Volume 44, Issue 1
  • ISSN 0378-4177
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9978
Buy:$35.00 + Taxes



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 (§ 23) 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).


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. Anderson, Stephen
    (1992) A-Morphous Morphology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 10.1017/CBO9780511586262
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511586262 [Google Scholar]
  2. Blake, Barry
    1994Case. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  3. Booij, Geert
    2002The morphology of Dutch. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  4. Butler, Christopher
    1985Statistics in Linguistics. Oxford: Blackwell.
    [Google Scholar]
  5. Bybee, Joan
    1985Morphology: a study of the relation between meaning and form. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 10.1075/tsl.9
    https://doi.org/10.1075/tsl.9 [Google Scholar]
  6. 1991 Natural morphology: The organization of paradigms and language acquisition. InCharles Ferguson & Thom Huebner (eds.), Second language acquisition and linguistic theory, 67–91. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
    [Google Scholar]
  7. 1994 The grammaticization of zero: Asymmetries in tense and aspect systems. InWilliam Pagliuca (ed.), Perspectives on grammaticalization, 235–254. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 10.1075/cilt.109.02byb
    https://doi.org/10.1075/cilt.109.02byb [Google Scholar]
  8. 2010Language, usage and cognition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 10.1017/CBO9780511750526
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511750526 [Google Scholar]
  9. Clark, Eve
    1998 Morphology in language acquisition. InAndrew Spencer & Arnold Zwicky (eds.), The Handbook of Morphology, 374–389. Oxford: Blackwell.
    [Google Scholar]
  10. Corbett, Greville
    1991Gender. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 10.1017/CBO9781139166119
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139166119 [Google Scholar]
  11. Cruse, David
    1986Lexical Semantics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  12. Dressler, Wolfgang
    2012 On the acquisition of inflectional morphology: introduction. Morphology22. 1–8. 10.1007/s11525‑011‑9198‑1
    https://doi.org/10.1007/s11525-011-9198-1 [Google Scholar]
  13. Eberhard, David
    2009Mamainde Grammar: A Northern Nambikwara language and its cultural context. Utrecht, Netherlands: Netherlands Graduate School of Linguistics.
    [Google Scholar]
  14. Erdal, Marcel
    2004A Grammar of Old Turkic. Leiden: Brill.
    [Google Scholar]
  15. García, Erica & Florimon van Putte
    1989 Forms are silver, nothing is gold. Folia Linguistica Historica8(1–2). 365–384.
    [Google Scholar]
  16. Greenberg, Joseph
    1963 Some Universals of Grammar with Particular Reference to the Order of Meaningful Elements. InJoseph Greenberg (ed.), Universals of Human Language, 73–113. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  17. 1966Language Universals: with Special Reference to Feature Hierarchies. The Hague: Mouton.
    [Google Scholar]
  18. Hamel, Patricia
    1985 A grammar of Loniu (Austronesian, Papua New Guinea languages). Lawrence KS, University of Kansas dissertation.
  19. Hodgkin, Luke
    2005A History of Mathematics: From Mesopotamia to Modernity. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  20. Hume, Elisabeth
    2011 Markedness. InMarc van Oostendorp, Colin J. Ewen, Elizabeth Hume & Keren Ricce (eds.), The Blackwell Companion to Phonology. VolumeI, 79–106. Malden, MA: John Wiley & Sons. 10.1002/9781444335262.wbctp0004
    https://doi.org/10.1002/9781444335262.wbctp0004 [Google Scholar]
  21. James, William
    1958The Varieties of Religious Experience. New York: Mentor Books.
    [Google Scholar]
  22. Joseph, George
    2011The Crest of the Peacock: Non-European Roots of Mathematics (3rd edn). Princeton University Press. 10.1515/9781400836369
    https://doi.org/10.1515/9781400836369 [Google Scholar]
  23. Kukla, André
    (2005) Ineffability and Philosophy. London: Routledge.
    [Google Scholar]
  24. Kaplan, Robert
    2000The Nothing That Is: A Natural History of Zero. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  25. Kenesei, István, Robert Vago & Anna Fenyvesi, A.
    1998Hungarian. London; New York: Routledge.
    [Google Scholar]
  26. Kurłyowicz, Jerzy
    1947 La nature des procès dits analogiques. Acta Linguistica5: 121–138.
    [Google Scholar]
  27. Lakoff, George
    1987Women, Fire and Dangerous Things. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 10.7208/chicago/9780226471013.001.0001
