Markedness — An Overview

  • Edith Moravcsik
  • Jessica Wirth


There is a relationship between the degree of our familiarity with things and the number of subdistinctions we can perceive among them. The better we know things the more we are able to detect secondary characteristics which assign them into sub-classes. This is widely illustrable perhaps from all areas of human perception. For example, Caucasians who do not often encounter Asians will perceive all Orientals as looking alike. Or: people who have never consciously observed bird songs will hear most birds as sounding the same. Besides conceptual rapport, simple temporal distance also blurs differences among things. Thus, events that are long past in one’s life may lose their special characteristics: all childhood friends may later be recalled as more or less indistinct members of the general class. And, of course, spatial distance itself also obscures subdistinctions: trees may seem all alike if viewed at great distance such as from a mountain top whereas, when seen at close range, they turn out to represent many subtypes.


Markedness Relation Voiceless Stop Complex Meaning Markedness Criterion Childhood Friend 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Edith Moravcsik
    • 1
  • Jessica Wirth
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Wisconsin-MilwaukeeUSA

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