Social Research Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012-20, Social Research Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 19 December, 2019 , © Lee Harvey 2012–2020.


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core definition

Synchrony refers to the treatment of events that exist or occur at the same time.

explanatory context

This is usually compared to diachrony, where events occur over time.

The difference can be explained via a musical analogy. The sequence of notes, or tune, is the diachronic progression. The harmony is the synchony.

Synchrony refers to the relation between elements of a system at a given time and synchronic analysis refers to the analysis of a structure or system at a given point in time.

Structuralist analysis is usually synchronic. In this context the term metaphor or metaphoric is sometimes used instead of synchrony or synchronic.

analytical review

Changing Minds (2002–2012) states :

Synchrony: Saussure proposed that language as a system of signs be studied as a complete system at any given point in time.
Like chess, the important part of language is how pieces move and the positions of all pieces relative to one another. The shape of each piece is only important in that its potential can be recognized.
A synchronic relationship is one where two similar things exist at the same time. Modern American English and British English have a synchronic relationship.


Aberystwyth University (undated) states :

Structuralist textual analysis is synchronic, seeking to delineate the codes and rules which underlie the production of texts by comparing those perceived as belonging to the same system (e.g. a genre) and identifying invariant constituent units. The analysis of specific texts seeks to break down larger, more abstract units into 'minimal significant units' by means of the commutation test, then groups these units by membership of paradigms and identifies the syntagmatic relations which link the units. The search for underlying semantic oppositions is characteristic of structuralist textual analysis.


associated issues


related areas

See also


Researching the Real World Section 5


Aberystwyth University, undated, 'Chap 5: Introduction to structuralist analysis', available at, accessed 21 January 2010, not available 27 May 2017.

Changing Minds 2002–2012, Synchrony and Diachrony available at 21 January 2013, still available 19 June 2019.

copyright Lee Harvey 2012–2020


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