Skip to main content

Some sources of apparent gaps in derivational paradigms


Derivational paradigms sometimes present gaps (e.g. capitalcapitalistcapitalistic but charactergap: *characteristcharacteristic). In many cases, gaps in derivational paradigms are merely apparent: on closer scrutiny, they prove not to be gaps at all. In some instances, an apparent gap is in reality the reflection of a morphological rule’s versatility; in such instances, a single rule serves either to mark the derivation of one lexeme from another or to define the relation between two stems of the same lexeme. In other instances, an apparent gap is actually the reflection of an independently motivated principle of rule conflation. The conflation of rule B with rule A yields an apparent gap in a lexeme’s derivational paradigm in one of two ways: (i) in some instances, the conflation’s domain of application is a subset of that of rule A but the conflation nevertheless exhibits greater productivity than rule A on its own; (ii) in other instances, the conflation’s domain of application is not a subset of that of rule A. Once the effects of rule versatility and rule conflation are taken into account, numerous apparent gaps prove not to be gaps at all, a fact with significant implications for understanding the architecture of a language’s morphology.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6


  1. 1.

    It is possible to conceive of derivational paradigms in more than one way. Roché (2011: 28) and Hathout (2011: 259ff) distinguish between morphological derivational families (familles dérivationelles morphologiques) and lexical derivational families (familles dérivationelles lexicales): the former are paradigms of lexemes whose stems are morphologically related (e.g. operate and operator), while the latter are larger paradigms of lexemes that are lexicosemantically related (e.g. operate and surgeon); cf. also Stump (1991: 721f). Here, I use ‘derivational paradigm’ in the specific sense of ‘morphological derivational family’.

  2. 2.

    Bonami et al. (2009) motivate the postulation of a radical caché in French whose role in deverbal derivation is closely comparable to the English T-stem proposed here.

  3. 3.

    Certain other rules also give rise to T-stems; two such rules are mentioned at the end of this section.

  4. 4.

    Given that celebrate is not synchronically derived, its default T-stem must simply be listed in its lexical entry.

  5. 5.

    In other work (Stump 2017a, 2017b, 2017c), I discuss the pervasive evidence for rule conflation in the definition of a language’s inflectional morphology.

  6. 6.

    Verbs of the type exemplified by French dé-barqu-er /*dé-barque /*barqu-er (Darmesteter 1875: 79–80) are sometimes labeled as instances of parasynthesis, but their similarity to cases such as decapitate is only apparent. In decapitate, but de- and -ate are derivational affixes, but the suffix -er in débarquer is inflectional rather than derivational; thus, unlike *decapit, débarque is not actually unattested, but serves as the default stem of débarquer. See Corbin (1980, 1987: 121–39), Fradin (2003: 288–306), and Serrano-Dolader (2015: 528f) for extensive discussion of parasynthetic verbs in French and their proper analysis.

  7. 7.

    Booij (2010: 45) makes the same point regarding unified schemas in Construction Morphology.

  8. 8.

    An apparent exception is patrician, which may be used as either a noun or an adjective and does not refer according to vocation; the borrowing of patrician from Middle French (< patricien) likely predates the emergence of the semantic specialization of -ic-ian nouns in English.

  9. 9.

    Instances in which a derivative adjective of the form X-ist-ic is synonymous with its counterpart X-ist embody the general phenomenon of formal over-marking (Hathout and Namer 2014b). In addition, there are cases in which an adjective in -ist-ic has a synonym or near-synonym in -ic that derives from the same stem (e.g. synergistic/synergic) or from a different stem, e.g. cannibalistic/esoteric, cannibalistic/anthropophagic, narcissistic/egocentric, realistic/pragmatic. Such cases suggest that although the formal effect of the conflated -ist-ic rule is deducible from those of its two component rules, its semantic effect may be a matter of lexical stipulation rather than simple semantic composition; in this respect, it is like unconflated derivational rules generally.

  10. 10.

    An adjective in -istic may have a corresponding noun in -ism such that the meaning of the adjective is a function of that of the noun, e.g. anachronistic ‘exhibiting anachronism’; similarly, a noun in -ism may have a corresponding personal noun in -ist whose meaning it determines, e.g. nationalist ‘proponent of nationalism’. Thus, a noun in -ism may determine the meaning of a corresponding adjective in -istic, that of a corresponding noun in -ist, or both, but despite their shared morphology, a noun in -ist does not in general determine the meaning of the corresponding adjective in -istic.

  11. 11.

    Bauer et al. (2013: 226, 321) also appeal to the lack of domain composition to justify treating -arian and -istic as simple affixes; see also Dixon (2014: 317).

  12. 12.

    Dixon (2014: 251f) provides additional discussion of these differences.


