Diminutives in Child-Directed and Child Speech

Ineta Dabašinskiene

In: Encyclopedia of Language Development

Diminutives in Child-Directed and Child Speech

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  • Diminutives are morphological derivations that typically involve suffixation but may take other forms as well (casa: cas-ita in Spanish, dom: dom-ik in Russian, namas: nam-ukas in Lithuanian, but petite maison in French, meaning a little house). Cross-linguistically, diminutives are interpreted as a category that expresses smallness, but they are also associated with a range of additional pragmatic features like attachment, endearment, and sympathy, which make them appropriate for use in child-centered situations.

    Already in early studies on child-directed speech (CDS), it was noted that diminutives are used much more frequently in CDS than in adult-directed speech (ADS). This assertion was supported by research results obtained from a number of languages (Dutch, Greek, Italian, Lithuanian, Russian, Spanish, Austrian-German, Croatian, Hebrew, Hungarian, and Turkish), which demonstrates that diminutives ...

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