[Lingtyp] query: verbal diminutives

Geoffrey Khan gk101 at cam.ac.uk
Sat Dec 15 09:56:31 UTC 2018

Dear Eva,

In some Neo-Aramaic dialects (Semitic) diminutives of verbs can be 
expressed through a type of sound symbolism by raising the pitch, e.g. 
ˁzaqzəq ‘to shiver (whole body)’ [flat, pharyngealized, low F2) vs. 
zaqzəq ‘to throb (e.g. finger)’ [plain, higher F2]. See:

  Khan, Geoffrey. 2016. /The Neo-Aramaic Dialect of the Assyrian 
Christians of Urmi/. 4 vols. Studies in Semitic Languages and 
Linguistics 86. Leiden-Boston: Brill, vol. 1, p.180.

  Best wishes,

Geoffrey Khan

On 14/12/2018 12:34, Lier, Eva van wrote:
> 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 /tr//̌epotat /(‘to flutter’),// Slovene 
> /igri//čkati/ (‘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 
> /ə̆p//ə-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
> www.uva.nl/profiel/e.h.vanlier <http://www.uva.nl/profiel/e.h.vanlier>
> P.C.Hoofthuis, kamer 6.45
> Spuistraat 134, 1012 VB Amsterdam
> _______________________________________________
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Geoffrey Khan
Regius Professor of Hebrew
University of Cambridge

Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies
Sidgwick Avenue
Cambridge CB3 9DA

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