An optimality theoretic analysis of Nicaraguan Spanish diminutivization: results of a field survey
Miranda, Ine︠s Miranda
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The goals of the present investigation of diminutive formation in Nicaraguan Spanish were twofold: to collect a solid corpus of data defining a clear pattern of diminutive formation in terms of preference and variability, and to provide an analysis within Optimality Theory to account for the field data.The collection of data was done with a survey carefully designed to allow for a ranking of possible diminutive options for each word, and to emphasize the categories of words defined as problematic based on previous literature. The survey was conducted in Nicaragua during August 1998. The total number of surveys was 95.The results showed that diminutive allomorphy selection depends on three elements of the base: its size, the syllabic structure of its last syllable, and the characteristics of its final vowel. In addition, four categories of words showed variability in that more than one diminutive option was possible although there was a clear pattern of preference of diminutive forms.I propose that diminutivization in Nicaraguan Spanish is an output to output correspondence process demanding the stem be minimally bimoraic (SternMin), and requiring the output to be faithful to the prosodic structure of the base (IDENT-OO). These faithfulness requirements on the output to output correspondence produce misalignment of the suffix in some cases (a violation of Align-Dim). Variability is explained as either historical changes involving the constraints SteMMn and DISYLL (a constraint requiring the base be minimally disyllabic), or as the optionality of epenthesizing an [e] before the diminutive suffix in order to avoid a faithfulness (correspondence) violation.The present analysis acknowledges two diminutive allomorphs, -[ito] and -[sito], with the /e/ appearing before -[sito] (-[esito]) in some words analyzed as an epenthetic [e] with no morphological affiliation.The optimality account of diminutivization presented here is broader in scope than previous accounts in that it not only predicts the pattern of diminutive allomorph selection (in Nicaraguan Spanish), but also appropriately defines the stems to which diminutivization applies, explains the requirements on which allomorphy selection is based, and predicts the variability observed in specific types of bases that allow secondary diminutive options.
- Linguistics