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Diminutives and augmentatives in Beja (North-Cushitic)

Abstract : The evaluative morphology of Beja consists in four devices. Gender shift to feminine on nouns, and sound change (r>l) on nouns, verbs and adjectives form the diminutives. A suffix-loːj on adjectives, and-l on Manner converbs, form the augmentatives. The analysis focuses on the evaluative, emotional and other pragmatic values associated with these morphemes, size, endearment, praise, romantic love, contempt, politeness, eloquence. When relevant, the links to the general mechanism of semantic change, LAMBDA-ABSTRACTION-SPECIFICATION proposed by Jurafsky (1996) is discussed. This paper also discusses productivity, cases where the evaluative device has scope on an adjacent noun instead of its host, the distribution of values across semantic domains and genres, and cases of lexicalization. The corpus analysis shows that the proportional frequency of pragmatic expressive connotations compared to the denotational meaning is higher for diminutives than for augmentatives. Besides, with diminutives, positive emotional values are more frequent than negative ones, while with augmentatives attested pejorative values are very rare. The analysis is set within a typological framework.
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Contributor : Martine Vanhove <>
Submitted on : Thursday, March 9, 2017 - 3:29:22 PM
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Martine Vanhove, Mohamed-Tahir Hamid Ahmed. Diminutives and augmentatives in Beja (North-Cushitic). Studies in Language, John Benjamins Publishing, 2018, Special issue Morphology and emotions across the world's languages. Maïa Ponsonnet & Marine Vuillermet, 42 (1), pp.51-80. ⟨halshs-01485949⟩



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