Social Research Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012-19, 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 23 January, 2019 , © Lee Harvey 2012–2019.


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core definition

Diachrony refers to the treatment of events that occur in sequence over time (that is, history).

explanatory context

Diachrony is usually contrasted with synchrony.


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


In structuralist analysis the term metonymy (or metonymic) is sometimes used instead of diachrony (or diachronic).

analytical review

Changing Minds 2002–2012 states:

Diachrony is the change in the meaning of words over time.
For example in the way that 'magic' meant 'good' in youth culture for a period during the 1980s (and, to a lesser extent, beyond).
It is thus the study of language in terms of how it visibly changes in usage. It is based in the dictionary meaning of words.
A diachronic relationship is where related things exist separated by time. 12th century English and 21st century English have a diachronic relationship.

associated issues


related areas

See also


Researching the Real World Section 5


Changing Minds 2002–2012, Synchrony and Diachrony available at, accessed 21 January 2013, still available 17 December 2016 but dated 2002–16 although no change in content.

copyright Lee Harvey 2012–2019


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