09 March, 2012

Noun Diminutive Forms

J.      Noun Diminutive Forms
      In English six diminutive suffixes can be found.
      They are morphemes that convey a meaning of smallness or endearment or both.
      They are:
1.                  -ie, -i, -y
2.                  -ette
3.                  -kin, -ikini, -kins
4.                  -ling
5.                  -et
6.                  -let
  • The vowels of these diminutive suffixes are three front vowels /i/, /Ι/, and /ε/.
         i. The first suffix /i/ is highly productive. It is frequently attached to one syllable first names to suggest endearment and intimacy or smallness as in Johnny, Jamey, Jackie.
Similarly, it is attached to common nouns, sometimes indicating a diminutive notion about a participant in a discourse more than about one person or thing being referred to, as in doggie, sweetie, birdie, or mommy.
a.      SUFFIX  -ie
Ø  Auntie
Ø  Sweetie
Ø  Jackie
b.      SUFFIX  -y
Ø  Janey
Ø  Mickey
Ø  Mikey
Ø  Johnny
Ø  Betty
          ii. The second suffix is also in active use, generally to indicate smallness. Thus, a dinette/daɪnεt/ is a small dining area.
          iii. The other four diminutive suffixes exist in the language as diminutive but are rarely if ever added to new nouns.
          iv. In short, they are unproductive and inactive.
           v. Furthermore, in some words, such as cabinet /kæbənɪt/and toilet /tɔɪlɪt/, the meaning of the diminutive suffix has faded away to little or no significance.
          -ette              roomette              
           -kin               lambkin
           -kins             babykins
           -ling             duckling
           -et           circlet
           -let               starlet

  •  In addition to these six diminutives, many others have come into English as a part of borrowed words.
  • These are diminutives in their own or parent language but are nonmorphemic in English
  • Most of these borrowed diminutive endings contain the vowels /i/, /Ι/, and /ɛ/, though these vowels have often reduced to /ǝ/ in English because of lack of stress.
  • Nearly, all these suffixes have lost the diminutive sense that was once alive in them.
Ø  Mosquito
Ø  puppet
Ø  Pupil
Ø  Novel
Ø  Muscle
Ø  Particle
Ø  Formula

Stageberg, Norman C. and Dallin D. Oaks (2000). An Introductory English Grammar , Heinle, Boston:USA.