THE SEMANTICS OF DIMINUTIVES IN THE KAJKAVIAN CROATIAN

Author:
Kristian Novak, Barbara Štebih Golub
Email:
knovak2@ffri.hr; bstebih@ihjj.hr
Summary
The paper discusses the semantics of diminutives in the Kajkavian Croatian literary language, a polyfunctional standardized idiom used in the north-western part of Croatia from the 16th century until the 1830s. By investigating a corpus of 1103 nominal diminutives, the relationships between the base and the derived word are analyzed, as well as the meanings of the diminutives themselves. The analysis has confirmed that the category of diminutives, while primarily used to convey smallness, includes a very wide semantic spectrum. The findings are in line with previous investigations on diminutives by Jurafski (1996), who, on the basis of a corpus containing diminutives from 6o languages, stated that the semantics of diminutives are indeed focused around the prototypical meaning “little”, but that diminutives themselves, motivated by several possible cognitive mechanisms, form a radial category of a highly complex polysemantic structure. The analysis shows that there are several possible relationships between the semantics of the derived diminutives and the semantics of the bases. The meaning of a diminutive can be motivated by all the possible meanings of the base word, but far more often by only one of the lexical meanings, mostly by the primary lexicographic meaning. Furthermore, there are numerous cases in the Kajkavian Croatian literary language in which diminutives have developed meanings that are in no way related to the semantics of the base word, as well as diminutives that – mostly through the process of metaphorization – have developed terminological meanings. A semantic classification of diminutives is suggested, with three basic categories: objective diminutives, expressive diminutives, and terminological diminutives. Objective diminutives have the primary meaning of “small”, be it in a spatial or a temporal sense. Expressive diminutives have the meaning of “small”, but can convey further meanings as well, for example, affection or scorn. The meaning of such diminutives is often only comprehensible through context. Several terminological diminutives, which have developed non-diminutive semantics, are also presented.
Key words
Kajkavian Croatian literary language; diminutives; meaning
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