Zero (linguistics)

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A zero, in linguistics, is a constituent needed in analysis but not realized in speech. Specifically in phonology, it refers to an element that is phonologically null. This implies that there is a lack of an element where a theory would expect one. It is usually written with the symbol "", in Unicode U+2205 EMPTY SET (HTML &#8709;<dot-separator> &empty;). A common ad hoc solution is to use the Scandinavian capital letter Ø instead.

There are several kind of zeros.

  • A zero morph,[1] consisting of no phonetic form, is an allomorph of a morpheme that is otherwise realized in speech. In the phrase two sheep-, the plural marker is a zero morph, which is an allomorph of -s as in two cows. In the phrase I like- it, the verb conjugation has a zero affix, as opposed to the third-person singular present -s in he likes it.
  • A zero pronoun occurs in some languages.[2] In the English sentence nobody knows the zero pronoun plays the role of the object of the verb, and in makes no difference it plays the role of the subject. Likewise, the zero pronoun in the book I am reading plays the role of the relative pronoun that in the book that I am reading. This is also referred to as PRO. In pronoun-dropping languages, including null subject languages such as most Romance languages, the zero pronoun is a prominent feature.
  • A zero subordinate conjunction occurs in English in sentences like I know he likes me, in which the zero conjunction plays the role of the subordinate conjunction that in I know that he likes me.
  • A zero article is an unrealized indefinite or definite article in some languages.
  • A zero copula,[3] in which a copula such as the verb to be is implied but absent. For example, in Russian the copula is usually omitted in the present tense, as in "Она красивая" (literally: She beautiful), the same happening with colloquial Brazilian Portuguese, as in "irônicos, aqueles" (literally: ironic, those [guys]), though never with the adjective coming after the subject as usual in Romance languages. In English the copula is sometimes omitted in some nonstandard dialects.

See also

External links


  1. What is a zero morph? @ SIL International
  2. Discourse-Cohesive Devices in Language Acquisition: Intersentential Anaphorical Relations, Zentrum für Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft (ZAS)
  3. A phonologically null copula functioning as a light verb in Japanese by Yutaka Sato, p. 2