Synchronic and Diachronic Approaches

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Synchronic and diachronic are the two complementary terms in linguistic analysis.Ferdinand de Saussure has made a distinction between these two approaches to the study of language.

The synchronic approach considers language as a living whole existing as a state at one particular time in a given speech community. Diachronic approach the other hand focus on the development of a language and records the changes that have taken place on it.

In short, Synchronic approach aims to describe a language at a particular time where as diachronic approach considers the development and changes of a language through history.

For example, the development of English from Shakespeare’s time to the present time. It is diachronic study.

Ferdinand de Saussure gives priority to the synchronic study and observes that the two approaches must be kept separate.  This is because as he said, the first thing that strikes us when we study the facts of a language is that the succession in time does not exist so far the speaker is concerned.

The inter relationship between synchronic and diachronic approach have discussed with the following diagram…

From the above diagram we can analyze that AB is the synchronic axis of simultaneity. That is all the facts of language as they exist at a particular time.  CD is the diachronic axis of succession that is CD is an imaginary line moving through time. The historical path through which language has evolved. AB can intersect the axis CD at any point. Because at any given time there will be a number of simultaneous facts about language. In the diagram x is the point on CD.


  1. Synchronic study of language refers to the study of language at a given point of time.
  2. Diachronic study of language refers to the changes that take place in course of time.
  3.  Synchronic study is static whereas the diachronic study of language is dynamic.
  4. Diachronic study of language records the historical facts. On the other hand synchronic study does not deal with any historical facts or time factor.

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