    https://doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226471013.001.0001 [Google Scholar]
  28. Lewis, Geoffrey
    1967Turkish Grammar. Oxford: Oxford University Grammar.
    [Google Scholar]
  29. Lojenga, Constance
    1994Ngiti: A Central-Sudanic language of Zaire. Cologne: Rüdiger Köppe Verlag.
    [Google Scholar]
  30. Lemaréchal, Alain
    1997Zéro(s). Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.
    [Google Scholar]
  31. Mayerthaler, Willi
    1981Morphologische Natürlichkeit. Wiesbaden: Athenaion.
    [Google Scholar]
  32. McGregor, William
    1990A Functional Grammar of Gooniyandi. Studies in language companion series 22. John Benjamins. 10.1075/slcs.22
    https://doi.org/10.1075/slcs.22 [Google Scholar]
  33. Mel’čuk, Igor
    2002 Towards a formal concept ‘zero linguistic sign’. InSabrina Bendjaballah, Wolfgang Dressler, Oskar Pfeiffer and Maria Voeikova (eds.), Selected papers from the 9th Morphology Meeting, 24–28 February 2000, pp.241–258. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 10.1075/cilt.218.20mel
    https://doi.org/10.1075/cilt.218.20mel [Google Scholar]
  34. 2006 Zero sign in morphology. InDavid Beck (ed.), Aspects of the Theory of Morphology, 469–516. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.
    [Google Scholar]
  35. Press, Ian
    1986A grammar of Modern Breton. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton Raatikainen, Panu (2018), Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems. InEdward Zalta (ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2018 Edition), https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2018/entries/goedel-incompleteness/ (18September 2019) 10.1515/9783110884975
    https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110884975 [Google Scholar]
  36. Siewierska, Anna
    2005 Third person zero of verbal person marking. InMartin Haspelmath, Matthew S. Dryer, David Gil & Bernard Comrie (eds.), The world atlas of language structure, 414–417. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (wals.info/feature/103A) (18September 2019).
    [Google Scholar]
  37. 2010 Person asymmetries in zero expression and grammatical function. InFranck Floricic (ed.), Essais de typologie et de linguistique générale: Mélanges offerts à Denis Creissels, 471–485. Lyon: ENS Éditions.
    [Google Scholar]
  38. Silverstein, Michael
    1976 Hierarchy of features and ergativity. InRobert Dixon (ed.), Grammatical categories in Australian languages, 112–171. Canberra: Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies.
    [Google Scholar]
  39. Smeets, Ineke
    2008A grammar of Mapuche. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton. 10.1515/9783110211795
    https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110211795 [Google Scholar]
  40. So-Hartmann, Helga
    2009A Descriptive Grammar of Daai Chin. STEDT Monographs 7. Berkeley: University of California.
    [Google Scholar]
  41. Staal, Frits
    1969 Sanskrit philosophy of language. InThomas Sebeok (ed.), Current Trends in Linguistics 5: Linguistics in South Asia, 499–531. The Hague: De Gruyter Mouton.
    [Google Scholar]
  42. Stewart, Thomas & Gregory Stump
    2007 Paradigm Function Morphology and the morphology/syntax interface. InGillian Ramchand and Charles Reiss (eds.), The Oxford handbook of linguistic interfaces, 383–421. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  43. Stump, Gregory
    2016Inflectional Paradigms: Content and Form at the Syntax-Morphology Interface. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 10.1017/CBO9781316105290
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316105290 [Google Scholar]
  44. Stump, Gregory & Raphael Finkel
    2013Morphological Typology: From Word to Paradigm. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 10.1017/CBO9781139248860
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139248860 [Google Scholar]
  45. Thompson, Sandra, Joseph-Sung Park & Charles Li
    2006A reference grammar of Wappo. Berkeley: University of California Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  46. Weber, David
    1983A grammar of Huallaga Quechua. Los Angeles: University of California.
    [Google Scholar]
  47. Williams, Paul
    2008Mahayana Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations. London: Routledge. 10.4324/9780203428474
    https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203428474 [Google Scholar]
  48. Zhang, Ling
    2015 The affix ordering in typological perspective. Hong Kong: City University of Hong Kong dissertation.

Data & Media loading...

  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): markedness; minimal pair; paradigm; zero morpheme
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error