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.

Nearby words

  1. complementary angles,
  2. complementary base,
  3. complementary cells,
  4. complementary color,
  5. complementary colour,
  6. complementary dna,
  7. complementary gene,
  8. complementary hypertrophy,
  9. complementary medicine,
  10. complementary strand

Origin of complementary distribution

First recorded in 1930–35

Also called complementation. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019