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complementary distribution

noun, Linguistics.
a relation such that the members of a pair or set of phones, morphs, or other linguistic units have no environment in common, as aspirated “p” and unaspirated “p” in English, the first occurring only in positions where the second does not.
Also called complementation.
Compare free variation.
Origin of complementary distribution
1930-35 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2016.
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