A cognitive-pragmatic description of evaluative suffixes in non-literary Latin texts: the case of -llus.



Year of publication 2022
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description Although Latin evaluative suffixes have received considerable attention (e.g. Petersen 1916-17; Strodach 1933; Hakamies 1951; Hanssen 1952; Fruyt 1989; Haverling 2011), a morphological-pragmatic diachronic analysis of their uses is still peripheral. Based on this observation, we aim at analyzing the behavior of the Latin suffix –llus, as it occurs at different stages of the history of the Latin language, within a theoretical framework that combines Dressler/Merlini Barbaresi’s (1994) morpho-pragmatic model and the cognitive perspective on the pragmatic polyfunctionality of diminutive suffixes (Jurafsky 1996; Prieto 2005). The suffix -llus forms nouns (asellus vs. asinus) and adjectives (misellus vs. miser), never modifying the lexical category of the base and, therefore, never acting as a morphological head. This confirms what Scalise’s (1984) observed on the specificity of evaluative morphology compared to the general behavior of suffixes. As they do not convey any morphosyntactic information, evaluative suffixes are considered peripheral with respect to the core of both derivation and inflection (Grandi 2002). At the semantic level, consistent with its etymology (Magni 1999, Haverling 2011 inter al.), -llus has a non-evaluative use expressing a relationship of similarity (anguilla vs. anguis) or belonging/contiguity (armilla vs. armus) between the derivative and the base. As an evaluative suffix, it is used with a proper diminutive function adding to the base the semantic component [small] (or [young] and [unimportant], see Merlini Barbaresi 2015). In many cases, however, -llus (as the etymologically related -(c)ulus) refers to the complex system of relations between the speaker, the listener and the communicative situation, has scope on the entire speech-act and is used to express an articulated range of meanings related to the speech act and, hence, to the pragmatic modulation of the speaker/listener’s interaction (see Hofmann 1951; Szymanek 1988). This is consistent with Dressler/Merlini Barbaresi (1994), according to whom evaluative morphology is primarily located in pragmatics and evaluative markers are typical instances of morpho-pragmatics, an area in which morphological rules interact directly with pragmatic conditions (cf. Grandi/Körtvélyessy 2015). A preliminary survey carried out by Brucale and Mocciaro (2019) has highlighted the relevance of such an approach for the suffix -llus in Plautus’ corpus. In this contribution, the phenomenon will be investigated throughout the history of Latin, through surveys in different chronological phases (classical and postclassical Latin). The attention will be focused on non-literary texts (or, at least, with less prominent literary characteristics, such as letters, that is, texts not produced with explicit artistic aims), where we can more easily expect to find examples of “domestic language” and “language of emotions” (Ronconi 1940) and where, therefore, interactional meanings (attenuative, affective, illocutive) are often more salient than literal ones. The polysemic and pragmatically polyfunctional network of the evaluative suffix will be described as a radial structure, whose semantic core is the notion of 'related to', while other functions derive from metaphorical mapping and metonymical shifts. A semantic map will be proposed to represent the relationships among the various functions of the suffix -llus
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