Take the 2-minute tour ×
Linguistics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professional linguists and others with an interest in linguistic research and theory. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Many languages have a suffix (or some other alteration) that gives a pejorative meaning to a word. For example, in Spanish:

pájaro "bird" + -acopajarraco "big, ugly bird"

What do you call a suffix that gives an "anti-pejorative" meaning to a word? For example, imagine if you could do this:

pájaro "bird" + -iñalopajariñalo "beautiful bird"

share|improve this question
    
It normally doesn't work that way. When people want to talk about good things, they want lots of description, not less. On the other hand, pejorative phonesthemes, suffixes, and constructions are abundant. Frankly, humans would rather complain than praise. –  jlawler Jul 20 at 19:42
3  
If such a thing existed, I would refer to it as a meliorative or ameliorative suffix. –  Colin Fine Jul 20 at 19:47
    
@ColinFine, post that as an answer (preferably with some citation) and I'd be glad to accept it. So far, everyone's answering to explain how the meaning I'm asking about is combined with some other meaning, but not actually answering the question, which is simply what you call this meaning. –  Joe Jul 26 at 20:42

2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

In many languages, the way to express a positive attitude is to use a 'diminutive' which is used more often for terms of endearment rather than denoting a small size. Conversely, in languages that have an augmentative, it is often used to express pejorative.

As is so often the case in language, these terms are not really symmetrical along some imaginary scale. A language may have a very complex system of diminutives with only the most rudimentary augmentatives or no augmentatives at all. Also, both diminutives and augmentatives can be used for positive and negative evaluation.

share|improve this answer
    
So what do you call it when a diminutive or augmentative has an "anti-pejorative" meaning? –  Joe Jul 21 at 16:44
    
Sorry, I haven't come up across a label for that phenomenon. It's just how these things behave. This happens all over the place. For instance, I don't think there's a name for when present tense has future meaning. You just describe it. –  Dominik Lukes Jul 21 at 17:16
    
@Joe, it used to be called "ameliorative." –  Alex B. Jul 22 at 4:34

The closest thing I can think of are honorifics in a number of East Asian languages (most prominently, Japanese, but also Korean and Thai). See, for example, the entry about sonkeigo on wikipedia. Japanese also has a number of suffixes to proper names to indicate respect and deference (e.g., "-sama" 様, roughly translatable as "highly respected").

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.