Markedness is a typological linguistic notion roughly equivalent to the "typicality" of a single feature. A language feature that is highly marked is atypical; one that is less marked is common (but, depending on the amount of possibilities, not necessarily overwhelmingly so). When the least marked choice in a set involves the absense of a feature, it is called unmarked.
Markedness can only be compared to other similar features; it does not make sense to ask, for example, which of contour tone and comitative case is the more marked, as one is a pattern of prosody (within the domain of phonology) and the other is a case (within the domain of morphology).
Markedness is also qualitative: it can not be quantified, outside of the percentage of occurrence in a given sample of languages.
Examples of markedness
"A > B" is used here to signify that A is more marked than B, while ">>" signifies "very much more marked".
- Grammatical alignment
- Transitive >> tripartite >> ergative > accusative
- Place of articulation:
- Word order
- OS > SO