Surrey Cross-linguistic Database on Defectiveness

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Baerman, Matthew, Dunstan Brown & Greville G. Corbett. 2009. Surrey Cross-linguistic Database on Defectiveness. University of Surrey.

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The term 'defectiveness' refers to gaps in inflectional paradigms — specifically, gaps which do not appear to follow from natural restrictions imposed by meaning or function. The Latin noun for 'change' is a textbook example: bizarrely, it lacks nominative and dative singular forms, and has no genitive plural. In this sense it contrasts other nouns which do have forms associated with these combination of features and values. The fact that inflectional paradigms may have such anomalous gaps in them has been known since at least the days of the classical grammarians. Though the existence of defective paradigms is indisputable, few people could name more than a handful of examples.

The Surrey Cross-linguistic Database on Defectiveness helps to expand our empirical knowledge of this intriguing phenomenon by recording plausible examples of defective paradigms within in a controlled sample of genetically and geographically diverse languages (based on the 100-language sample from the World Atlas of Language Structures).


The database was created for the project 'A typology of defectiveness', funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council under grant number AH/D001579/1. This support is gratefully acknowledged.



Creators: Baerman, Matthew; Brown; Dunstan; Corbett, Greville G.;

Title: Surrey Cross-linguistic Database on Defectiveness

Publisher: University of Surrey

Year: 2009