ideasCraig Stroupe | Associate Professor of Information Design | Department of Writing Studies | 1201 Ordean Court # 420 | University of Minnesota Duluth | Duluth, MN 55812 | 218-726-6249 | fax 218-726-6882 |

Diachronic and Synchronic

Diachronic and Synchronic are two logics of order, meaning, and expression which oppose and/or complement one another.


the sequential logic of a road



the all-at-once logic of a pool


road pool
Process Structure
"What Comes After What" "What Goes With What"
Cause and Effect Order Associative Order (non-sequential)
Meaning from Plot, Sequence Meaning from Proximity, Contrast, Similarity, Hierarchy
Anticipation and Satisfaction Connections and Patterns
Like a road you're traveling down Like a pool of people and objects you climb into

Individuals on a family tree are diachronically

Individuals on a company's organizational chart are synchronically organized


Often Combined In Practice

unicycle juggler
Just as the juggling unicyclist combines linear and circular motions, many narratives combine the diachronic logic of plot with synchronic patterns of symbols, themes, and motifs.

Ferdinand de Saussure first makes the distinction between the synchronic and diachronic in his Course in General Linguistics (1916). Though de Saussure is talking about approaches to studying language use, his distinction can be generalized to the study of lots of phenomena.

See Also


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