AskDefine | Define marked

Dictionary Definition

marked adj
1 strongly marked; easily noticeable; "walked with a marked limp"; "a pronounced flavor of cinnamon" [syn: pronounced]
2 singled out for notice or especially for a dire fate; "a marked man"
3 having or as if having an identifying mark or a mark as specified; often used in combination; "played with marked cards"; "a scar-marked face"; "well-marked roads" [ant: unmarked]

User Contributed Dictionary



  • or like the verb.

Alternative spellings


  1. past of mark


  1. Significant; notable.
    The 8th century BC saw a marked increase of wealth in Cyprus.


Extensive Definition

Markedness is a linguistic concept that developed out of the Prague School (also known as the Prague linguistic circle).
A marked form is a non-basic or less natural form. An unmarked form is a basic, default form. For example, lion is the unmarked choice in English — it could refer to a male or female lion. But lioness is marked because it can only refer to females. The unmarked forms serve as general terms: e.g. brotherhood of man includes all people, both men and women, while sisterhood refers only to women. The form of a word that is conventionally chosen to be the lemma form is typically the form that is the least marked.
Markedness originally developed from phonology — where phonetic symbols were literally marked to indicate additional features, such as voicing, nasalization or roundedness. Markedness is still an influential concept in current phonological theory. In Optimality Theory many of the central arguments concerning constraints and ordering have to do with the markedness of a form.
The concept of markedness has been extended to other areas of grammar as well, such as morphology, syntax and semantics. Markedness is a very fuzzy notion, especially if it is not made clear whether something is marked phonetically, phonologically, morphologically, syntacticly, or semantically. There are many sets of varied criteria to determine which forms are considered more marked and which are not: Some quantify markedness in terms of statistical frequency of use, others define it in psycholinguistic terms, yet others use merely their own intuitions on the subject. When correctly and stringently used the term is very effective at describing the relations of forms in a paradigm. An important fact is that what is more highly marked on one linguistic level may be less highly marked on another. For example: "ant" is less marked than "ants" on the morphological level, but on the semantic and frequency levels it may be more marked since ants are more often encountered many at once than one at a time. The latter fact is reflected in certain Frisian words' plural and singular forms: In Frisian, nouns with irregular singular-plural stem variations are undergoing regularization. Usually this means that the plural is reformed to be a regular form of the singular:
  • OLD PARADIGM: "koal"(coal), "kwallen"(coals) > REGULARIZED FORMS: "Koal"(coal), "Koalen"(coals).
However, a number of words instead reform the singular to be a regular form of the plural:
  • OLD PARADIGM: "earm"(arm), "jermen"(arms) > REGULARIZED FORMS: "jerm"(arm), "jermen"(arms)
The common demoninator of the nouns that regularize the singular to match the plural is that they are terms that more often occur in pairs or in groups; they are said to be (semantically, not morphologically) locally unmarked in the plural.


  • Trask, R.L. (1999). Key Concepts in Language and Linguistics. London and New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-15742-0.
marked in Breton: Stumm merket (yezhoniezh)
marked in German: Markiertheit
marked in Hebrew: מסומננות
marked in Italian: Marcazione (linguistica)

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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