Overlapping morphologies in Arabic hypocoristics

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We show that Arabic uses some regular suffixes to build hypocoristics, i.e., nicknames derived from proper names, after emptying these suffixes of (most of) their semantic and morphological content. This gives rise to overlapping morphologies in which a suffix has one function in the usual paradigms of the language and, in a semantically and morphologically degenerate form, another function in hypocoristics. We discuss six such suffixal clones in Kuwaiti, Levantine, and Moroccan Arabic. These suffixation rules decompose Arabic proper names morphologically (i.e., they strip away affixal material). We also document idiosyncratic hypocoristics which, instead of using suffixes polysemically, make pun-like use of similar-sounding words of the language.


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