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Diachrony and the polysemy of derivational affixes

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Abstract

In this paper we discuss two cases of seemingly polysemous derivational affixes: the Ewe suffix -<i>v&#237;</i>, originally a noun meaning &#8220;child&#8221;, which has acquired a number of different semantic values in word formation, as e.g. &#8220;inexperienced&#8221; (<i>n&#250;f&#237;&#225;l&#225;v&#237;</i> &#8220;inexperienced teacher&#8221;) or &#8220;person who adheres to the typical behaviour of a group&#8221; (<i>amredz&#243;v&#237;</i> &#8220;someone who behaves like a foreigner&#8221;, and the Mandarin Chinese suffix -<i>b&#257;</i>, originally a lexical morph meaning &#8220;bar&#8221;, which also helps to form locative nouns conveying a broad range of meanings, as e.g. in <i>y&#243;ux&#236;b&#257;</i> (game-<i>b&#257;</i>) &#8220;amusement arcade&#8221; or in <i>y&#462;nb&#257;</i> (eye-<i>b&#257;</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.

References

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