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Competing Motivations in Grammar and Usage$
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Brian MacWhinney, Andrej Malchukov, and Edith Moravcsik

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780198709848

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198709848.001.0001

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On system pressure competing with economic motivation

On system pressure competing with economic motivation

(p.197) 12 On system pressure competing with economic motivation
Competing Motivations in Grammar and Usage

Martin Haspelmath

Oxford University Press

This chapter starts out from the observation that grammatical marking is typically economical, i.e. the more frequent member of a grammatical opposition tends to be coded by zero, while the rarer member is coded overtly. This can be seen in many domains of grammar, for example in number marking, in person marking, in argument coding, and in adnominal possessive marking. But if this motivating factor had no competition, we would expect a lot more variation than we actually find, because different lexemes show different frequencies. Grammatical coding is fairly uniform within word classes, and there are rarely more than two or three different classes. Thus, system pressure (the tendency for words to behave like other similar words) must be a powerful competing motivation which leads languages to have many patterns with a local lack of economy.

Keywords:   economy, frequency, system pressure, markedness, inflection

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