Gouskova and Bobaljik 2021

Gouskova, Maria and Jonathan David Bobaljik. 2021. The lexical core of a complex functional affix: Russian baby-diminutive -onok. Manuscript, NYU and Harvard. [pdf]

Like other syntactic elements, affixes are sometimes said to be heads or modifiers. In Russian, one
suffix,-onok, can be either: as a head, it is a size diminutive denoting baby animals, and as a modifier,
it is an evaluative with a dismissive/affectionate flavor. Various grammatical properties of this suffix
differ between the two uses: gender, declension class, and interaction with suppletive alternations,
both as target and trigger. We explore a reductionist account of these differences: the baby diminutive
comprises a lexical morpheme plus a functional nominalizing head, while the evaluative affix is the
lexical morpheme alone. We contend that our account is superior to two conceivable alternatives:
first, the view that these are homophonous but unrelated affixes, and second, a cartographic alternative,
whereby diminutives attach at different levels in a universal structure.

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