Linguistic terminology terms | LETTER - Z

What is a zero?


Here are two senses for zero:

  1. A zero is a constituent proposed in an analysis to represent an element held to be present at an abstract level but not realized in the data.
  2. A zero is a unit proposed as a contrast to an element that might otherwise be present.
Examples (English)
  • A zero morph (Ø) proposed for the plural of sheep.
  • A zero conjunction proposed for he said Ø he was coming, in contrast with he said that he was coming.
  • A zero realization of a semantic argument proposed for the second clause in I eat breakfast before 7 A.M.; John eats Ø about 8 A. M.

Crystal 1980 388

Fleming 1988 41

A zero is a kind of

Crystal 1980 388

Robins 1971 note, 212

Fleming 1988 41

What is a zero affix?


A zero affix is the member of a set of inflectional affixes which is represented by the absence of an expected morpheme .

Example: Mangga Buang (Papua New Guinea)

Here is a set of affixes in which one member of the set is a zero affix:



Personal pronoun prefixes

  • aa-lipis
  • ga-lipis
  • a-lipis
  • lipis
  • la-lipis
  • ‘I/we washed’
  • ‘you (sing.) washed’
  • ‘you (plural) washed’
  • ‘he/she/it washed’
  • ‘they washed’
  • aa- ‘I/we'
  • ga- ‘you (sing.)’
  • a- ‘you (plural)’
  • Ø ‘he/she/it’
  • la- ‘they’
  • What is zero anaphora?


    Zero anaphora is the use of a gap, in a phrase or clause, that has an anaphoric function similar to a pro-form .

    It is often described as “referring back” to an expression that supplies the information necessary for interpreting the gap.

    Examples (English)
  • There are two roads to eternity , a straight and narrow, and a broad and crooked.
  • In this sentence, the gaps in a straight and narrow [gap], and a broad and crooked [gap] have a zero anaphoric relationship to two roads to eternity.

    Zero anaphora is a kind of

    Hartmann and Stork 1972 258–259

    Crystal 1985 339

    What is a zero morph?


    A zero morph is a morph, consisting of no phonetic form, that is proposed in some analyses as an allomorph of a morpheme that is ordinarily realized by a morph having some phonetic form.

    Example (English)
  • The plural form that is realized in two sheep is Ø, in contrast with the plural -s in two goats.
  • Generic
    A zero morph is a kind of

    Crystal 1985 199

    Hartmann and Stork 1972 258

    Mish 1991 1371

    Matthews 1991 123–124