The zipfian paradigm cell filling problem

James Blevins, Petar Milin, Michael Ramscar

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


This chapter proposes that the stable coexistence of regular and irregular patterns can be understood in terms of a trade-off between the opposing communicative pressures imposed by predictability and discriminability. On this view, irregularity is not ‘defective’ or ‘anomalous’. Instead, irregular formations exhibit an enhanced discriminability that brings them into maximal conformance with precepts like the ‘one form-one meaning principle’, while allowing them to act as attractors within a larger system. Conversely, regularity is neither ‘optimal’ nor ‘normative’. Regular patterns serve to facilitate predictability within a system. In order for regular items to perform this function, it must be possible to assign partially attested paradigms that exhaust the variation in the system. We suggest that a correlation between lexical neighbourhoods and patterns of co-filled cells bootstraps this analogical process.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPerspectives on Morphological Organization
Subtitle of host publicationData and Analyses
EditorsFerenc Kiefer, James Blevins, Huba Bartos
Place of PublicationLeiden
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9789004342934
ISBN (Print)9789004342910
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jun 2017

Publication series

NameEmpirical Approaches to Linguistic Theory


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