-ish / Ish: Aspects of a suffix turned free morpheme

Harris, Tabea

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URL: https://madoc.bib.uni-mannheim.de/59992
URN: urn:nbn:de:bsz:180-madoc-599922
Document Type: Doctoral dissertation
Year of publication: 2021
Place of publication: Mannheim
University: Universität Mannheim
Evaluator: Trips, Carola
Date of oral examination: 25 May 2020
Publication language: English
Institution: School of Humanities > Anglistik IV - Anglistische Linguistik/Diachronie (Trips 2006-)
Subject: 400 Language, linguistics
Keywords (English): lexical semantics , morphology , suffix , free morpheme , vagueness , hedging particle , discourse marker , grammaticalisation , degrammaticalisation , diachrony , corpus linguistics
Abstract: The topic of the dissertation is the Germanic morpheme -ish / Ish, which forms adjectives and attaches to a variety of base words in its bound form (-ish). Recently, it has detached from host words, now also occurring as a free morpheme (Ish). The suffix is a cognate to German -isch and is recorded in the English language since Old English. These three aspects of -ish / Ish motivate a tripartite distinction of the thesis which investigates them with respect to the following questions: 1)How did the suffix -ish develop historically and how has its semantics changed to account for its present-day polysemy? 2a.) How has it developed into a free morpheme Ish and how can that development be described? 2b.) What is the status of the independent morpheme? 3a) Which position does the suffix take in a cohort of other adjective-forming English suffixes, and in which respects to the German counterparts of these suffixes differ? Can they be described as rivals? These questions guide the three parts of the thesis and they are based on several basic hypotheses. First, in early work suffixes have been analysed with respect to their function of transposition into other word classes, but recent work has recognised their semantic contribution to their base words. In order to show that suffixes have meaning, a lexical-semantic analysis is conducted which bases the development of the suffix with different bases on a diachronic corpus analysis. The analysis shows how the suffix gradually develops meaning components which explains its present-day polysemy. In doing so, a novel lexical-semantic feature is proposed, which serves to complement and extend work by Lieber (2004, 2007, 2016b). Second, the development of the free morpheme is shown to be gradual by classifying its properties on the basis of a corpus analysis. It has been described in the literature with respect to two opposing processes, grammaticalisation and degrammaticalisation and the present investigation points to the latter. Connected to the process is the question of their status and grammaticalisation is frequently considered the process of emergence of discourse markers. Their properties and functions are contrasted with the comparable elements of hedges and the identified properties of Ish align it more convincingly with the latter. Third, similar adjective-forming suffixes are frequently described as rivals which are in competition with each other and which share a common meaning. I show that the previously identified lexicalsemantic feature can also be felicitously applied to the English and German comparative suffixes, which highlights their subtle meaning differences and which identifies semantic niches for each, despite some overlap. A comparative corpus analysis sheds light on their respective frequencies and distribution.

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