Nominal Competition in Present-Day English Affixation: Zero-Affixation vs. -Ness with the Semantic Category STATIVE

By Lara-Clares, Cristina; Thompson, Paul | SKASE Journal of Theoretical Linguistics, December 2019 | Go to article overview

Nominal Competition in Present-Day English Affixation: Zero-Affixation vs. -Ness with the Semantic Category STATIVE


Lara-Clares, Cristina, Thompson, Paul, SKASE Journal of Theoretical Linguistics


1. Introduction

The borrowing of forms and, thus, affixes, that took place from the 17th century plays a central role in the development of the English language and a consequence of this is the emergence of both native and non-native competing (rival) affixes (Riddle 1985: 452-455; Lieber 2004: 44; Bauer 2009: 189; Kaunisto 2009; Diaz-Negrillo 2017: 119). When affixes acquire new senses, competition also emerges, such that more than one affix may share the same meaning (1) and potentially also the same domain of application; "expansion into new "territory" creates new potential for formation and thus enhances productivity, which leads to further expansion, which leads to further synonymy and potential competitors." (Pounder 2000: 669; see also Lieber 2004: 115). The underlying assumption here is that language tends to an avoidance of synonymy, as has been argued in the previous literature (see [section]2).

Morphological competition became a topic of research in itself after the publication of Aronoffs (1976) monograph, where he discussed the competition between -ity and -ness, thus laying the foundations for subsequent studies on the resolution of competition. This topic has received increasing attention ever since, as evidenced by the number of references dealing with it (Kjellmer 1984; Riddle 1985; Kastovsky 1986; Plag 1999; McWhinney et al. 2014, among others), as well as by the fact that the 17th International Morphology Meeting in Vienna (2016) was dedicated to the discussion of competition in morphology. These studies have benefited greatly from research on morphological productivity (see, e.g., Plag 1999; Bauer 2001) and on semantics (see, e.g., Lieber 2004) and serve as a way to understand to what extent both linguistic economy and transparency of expression are at work in situations of morphological competition.

The analysis of competing forms in this paper relies on corpus and dictionary data. Corpora allow for the extraction of frequencies and also context of use, whereas dictionary data provide information regarding the different meanings of the forms under study and the dates of earliest and latest attestation. Specifically, BNC (Davies 2004-), data was used in an initial stage for sample extraction and in a later stage for attestation of forms in present competition (identified using the OED), for a manual sense classification of concordances and for frequencies' analysis. The OED was used both to enlarge the original BNC sample by looking for all potential competitors of the selected competing pattern and for lexicographic data (dates of attestation, senses, etc.).

An overview of the competition between nominalising suffixes is presented here, followed by a study on the competition between -ness and zero-affixation (2) for the expression of the semantic category STATIVE. The results are compared depending on whether frequencies are taken by entry, i.e., as given by the BNC, or by sense, i.e., after manual sense classification of concordances in order to put to test the relevance of sense separations. Finally, the results are compared with previous research for identification of patterns in the resolution of competition.

This paper addresses the following questions:

* RQ1: Is there any historical trend in the resolution of the competition between -ness and zero-affixation for the expression of the semantic category STATIVE? If so, is this trend confirmed with present-day data?

* RQ2: If a resolution of competition between the affixes is expected, will zero-affixation or -ness come out of use or will one or both affixes become semantically specialised?

* RQ3: Does each cluster of competition follow the general trend of resolution that is found for the pattern as a whole for these competing affixes?

This paper is structured as follows: the next section ([section]2) provides an overview of previous research on competition. The method followed for data extraction and analysis is then described ([section]3). …

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