Blocking (linguistics)

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Blocking in linguistics, or more specifically in morphology, refers to the unacceptability of applying a morphological process on a certain word due to the presence of a competing form.[1]

Word formation employs processes such as the plural marker in English s or es (e.g. dog and dogs or wish and wishes). This plural marker is not, however, acceptable on the word child (as in childs), because it is "blocked" by the presence of a competing form children, which in this case is a retention of an older morphological process.

One promising approach to blocking effects asserts that semantic and syntactic features create slots or cells in which items can appear. Blocking happens when one cell is engaged by one form as opposed to another. Blocking has been explained along two primary dimensions, the size of the blocking object, and the existence of ungrammatical forms.[2]


  1. ^ Jack C. Richards et. al, ed. (2005). Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics. Beijing: Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press. p. 71. ISBN 978-7-5600-4882-6. 
  2. ^ Embick, David; Marantz, Alec (Winter 2008). "Architecture and Blocking". Linguistic Inquiry (The MIT Press) 39 (1): 1–53. doi:10.1162/ling.2008.39.1.1. ISSN 1530-9150. Retrieved September 18, 2011.