Morphological richness and priority of pragmatics over semantics in Italian, Arabic, German and English diminutives

Wolfgang Dressler, Elisa Mattiello, Veronika Ritt-Benmimoun

This paper examines the impact of the typological property of morphological richness on diminutive formation in Italian, Austrian German, English, and Tunisian Arabic. It investigates the priority of the pragmatics over the semantics of diminutives in these languages, i.e., of pragmatic meanings such as mitigation, endearment, sympathy, empathy, and irony over smallness and youth. Hypocoristics and quasi-hypocoristics are also dealt with. Diminutive formation in Arabic is root-based, in English word-based, in German and Italian it is both. Morphological richness has an impact on high type/token frequencies (Italian > Arabic > or ≈ German > English), number of productive diminutive patterns, number of different patterns applying to the same base (if pragmatic, no pattern or lexical blocking, e.g., Italian vipp-ino/-etto/-uccio/-ar-ello), combinations of diminutive suffixes. Italian is the freest language in attributing to diminutives both the head and the non-head property of changing (or not) the gender, and of transforming (or not) adjectives into nouns. English and German turn adjectives into nouns, German also changes gender into neuter, with the exception of (quasi-)hypocoristics and of child-/pet-centered speech. The data analyzed are from Viennese German, Tunisian Arabic, Tuscan Italian, and British English. Our focus is on diminutives in asymmetric communication with pet animals.

Institut für Orientalistik, Institut für Sprachwissenschaft
Externe Organisation(en)
Università degli Studi di Pisa
Anzahl der Seiten
ÖFOS 2012
602009 Arabistik, 602008 Anglistik, 602042 Romanistik, 602014 Germanistik
ASJC Scopus Sachgebiete
Arts and Humanities(all), Social Sciences(all)
Link zum Portal