Diminutive affixes in the Number domain: A syntactic variation

Olga Steriopolo 1
  • 1 Zentrum für Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft (ZAS) Berlin, Germany


This article investigates diminutive affixes in four unrelated languages: Maale, Walman, Kolyma Yukaghir, and Itelmen, with additional discussion of German, Breton, and Yiddish. The data show variation in the syntax of diminutives. Diminutives differ cross-linguistically in the manner and place of attachment in a syntactic tree. In terms of the manner of attachment, some diminutive affixes are shown to behave as syntactic heads, while others show a behaviour characteristic of syntactic modifiers. In terms of the place of attachment, some affixes attach in the number position, while others attach above it. This article contributes to a discussion of form-function correspondence between syntactic categories (Wiltschko, in press). It shows that although diminutives across languages have the same meaning (or function), they significantly differ in their syntactic structures (or form). Thus, there is no 1:1 correspondence between form and function of diminutives in terms of the attachment and ordering of morphemes.

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