Zero morphemes in paradigms
This paper sheds a new light on the notion of zero morphemes in inflectional paradigms: on their formal definition (§ 1), on the way of counting them (§ 2–3) and on the way of conceptualizing them at a deeper, mathematical level (§ 4). We define (zero) morphemes in the language of cartesian set products and propose a method of counting them that applies the lexical relations of homophony, polysemy, allomorphy and synonymy to inflectional paradigms (§ 2). In this line, two homophonic or synonymous morphemes are different morphemes, while two polysemous and allomorphic morphemes count as one morpheme (§ 3). In analogy to the number zero in mathematics, zero morphemes can be thought of either as minimal elements in a totally ordered set or as neutral element in a set of opposites (§ 4). Implications for language acquisition are discussed in the conclusion (§ 5).
Keywords: zero morpheme, minimal pair, markedness, paradigm
Published online: 06 May 2020
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