  1. Ackerman, F., & Malouf, R. (2013). Morphological organization: The low conditional entropy conjecture. Language, 89, 429–464.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Anderson, S. R. (1992). A-morphous morphology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  3. Aronoff, M. (1976). Word formation in generative grammar. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Bauer, L. (1988). A descriptive gap in morphology. In G. Booij & J. van Marle (Eds.), Yearbook of morphology 1 (pp. 17–27). Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Bauer, L. (1997). Derivational paradigms. In G. Booij & J. van Marle (Eds.), Yearbook of morphology 1996 (pp. 243–256). Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  6. Bauer, L., Lieber, R., & Plag, I. (2013). The Oxford reference guide to English morphology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  7. Bochner, H. (1992). Simplicity in generative morphology. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Bonami, O., Boyé, G., & Kerleroux, F. (2009). L’allomorphie radicale et la relation flexion-construction. In B. Fradin, F. Kerleroux, & M. Plénat (Eds.), Aperçus de morphologie du français (pp. 103–126). Saint-Denis: Presses Universitaires de Vincennes.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Booij, G. (2005). The grammar of words. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Booij, G. (2008). Paradigmatic morphology. In B. Fradin (Ed.), La raison morphologique. Hommage à la mémoire de Danielle Corbin (pp. 29–38). Amsterdam: Benjamins.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  11. Booij, G. (2010). Construction morphology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Booij, G. (2017). Construction morphology. In A. Hippisley & G. Stump (Eds.), The Cambridge handbook of morphology (pp. 424–448). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Corbin, D. (1980). Contradictions et inadéquations de l’analyse parasynthétique en morphologie dérivationnelle. In A.-M. Dessaux-Berthonneau (Ed.), Théories linguistiques et traditions grammaticales (pp. 181–224). Lille: Presses Universitaires de Lille.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Corbin, D. (1987). Morphologie dérivationelle et structuration du lexique. Tübingen: Niemeyer.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  15. Darmesteter, A. (1875). Traité de la formation des mots composés dans la langue française comparée aux autres langues romanes et au latin. París: Librairie A. Franck.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Davies, M. (2008). The corpus of contemporary American English: 450 million words. 1990–present. Available online at

  17. Dixon, R. M. W. (2014). Making new words: Morphological derivation in English. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  18. Fradin, B. (2003). Nouvelles approches en morphologie. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  19. Gaeta, L., & Ricca, D. (2006). Productivity in Italian word-formation: A variable-corpus approach. Linguistics, 44(1), 57–89.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Hathout, N. (2011). Chapter 6: Une approche topologique de la construction des mots: propositions théoriques et application à la préfixation en anti-. In M. Roché, G. Boyé, N. Hathout, S. Lignon & M. Plénat (Eds.), Des unités morphologiques au lexique (pp. 251–318). Paris: Lavoisier.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Hathout, N., & Namer, F. (2014a). Démonette, a French derivational morpho-semantic network. Linguistic Issues in Language Technology, 11(5), 125–168.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Hathout, N., & Namer, F. (2014b). Discrepancy between form and meaning in word formation: The case of over- and under-marking in French. In F. Rainer, W. U. Dressler, F. Gardani, & H. C. Luschützky (Eds.), Morphology and meaning (selected papers from the 15th international morphology meeting, Vienna, February 2010), (pp. 177–190). Amsterdam: Benjamins.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  23. Luís, A., & Spencer, A. (2005). A paradigm function account of ‘mesoclisis’ in European Portuguese. In G. Booij & J. van Marle (Eds.), Yearbook of morphology 2004 (pp. 177–228). Dordrecht: Springer.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  24. Marchand, H. (1966). The categories and types of present-day English word-formation. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Pounder, A. (2000). Processes and paradigms in word-formation morphology. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  26. Raffelsiefen, R. (1992). A nonconfigurational approach to morphology. In M. Aronoff (Ed.), Morphology now (pp. 133–162). Albany: SUNY Press.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Roché, M. (2011). Chapter 1: Quelle morphologie? In M. Roché, G. Boyé, N. Hathout, S. Lignon & M. Plénat (Eds.), Des unités morphologiques au lexique (pp. 15–39). Paris: Lavoisier.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Serrano-Dolader, D. (2015). Parasynthesis in Romance. In P. O. Müller, I. Ohnheiser, S. Olsen, & F. Rainer (Eds.), Word-formation: An international handbook of the languages of Europe (Vol. 1, pp. 524–536). Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.

    Google Scholar 

  29. Spencer, A. (2013). Lexical relatedness: A paradigm-based model. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  30. Stump, G. (1991). A paradigm-based theory of morphosemantic mismatches. Language, 67, 675–725.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Stump, G. (2017a). Polyfunctionality and the variety of inflectional exponence relations. In F. Kiefer, J. P. Blevins, & H. Bartos (Eds.), Perspectives on morphological organization: Data and analyses (pp. 11–30). Leiden: Brill.

    Google Scholar 

  32. Stump, G. (2017b). Rule conflation in an inferential-realizational theory of morphotactics. Acta Linguistica Academic, 64(1), 79–124.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Stump, G. (2017c). Rules and blocks. In C. Bowern, L. Horn, & R. Zanuttini (Eds.), On looking into words (and beyond) (pp. 421–440). Berlin: Language Science Press.

    Google Scholar 

  34. van Marle, J. (1985). On the paradigmatic dimension of morphological creativity. Dordrecht: Foris.

    Google Scholar 

  35. Williams, E. (1981). On the notions ‘lexically related’ and ‘head of a word’. Linguistic Inquiry, 12, 245–274.

    Google Scholar 

Download references


I wish to thank several members of the audience whose comments have contributed to the realization of the present version; thanks also to Nabil Hathout, Fiammetta Namer, and two anonymous referees for numerous constructive suggestions.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Gregory Stump.

Additional information

An earlier version of this paper was presented at ParadigMo 2017 (First Workshop on Paradigmatic Word Formation Modeling) in Toulouse on 19 June 2017.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Stump, G. Some sources of apparent gaps in derivational paradigms. Morphology 29, 271–292 (2019).

Download citation


  • Derivation
  • Gap
  • Paradigm
  • Rule conflation
  • Rule versatility