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Syntax Interface Lectures Utrecht


23 January 2017
Drift 23, 0.13

Gertjan Postma (Meertens Institute)

Loss of the diminutive in Pomeranian in Brazil – Consequences for Formal Grammar


While European Pomeranian had a productive synthetic diminutive in -ka (Mahnke 1931), Pomeranian in Brazil has lost this morphological category completely (apart from the lexical määka ‘little girl and bitka ‘a little bit’) and produces “diminutives” only synthetically by using klai(n) ‘little’, quite parallel to English (and Mainland Scandinavian).Though most Pomeranians in Brazil are bilingual, we think that language contact is an improbable cause, for the dominant language Portuguese is famous for its extremely productive morphological diminutive. In this talk, we explore a morphosyntactic internal structural cause for this loss, which make Pomeranian similar to English (and Mainland Scandinavian). Not accidentally, Pomeranian shares other structural properties with English (and MSc), such as absence of verb movement to T (V-to-T) and the emergence of do-support in OV sentences as a resort strategy. We will argue that there is a cross-linguistic relation between verb-movement in the extended V-domain, and N-movement in the extended N-domain, which is needed to create a productive diminuitive in syntax. We explore a morphosyntactic underpining of this new “Greenbergian” universal which exceeds the asssumption of an “overall tendency from synthetic to analytic forms”.