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  • Date Submitted: 11/26/2011 04:57 AM
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Spanish diminutive formation without rules or constraints1

David Eddington

Version: 11-28-2000

Abstract Spanish diminutive formation is analyzed in terms of analogy, more precisely within the computationally explicit framework of Analogical Modeling of Language (AML; Skousen, 1989, 1992). Accordingly, all known diminutives are presumed to be stored in the mental lexicon as completely formed units with associative links to their base forms. 2460 diminutive types were identified in various corpora and served as both the analogical database and the test items. When memory is unhampered by noise in the system, the probability that a previously known form will be chosen as the diminutive of its base is 100%. However, a simulation was performed in which all of the 2460 diminutives were treated as if they were previously unknown. The analogical influence of other forms allowed the correct diminutive form to be chosen in 92% of the cases. What is more, roughly half of the errors were found to be actually attested forms, which raises the success rate to 96%. Another simulation was performed which demonstrates that individual and dialectal differences in diminutive formation arise due to differing contents of the mental lexicon across speakers, as well as to the influence of competing gangs of phonologically similar base forms.

1 1. Introduction. The formation of diminutive variants of nouns, adjectives and certain adverbs is a highly productive process in Spanish. Diminutives express concepts such as familiarity, small size, and disdain (see Zuluaga 1993 for a discussion of the semantics of diminutives). However, the purpose of present study is not to investigate their semantic traits, but rather, to account for the allomorphy of the diminutive suffix. Several suffixes exist, (-ito, -illo, -zuelo, -ico, -uco), but -ito is the most commonly occurring, and the one which most discussion of the subject has focused on. For this reason, only the allomorphy of -ito...


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