Blocking effects
David Embick, Johanna Benz, Lefteris Paparounas
September 2021

We provide an overview and synthesis of grammatical approaches to blocking effects: informally, cases in which the ungrammaticality of one word (or phrase) is attributed to the existence of another. Our primary focus concerns the scope of competition for grammaticality. While discussions of blocking are often directed at particular parts of the grammar-- e.g. derivational morphology-- the larger set of questions raised by (putative) blocking effects has the potential to distinguish predictions made by major theoretical movements like the Minimalist Program and Optimality Theory, precisely because of the different roles they attribute to competition. Our review of theories of blocking is oriented towards larger questions of this type. As part of our review, we also examine the apparent absence of blocking; cases in which it looks as if one form should (all else equal) block another, yet both exist. Observations to this effect appear in early and influential accounts of blocking, where they have underappreciated theoretical consequences concerning how the `paradigm space' associated with words and phrases is structured. A key theme throughout the paper is whether the phenomena that have been described as blocking effects are derivative of one grammatical (or extra-grammatical) mechanism, or several. While our review concludes that the latter view is correct, part of our argument is that the focus on unity is less important than the question of what evidence for (or against) competition in a given domain would look like in the first place.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/006216
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Morphology
keywords: blocking effects; competition; models of grammar; paradigmaticity; rule interaction, morphology
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