القائمة الرئيسية


Marked and Unmarked Terms in the English Language

Marked and Unmarked Terms in the English Language

In binary oppositions:

    Marked and unmarked terms are frequently getting used in binary oppositions. It means a term isn't equal in its weight, but the one (unmarked) is neutral or more positive in contrast to the opposite term. As Geoffery leech observes, where there's a contrast between two or more terms, tenses or cases, one among them is marked if it has some extra 'affix' in contrast to the unmarked one which doesn't contain any marker. for instance, the cat is an unmarked and neutral term while cats are marked with a suffix -s, similarly actor may be an unmarked term while the actress is a marked term with an affix -ess, also polite may be a positive term in contrast to its negative term 'impolite'. generally, the plural of nouns in English is marked term (books) as compared to the singular (book). In the French language, the female is usually marked and therefore the masculine is unmarked term as an example petit in contrast to petite; however, in English, if sex is marked it's done lexically. i.e. by giving special words to at least one sex and none for the opposite one, for instance, word duck may be a female term which is unmarked while maleness is marked by drake which is absent in duck and this word gives services for the entire species. Moreover, within the pronouns opposite marking is being observed, that's male as an unmarked term and feminine term as marked one. for instance,

One in HIS senses wouldn't do a thing like that (unmarked)

One in HER senses wouldn't do a thing like that (marked by femaleness)

It is the male sex who is marked because of the primary statement could ask either gender, but the other will specify it for femaleness.

In polar oppositions:

    The same quite marked/unmarked distinction is observed in polar oppositions also (having two poles) good/bad, rich/poor, day/night, low/high, short/long and that we like better to measure things by the mean of length instead of the shortness. we might rather ask how long this cloth, than how short this cloth is, or how high this building is rather than how low this building is. Because the previous will provides a neutral expression which means it might be long or short, while in latter we are left with just one possibility of being short. It doesn't only believe the size of measurement but also can be utilized in such cases,

How WELL does she speak French? Very poorly

How BADLY does she speak French? sort of a native

The first statement is neutral and different from the other which is marked during this context thus the solution is totally different.

Markedness is often defined because of the relationship between shape and meaning. If there's a contrast of two different forms on one dimension the unmarked one would be neutral one and will be applied on the entire dimension instead of a selected aspect of it. 

It might be argued that this the phenomenon is due to the negative-positive inherent to the semantic opposition itself. Normally the unmarked one is taken into account positive while the marked one is taken a negative term as an example: happy/unhappy, complete/incomplete, stable/unstable; however, in some cases, there's an invisible element of negation, love it is straightforward to define dead by not alive than alive by not dead.

Pollyanna hypothesis:

    The detailed explanation of markedness is given on the idea of the psychological or experiential ground that some psycholinguists have given a so-called hypothesis called "Pollyanna hypothesis" consistent with which individuals tend to think more positively towards life and pay more heed to the brighter side of life which provides an argument for associating well with 'unmarked' terms and bad with 'marked' suffixes and prefixes.

In relative opposition:

    There is also an opportunity of bias in relative oppositions but it's better to call this 'dominance' rather than 'markedness' as an example in parent/child, front/behind, right/wrong the primary term seems to be more dominant than the opposite one, thus we like better to place the dominant term before (parent-child) or even giving one name to both terms using dominant one (ownership). Markedness and dominance seem to possess variation in strength but it deeply depends upon a psychological basis. there's no logical significance in giving symbols to those terms of oppositions. 

    the excellence between 'dead' and 'alive might be given an equal logical explanation as dead as by -live/+dead because both of those are logically equivalent. This shows that the unmarked term has gained the discrimination of + and upward arrow while the dominant term of opposition has gained the proper arrow.

But the distinguishing term for the marked term isn't omitted and therefore the neutralization of the opposition remains indicated (parent, right, good, etc)

Ruth Kempson rule:

  To account for lexical ambiguities thanks to markedness Ruth has given a rule. For this rule, we will take the dog and bitch as an example.

  If a) there are two words W1 and W2 having meanings m1 and m2, and m1 differs from m2 only in having an additional feature -X

   And if b) there's no word like W3 with meaning m3 and m2 differs m3 in having an additional feature of +X

  It means m3 is a further meaning of W1. (m2 and m3 are co-hyponyms of m3 and thus W1 is an unmarked term). This rule accounts for all the ambiguities having the first term as more general containing an additional feature while the other as a more specific one. 

   there's also evidence for another sort of ambiguities like it's a tautology to mention that a calf may be a young cow, but on the opposite hand, it's not the tautology to mention that this is often a cow, not a calf. this is often how ambiguity through the same words is made. There also can be a number of hierarchical structures for an equivalent word.
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