Original Paper


, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 71-107

First online:

Restrictions on productivity: defectiveness in Swedish adjective paradigms

  • John LöwenadlerAffiliated withSchool of Languages, Linguistics and Cultures, The University of Manchester Email author 

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A well-known phenomenon in Swedish is that some adjectives are ‘defective’ in the sense that they are not possible in neuter gender. In previous explanations, it has usually been argued that the defective forms could be distinguished from non-defective forms by phonological and/or semantic criteria. Showing that such proposals cannot account for the data, I will argue that the defective paradigms are caused by a number of phonological constraints which block morphological productivity not only in defective forms, but also in many nondefective forms. Thus, contrary to what has traditionally been assumed, common patterns of vowel shortening and dental assimilation in Swedish adjective paradigms are not the result of productivity, but the result of a type of creative generalization where new formations require a sufficient degree of communicative need in order to be perceived as grammatical.


Productivity Defectiveness Transparency Creativity Constraints