The pre-conditions for suppletion

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Suppletion is a phenomenon which is unique to morphology. It represents extreme non-iconicity in the relation between form and function. Here we deal with what we call proper suppletion, i.e. where one paradigm has resulted from the interaction of two previous paradigms. Our aim is to establish what the conditions are that give rise to this (partial) merger of paradigms. We provide a detailed account of the development of an adjective in the Mainland Scandinavian languages which unexpectedly shows suppletion with respect to number (and in some cases definiteness). We conclude that development of suppletion is driven by semantic properties, and that frequency is in fact a derived property. Furthermore we argue that there must be an asymmetry between the participants, with one element being dominant.


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