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How do evaluative derivational meanings arise? A bit of Geforsche and Forscherei

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Abstract

We investigate the rise of pejorative functions in word formation in a diachronic corpus-based case study on the German derivation patterns <i>Ge-e</i> and -(<i>er</i>)<i>ei</i>. Both patterns derive action nouns, adding the feature &#8216;frequentative&#8217; and implying a dismissive/ironic attitude towards the action referred to. Our corpus data from 1350&#8211;1850 suggest that incipient pejorative derivational meanings are heavily based on utterance contexts and base types with derogative connotation. Diachronically, they conventionalize to a certain degree. However, &#8211; as implicature tests (especially calculability) show for <i>-(er)ei</i> and <i>Ge-e</i> &#8211;, they need not become a part of affix semantics. This lack of emancipation may be due to the high pragmatic productivity of pejorative contexts in reference to frequentative actions, leading to &#43;&#62; &#8216;annoyance&#8217; in the first place, but also precluding the critical mass of neutral contexts/bases needed to prove emancipation.

References

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