Markedness: Iconicity, Economy, and Frequency

Joan L. Bybee

in The Oxford Handbook of Linguistic Typology

Published in print November 2010 | ISBN: 9780199281251
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

 Markedness: Iconicity, Economy, and Frequency

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This article explores the phenomena identified by those studying markedness, which happen to differ somewhat depending upon whether they reside in the phonological, morphosyntactic, or semantic domain. It specifically evaluates the proposed explanations for markedness correlations, which include references to diagrammatic iconicity, economy, and frequency of use. The article starts by addressing the origins of markedness theory. This theory can be considered successful to the extent that it can be shown that a number of properties correlate with the distinction between unmarked and marked. There is no one overarching explanation for all asymmetries within categories, but rather, a combination of considerations – frequency of use, diachronic source, semantics – produces the tendencies identified under markedness theory in morphology. Moreover, explanations for the classical properties associated with markedness are given. Finally, it is observed that the current theories of language are more emergentist.

Keywords: markedness theory; iconicity; economy; frequency; emergentist; phonology; semantics; morphology

Article.  7206 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Linguistic Typology

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