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Studies in Hispanic and Lusophone Linguistics

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Dialectal variation in Spanish diminutives: A performance model

David Eddington
Published Online: 2017-05-02 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/shll-2017-0002


While the diminutive form of most Spanish words is invariant, a great deal of variation is found in bisyllabic words that either contain /je, we/ in the stem (e. g., viejo ‘old’> viejito/viejecito, pueblo ‘town’ > pueblecito/pueblito), or that end in /e/ (e. g., dulce ‘sweet’ > dulcecito/dulcito), or that end in /jo, ja/ (e. g., rubio ‘blonde’ > rubiecito/rubito). Data from the Corpus del Español indicate that in many cases both diminutive forms exist within a single country. This kind of variation has been accounted for in a number of competence-based studies. However, many of these studies, along with the entities and mechanisms they employ, are not designed to explain actual language processing. The purpose of the present study, on the other hand, is to present a performance model of diminutive formation that accounts for the observed variation. The model assumes that highly frequent diminutives have been lexicalized, and as a result, their production is a matter of lexical retrieval. In contrast, low frequency words are diminutivized based on analogy to the diminutive forms of words stored in the mental lexicon. A data set of existing diminutives in each country was extracted from the Corpus del Español. Using these data sets, a series of computational simulations was performed in order to predict the diminutive allomorphs. The model proved to be highly successful in correctly predicting the diminutives in each country.

Keywords: Spanish; diminutives; analogical modeling; performance model


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About the article

Published Online: 2017-05-02

Published in Print: 2017-05-01

Citation Information: Studies in Hispanic and Lusophone Linguistics, Volume 10, Issue 1, Pages 39–66, ISSN (Online) 2199-3386, ISSN (Print) 1939-0238, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/shll-2017-0002.

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