[Lingtyp] query: verbal diminutives

Lier, Eva van E.H.vanLier at uva.nl
Fri Dec 14 12:34:18 UTC 2018

Dear colleagues,

We are looking for examples and literature on verbal diminutives in and across languages.

Currently, we have some information on verbal diminutives in various languages. Some examples include: German hüsteln (‘to cough lightly’), Italian dormicchiare (‘to doze’), Croatian grickati (‘to nibble’), Czech třepotat (‘to flutter’), Slovene igričkati (‘to play around’), Russian xaxan’kat (‘to giggle’), Finnish luk-ais-e (‘skim through (a text)’ < luk- ‘read’), San’ani Arabic tSaynai (‘to pretend not to hear’ < Saanaj ‘to not hear’), Hebrew kifcec (‘to jump around < kafac ‘to jump’), Passamaquoddy ə̆pə-ss-ìn (sit-dim-animate.intransitive.2 < ‘sit down, little one!’), Huave jujyuij (‘to shake gently’), and Lardil laala (‘to jab lightly’ < latha ‘to spear’).

These examples show that the morphological patterns that we subsume under “verbal diminutives” fulfill a number of semantic functions, such as iterative/frequentative/durative, low intensity, distributivity, and attenuation. These functions may extend (pragmatically) to playfulness, tentativeness, pretense/irrealis/fictiveness, trivialization, aimlessness, affection/intimacy, and contempt/pejorativeness. In some cases (see Passamaquoddy above), verbal diminutive marking implies that an event participant is a child or an otherwise small entity.

Also, verbal diminutives can be expressed by various morphological means, including affixation, reduplication, and non-concatenative morphology. In some cases, the verbal diminutive markers are related to nominal diminutives; in other cases, they seem to have different origins, such as spatial markers. The productivity of verbal diminutive formation apparently differs between languages.

We would be grateful for any references and/or examples of verbal diminutives in the language(s) of your expertise, including their semantics/pragmatics, formation, (diachronic) origin, productivity and usage frequency.

We will post a summary.

Many thanks in advance!

Eva van Lier, Jenny Audring, Sterre Leufkens

Eva van Lier, PhD
Department of Linguistics
University of Amsterdam


P.C.Hoofthuis, kamer 6.45
Spuistraat 134, 1012 VB Amsterdam

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://listserv.linguistlist.org/pipermail/lingtyp/attachments/20181214/63259102/attachment.htm>

More information about the Lingtyp mailing list