inflection, morphology, frequency, features, markedness, Russian, processing, lexical access


Markedness has a long tradition in linguistics as a way to describe linguistic asymmetries. In this paper, I investigate an argument about the necessity of markedness as a tool for capturing the structural distribution of inflectional affixes and predicting the behavioral consequences of that distribution. Based on evidence from German adjectives, Clahsen et al. argue that the number of specified features of inflectional affixes (which I argue represents a type of markedness) affects reaction times in lexical access. Affixes’ features, however, overlap with how frequently they occur. Clahsen et al. investigate only three affixes in German, leaving open questions about the relationship between the two factors and whether features are necessary as a predictor of lexical processing. In this paper, I use a larger set of inflectional affixes in Russian to test the relationship between affix features and affix frequency. I find that the two traits of affixes are correlated based on frequencies from a corpus and that in a lexical decision task, affix frequency is the better predictor of response times. My results suggest that we should question the necessity of featural markedness for explaining how inflectional structure is processed and, more generally, that both corpus and experimental data suggest a surprisingly close relationship between affix features and affix frequency.

Original Publication Citation

Parker, Jeff. 2021. On the Relationship between Frequency, Features, and Markedness in Inflection: Experimental Evidence from Russian Nouns. Languages 6: 130. languages6030130

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

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