The Diminutive in Modern Standard Arabic: An Optimality Theoretical Analysis

Abujoudeh Maisoun Ismail


The diminutive in Arabic has not received the attention it deserves in the literature. Most of the work done on Arabic morphology has viewed the derivation of Arabic diminutive as a simple process which maps root consonants, according to certain principles, onto well-defined positions of a diminutive pattern. In this paper, I will demonstrate that there is no need to refer to roots in the process of diminutive formation in Arabic. I will also show that under such a view a unified and comprehensive treatment of the diminutive is possible within the framework of Optimality Theory, as developed in Prince and Smolensky (1993). Following Benua (1997) and Ussishkin (1999), the analysis I argue for allows for a correspondence relation between the diminutive forms and the bases from which they are derived. However, my analysis goes beyond that presented in Benua (1997) and Ussishkin (1999) in that it assumes a similar correspondence relation between the diminutive forms and the input.

Key words: Optimality theory; Diminutive; Root; Base; Constraint

Résumé Le diminutif d’Arabe n’a pas reçu l’attention qu’elle mérite dans la littérature. La plupart du travail effectué sur la morphologie arabe a vu la dérivation de l’arabe comme diminutif d’un processus simple qui associe consonnes radicales, selon certains principes, sur des positions bien définies d’un modèle diminutif. Dans cet article, je vais le démontrer qu’il n’y a pas besoin de se référer aux racines dans le processus de formation diminutif en arabe. Je vais aussi montrer que, sous ce point de vue d'un traitement unifi é et complet du diminutif est possible dans le cadre de la théorie de l’optimalité, telle que développée dans Prince et Smolensky (1993). Après Benua (1997) et Ussishkin (1999), l’analyse que je plaider en faveur d’une relation permet de correspondance entre les formes minuscules et des bases à partir desquelles elles sont dérivées. Cependant, mon analyse va au-delà qui sont présentées dans Benua (1997) et Ussishkin (1999) en ce qu’il suppose une relation de correspondance similaire entre les formes minuscules et l’entrée.

Mots clés: Théorie de l’optimalité; Diminutif; Racine; Base; Contrainte


Optimality theory; Diminutive; Root; Base; Constraint



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