cSCAN Rounds

Measuring markedness: An empirical study

Antonym pairs can be differentiated by each word’s markedness – that distinction attributable to the presence or absence of certain features at a morphological or semantic level. Despite extensive theoretical scrutiny, the lexical properties of markedness have received little empirical study. The current paper proposes a novel approach to measuring markedness: establishing markedness probabilities for individual words. Furthermore, the markedness probabilities of target words were evaluated in conjunction with additional lexical properties (e.g., length, frequency, valence) to delineate the independent and combinatory effects of markedness on lexical decision times. Regression analyses revealed that a word’s markedness probability may be strongly related to its valence. Analysis suggested that markedness probability and valence interact on lexical decision times. Future research must consider the influence of contextual information in determining which member of an antonym pair is marked or unmarked, based on the developing discourse.