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In its broadest sense, complementarity is a relationship between two sets (or categories, classes) that do not overlap, i.e. they have no element in common. In linguistics, it is used with a variety of more specific meanings:

  • Two linguistic elements are said to be in complementary distribution if they cannot occur in the same type of context.
  • In lexical semantics, complementarity is a sense relation that holds between predicates whose denotations do not overlap, i.e. there is no object to which both predicates can apply.
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