The Semantic Development of Five French Suffixes in Middle English
CHAPTER 1 Productivity and Semantics 1
Chapter 1 Productivity and Semantics In this study, then, I shall be considering the five latinate deverbal nominal suf fixes ment, -ence/-ance, -ation, -age and -al, in Middle English and in a restricted sample from Shakespeare, with a view to tracing their produc- tivity and perhaps establishing more precise semantic distinctions than those so far available. I shall examine the contexts of their earliest recorded citations, discussing my ME sample chronologically across three periods: 1150–1300, the fourteenth century and the fifteenth century. 1.1. Productivity Aronof f (1976), Booij (1986) and Plag (1999) have all commented on the relation between productivity and semantics. Before turning to the question of semantics, and in particular the semantics of derived words, I will brief ly discuss some of the methods of identifying and assessing productivity. 1.1.1. Determining factors Psycholinguistic tests have shown that frequency plays some part in deter- mining productivity. The most productive forms appear to be those with high type but low token frequency, that is those with many class mem- bers, infrequently used (see Bybee 1985: 134). Words of a high token fre- quency have greater lexical strength: that is, they ‘undergo less analysis, are less dependent on their related base forms than those with lower token 2 Chapter 1 frequencies’ (1985: 119). The degree of type frequency necessary for produc- tivity is of course dif ficult to determine. Dalton-Puf fer suggests that a ‘criti- cal mass’ may operate for major derivational categories (1996: 224–5). For Dalton-Puf fer, the...
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