Accidental gap

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An accidental gap is a non-existing word which is expected to exist given the hypothesized morphological rules of a particular language.


In English it is possible to derive nouns from verbs by adding the suffixes -al and -(a)tion to the verbal stem. However, some such derivations do not exist, although there are no grammatical reasons for their nonexistence. Compare the following examples:


     recite	  recital      recitation
     propose	  proposal     proposition


     arrive	  arrival     *arrivation
     refuse	  refusal     *refusation


     derive	 *derival      derivation
     describe   *describal    description


In the literature, an accidental gap is usually thought of as a hole in a paradigm.


Utrecht Lexicon of Linguistics


  • Allen, M.R. 1978. Morphological Investigations, PhD diss. Univ. of Connecticut.
  • Bochner, H. 1988. The forms of Words: a Theory of Lexical Relationships, PhD diss. Harvard Univ. Cambridge.
  • Halle, M. 1973. Prolegomena to a Theory of Word-Formation. Linguistic Inquiry 4, 451-464.
  • Scalise, S. 1984. Generative Morphology. Foris, Dordrecht.
  • Spencer, A. 1991. Morphological Theory. Blackwell, Oxford.