Anastasia Makarova: PhD project

Dissertation title: “Rethinking diminutives: a case study of Russian verbs”

Supervisors: Tore Nesset, Laura A. Janda


Couched in the framework of cognitive linguistics, this dissertation explores the system of diminutives in Russian. Prototypical diminutives are formed from nouns and describe objects perceived as small and cute, e.g. dom – domik ‘house – small (and cute) house’. The major question in the dissertation is: are there verbal diminutives in Russian? Contrary to traditional views, I argue that there are such verbs and identify three groups of verbal diminutives: verbs ending in –n’kat’ such as zven’kat’ ‘ding’, words like bain’ki ‘sleep’, and attenuative verbs like prikriknut’ ‘slightly shout once’.

I argue that diminutives are reference point (RP) constructions. In RP constructions, one entity (reference point) provides mental access to another one (target). RP relationships are crucial for diminutives: in order to understand what a small house (target) is, one has to know what a standard house is (reference point). Although RP relationships are well known in cognitive linguistics, the present dissertation extends our knowledge of RP constructions by demonstrating that events can serve as reference points.

My study makes further theoretical contributions. I show that the Russian diminutive marker /k/ represents an unusual phenomenon since it is attested for several parts of speech. The proposed analysis also has implications for the Russian aspectual system in that semantic overlap is relevant for aktionsarten.

Defense: August 26, 2014

Committee: Stephen M. Dickey (University of Kansas), Michael S. Flier (Harvard University), Hanne M. Eckhoff (UiT The Arctic University of Norway)

Read about this dissertation here.

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