Edited by Franz Rainer, Francesco Gardani, Hans Christian Luschützky and Wolfgang U. Dressler
[Current Issues in Linguistic Theory 327] 2014
► pp. 127–140
Diachrony and the polysemy of derivational affixes
In this paper we discuss two cases of seemingly polysemous derivational affixes: the Ewe suffix -ví, originally a noun meaning “child”, which has acquired a number of different semantic values in word formation, as e.g. “inexperienced” (núfíáláví “inexperienced teacher”) or “person who adheres to the typical behaviour of a group” (amredzóví “someone who behaves like a foreigner”, and the Mandarin Chinese suffix -bā, originally a lexical morph meaning “bar”, which also helps to form locative nouns conveying a broad range of meanings, as e.g. in yóuxìbā (game-bā) “amusement arcade” or in yǎnbā (eye-bā), 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.