I have reviewed the Liepzig Rules, and google searches are failing me.

They don't say much about glossing words that don't have any internal morphology. The gloss of an analytic language by these rules would be a word-for-word translation without any guideposts as to the role of anything, with the exception of free pronouns and a few function words being being replaced with more opaque abbreviations.

Is there a way to gloss an analytic language that has the richness of information that would be found in the gloss of a more fusional or synthetic language?

I happen to be glossing an artificial language, but that is beside the point. Pointers on how to gloss Chinese, or Khmer or the like would be helpful, too.

  • I'm not sure what the issue is? Rather than using hyphens to mark off the affixes, just use spaces for the separate words?
    – curiousdannii
    Dec 10, 2014 at 1:06
  • Is your answer that there is no such thing as an interlinear gloss for analytic languages? Just a translation? If the list of words and their dictionary lookup was enough to read an analytic language than we should be able to read Chinese or English with no knowledge of how the word order affects syntax. The point of Liepzig rules is so that we don't just make up an annotation system. I (pronoun subject) suppose (verb) I (pronoun start of a clause) could (modal verb) make on up on the fly, but it wouldn't be recognizable as the Liepzig gloss of a language with morphology. Dec 10, 2014 at 3:35
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    The WP article on the grammar of Vietnamese (the canonical isolating language) has numerous examples with interlinear glosses. I guess bracketing or some similar indication of phrase structure would help, and if you scroll thru the WP article you'll see it uses coloured bars to do this. Dec 10, 2014 at 5:40
  • Also, an interlinear gloss is made more powerful by its co-occurrence with the translation into English. For example, if the original sentence contains one subject pronoun and one object pronoun, you can tell which pronoun is the subject and which is the object from the word choice and word order in the English version of the sentence. With just a few sentences the reader can get a feel for basic word order mappings. Dec 10, 2014 at 12:38
  • @GastonÜmlaut can you upgrade your comment to an answer so I can accept? I hadn't thought of that and it does hit on the key point that the information that normally is in endings is encoded into the phrase structure. Dec 10, 2014 at 13:57

1 Answer 1


Interlinear glossing for isolating languages is often done without any extra tiers or labels beyond the usual ones. This is largely because, as is pointed out in a comment, the free translation in an interlinear gloss provides a way into understanding the constituency, even where this is not shown by morphosyntax and associated morphemic gloss.

But extra forms of labelling are sometimes used to show constituency. These amount to a kind of bracketing (although they may not use actual brackets) and may be placed on an extra tier. Christian Lehmann discusses this, with examples, in section 4.7 of this paper on interlinear glossing, though he urges keeping bracketing to a minimum.

Another example of constituency labelling is in this article on the isolating language Weining Ahmao (Miao-Yao/Hmong-Mien family, China), particularly pp 590ff. The glossed texts are also nice examples of the previous point about the use of free translations to understand the phrase structure of the vernacular text.

The WP article on the grammar of Vietnamese (the canonical isolating language) also has numerous examples with interlinear glosses and in a number of cases uses labelled coloured bars to show constituency.

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