The lexical core of a complex functional affix: Russian baby diminutive -onok

Maria Gouskova, Jonathan David Bobaljik

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    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.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)1075-1115
    Number of pages41
    JournalNatural Language and Linguistic Theory
    Issue number4
    StatePublished - Nov 2022


    • Adjunction
    • Declension class
    • Diminutives
    • Distributed Morphology
    • Gender
    • Heads
    • Modifiers
    • Morphology
    • Russian
    • Suppletion

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Language and Linguistics
    • Linguistics and Language


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