Thursday, May 12, 2005

Suffixes for Proper Nouns

Proper nouns have nominal classifiers that behave like suffixes (except that they don't have "meaning" in the traditional sense). A very well known case is -os in (1):

(1) Carlos > Carl-os

Evidence for that comes from the fact that the diminutive suffix must be between Carl- and -os, as is (2), considering that the diminutive suffix is always inserted before other less controversial nominal classifiers, as the gender marker -a in (3):

(2) Carlitos

(3) casa > cas-a > cas-it-a

There is additional evidence for these especial nominal classifiers, which is less known. For instance, the adjective for Borges is borgiano ~ borgiana (as used by literary critics). This means that the speaker are breaking Borges into Borg-es, and using the suffixes to produce the corresponding adjectives. In fact, *borgesiano is ungrammatical. Interestingly, some critics recommend this last form, because borgiano could be understood as related to Borgia and not only to Borges (which is true). However, the fact that those critics can understand borgiano as related to Borgia, precisely means that they are breaking Borgia as Borg-ia (otherwise, the adjective will be *borgiaiano, which is as ungrammatical as *borgesiano), which indeed confirms that there are nominal classifiers for proper nouns (their recommendation must be discharged as prescriptive, then)

Notice that this happens only if the stress is in the penultimate syllable. When the stress is in the last syllable, the whole word behaves like the base: Cortés > cortesiano, *cortiano----as predicted by standard theories about Spanish gender markers (Harris 1991).

More examples of the nominal classifiers -es and -as:

a. Caracas: Carac-as > Caraqu-eño *Caracas-eño
b. Asturias: Asturi-as > Asturi-ano *Asturias-ano
c. Herodes: Herod-es > Herod-iano * Herodes-iano
d. Aquiles: Aquil-es > Aquil-iano * Aquiles-iano

Some times things get tricky, however. For instance, in Cortázar, the form -ar could be a classifier (as in azúc-ar > azuqu-it-ar). This predicts Cortazítar and cortazariano. This last form is attested (it is the regular adjective used by critics), and the first one seems grammatical to me. However, cortaziano is also used, and Cortazarito is not so bad. Interesting, the same happens with azúcar, which allows azucarcita and azucaroso (although this could be subject to dialectal differences).


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