Diachrony and the polysemy of derivational affixes
In this paper we discuss two cases of seemingly polysemous derivational affixes: the Ewe suffix -<i>ví</i>, originally a noun meaning “child”, which has acquired a number of different semantic values in word formation, as e.g. “inexperienced” (<i>núfíáláví</i> “inexperienced teacher”) or “person who adheres to the typical behaviour of a group” (<i>amredzóví</i> “someone who behaves like a foreigner”, and the Mandarin Chinese suffix -<i>bā</i>, originally a lexical morph meaning “bar”, which also helps to form locative nouns conveying a broad range of meanings, as e.g. in <i>yóuxìbā</i> (game-<i>bā</i>) “amusement arcade” or in <i>yǎnbā</i> (eye-<i>bā</i>), a kind of optometry clinic. We shall show that apparent polysemy may be a consequence of generalization, rather than of specialization in meaning, and that the mechanisms involved in the evolution of derivational affixes are mostly analogous to those of grammaticalisation.