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Diminutives and augmentatives in Beja (North-Cushitic)

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Abstract

The evaluative morphology of Beja consists of four devices: gender shift to feminine on nouns, and sound change (r>l) on nouns, verbs and adjectives form the diminutives. A suffix -loj 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 and 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 over 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. Further, 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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Keywords: Beja; augmentative; diminutive; emotion; evaluative morphology; gender

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 19, 2018

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