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Lamunkhin Even evaluative morphology in cross-linguistic comparison

Abstract

Cross-linguistic research has shown diminutives to be more widespread than augmentatives: they are found in more languages, attach to a wider variety of bases, and occur more frequently in discourse. Common features of such affixes are their categorial neutrality and the changes they bring about in the semantics of the base. The evaluative morphology of Lamunkhin Even, the westernmost still viable dialect of this Northern Tungusic language, differs strikingly from this cross-linguistic pattern. The evaluative suffixes form a structured set of diminutives and augmentatives with a primary function of size denotation. Typologically rare features of these morphemes are the transference of evaluative meaning from adjectives to their head noun and from verbs to their subject as well as their use to derive adjectives and adverbs from descriptive verbs. These suffixes show different base specifications: some are restricted to nominals, others to verbs, and only one diminutive-augmentative pair occurs with a wide variety of bases; this has also developed disparate semantics.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The genealogical affiliation and geographical location of languages spoken outside of Europe was added by me based on the information in WALS (Haspelmath et al. 2005) or in the primary sources.

  2. 2.

    This corpus comprises ∼52,000 words and was compiled in four field trips which were undertaken with the generous assistance of the Max Planck Society (via the MPRG on Comparative Population Linguistics) and the Volkswagen Foundation (via a DoBeS grant on “Documentation of the dialectal and cultural diversity among Ėvens in Siberia”). I thank all the speakers who contributed to the corpus for their time and Ekaterina Shadrina and Ija Krivoshapkina for transcriptions. Russian translations were provided by Ija Krivoshapkina, who is also gratefully acknowledged for the time spent discussing the data. Some of the materials were glossed by Natalia Aralova; I thank her for access to these.

  3. 3.

    These elicitation sessions were undertaken at the very beginning of my first field trip, when I was still a complete stranger (who was introduced as a foreigner and a scientist), and they were marked as “work” by taking place in the school (all consultants were teachers) and by my having specified from the outset that the speakers would be remunerated for their efforts.

  4. 4.

    However, as will be seen in the following discussion, while the denotative function of the evaluative suffixes is the basic one, these do have various connotative functions as well.

  5. 5.

    Since there is no difference in the function of the nominal evaluatives whether they attach to common nouns or names, I here treat names together with the other nominals.

  6. 6.

    No augmentatives with a meaning of ‘a big amount’ occur in the corpus.

  7. 7.

    Of course, the intensifying adverb nahaː in (13b) similarly shows that the kiwi is very tasty, not just a little bit, so that the diminutive on dahli clearly refers to the head noun.

  8. 8.

    As pointed out by a reviewer, one could call this “evaluative agreement”.

  9. 9.

    These mark an instrument whose possessor is coreferential with the subject of the verb, e.g.

    figures
  10. 10.

    Non-finite verb forms that mark an action that takes place prior to the action expressed by the main verb, see ex. (10) or (43b).

  11. 11.

    Compton (2015) does not specify which of the arguments is referenced by the affective suffix.

  12. 12.

    This is the only example given. The accompanying description of this ‘aspect’ is “…the action is continuously renewed repeated” (…действие непрерывно возобновляется повторяется).

  13. 13.

    It is of course also possible that the combination of the affective suffix -Aːn and progressive -ʤ was reanalyzed as a durative aspect suffix -ʤAːn in the other dialects, and that only the Lamunkhin dialect maintained the bare affective suffix. Fusion of suffixes during grammaticalization occurs more frequently than splitting, so that one might favor this explanation. However, in agglutinative languages it is not unlikely that speakers are able to identify individual segments with morphemes occurring elsewhere (i.e. identifying the initial segment -ʤ with the progressive suffix) and thus are able to reanalyze one morpheme as consisting of two. At the moment, -Aːn is only attested in Lamunkhin Even, so that the fusion would have occurred in several dialects, while the hypothesized split would have occurred only in Lamunkhin Even. To be able to elucidate the actual diachronic process, more data on the presence or absence of the affective suffix -Aːn vs. the “durative” suffix -ʤAːn in different dialects is needed to verify whether such a hypothetical merger would have taken place once in a recent common ancestor of the eastern dialects (a plausible scenario) or several times (which would make this scenario rather less plausible).

  14. 14.

    Since I am basing my analysis on a relatively small narrative corpus, I can of course not exclude the existence of more such suffixes that have simply not been used by the speakers contributing to the corpus.

  15. 15.

    Further probable lexicalizations including -kAn are kačikan ‘puppy’, eːŋken ‘reindeer fawn’, munrukan ‘hare’, ujamkan ‘mountain sheep’, atikan ‘old woman’, etiken ‘old man’, and aŋatkan ‘orphan’ (cf. Bulatova 2015:61 for similar fossilized diminutives in Evenki). However, the base in these items is already opaque.

  16. 16.

    I had offered the forms with repeated evaluatives (40a, c) for judgment, and the speaker had corrected them to the adjective-noun constructions (40b, d).

  17. 17.

    The dog in (41c) is Bahargas with the deep voice from (28d).

  18. 18.

    Counting only the tokens of suffixes with descriptive uses, i.e. excluding the purely affective suffixes -Aːn, -jAːt, and -ʤAːgAgAj.

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Acknowledgements

The fieldwork during which the corpora analysed here were collected was undertaken with the assistance of the Volkswagen Foundation (DoBeS programme) and the Max Planck Society. Furthermore, I would like to express my gratitude to the LABEX ASLAN (ANR-10-LABX-0081) of Université de Lyon for its financial support within the program “Investissements d’Avenir” (ANR-11-IDEX-0007) of the French government operated by the National Research Agency (ANR).

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Correspondence to Brigitte Pakendorf.

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The data discussed here were presented during an informal seminar at DDL in January 2014, and I would like to thank my colleagues for their pertinent questions and comments. My sincere thanks go to Maïa Ponsonnet, whose comments on a draft of the paper led to significant improvements, as well as to two anonymous reviewers and Ingo Plag for comments on an earlier version of the manuscript. Furthermore, I would like to express my gratitude to the LABEX ASLAN (ANR-10-LABX-0081) of Université de Lyon for its financial support within the program “Investissements d’Avenir” (ANR-11-IDEX-0007) of the French government operated by the National Research Agency (ANR).

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Pakendorf, B. Lamunkhin Even evaluative morphology in cross-linguistic comparison. Morphology 27, 123–158 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11525-016-9296-1

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Keywords

  • Diminutive
  • Augmentative
  • Affective
  • Compassion
  • Tungusic