, Volume 27, Issue 4, pp 643–684 | Cite as

Blocking and paradigm gaps

  • Itamar Kastner
  • Vera Zu


Gaps in morphological paradigms are often explained in terms of blocking: generating one form is blocked by the existence of a paraphrase. Another way of thinking about paradigm gaps dissociates their existence from competition between forms. Unlike in competition-based approaches, systematic gaps can be seen as true gaps; the system might not generate a certain form, but this form is not considered in comparison to others. Adopting this latter approach, we argue that inflectional paradigms are neither morphosyntactic primitives nor the result of competition. This claim is supported by data from two unrelated languages. For Hebrew, we demonstrate that a passive gap is not the result of competition with analytic paraphrases. For Latin, we show that a cyclic, syntax-based approach is superior to a theory that generates nonactive verbs in the lexicon and has them compete against each other. Systematic paradigm gaps are thus argued to result from syntactic structure building, without competition regulating independent morphological constructions.


Competition Hebrew Latin Paradigm gaps Passive Voice 



Thanks to Bronwyn Bjorkman, Dave Embick, Richie Kayne, Alec Marantz and Neil Myler for comments on previous versions of this article, and to Stephanie Harves, Tal Linzen, Roumi Pancheva, Jim Wood, the NYU Morphology Research Group and the audience at WCCFL 32 for discussion (in particular Rajesh Bhatt, Sabine Iatridou and Alfredo García Pardo). We are also grateful for the highly constructive comments of the reviewers and editor Adam Albright. This research was supported in part by DFG award AL 554/8-1 to Artemis Alexiadou (I.K.).


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Humboldt-Universität zu BerlinBerlinGermany
  2. 2.New York UniversityNew YorkUSA

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