opposite, with a large number of distinct words and less compounding, is called an isolating language.

Note that many languages have elements of both.

  • 5
    Affixation is directly related to agglutinativity, but compounding is not. Many isolating or inflecting languages use compounding heavily, and it’s actually quite common for agglutinating, particularly polysynthetic, languages not to make widespread use of at least endocentric compound nouns (the most common type of compound in Germanic languages). German, of course, is not an agglutinative language. It doesn’t make significantly more use of affixation (especially not prefixation, as mentioned in the question) than Romance languages, for example. Mar 15, 2023 at 23:06

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