A Psycholinguistic Investigation into Diminutive Strategies in the East Franconian NP : Little Schnitzels Stay Big, but Little Crooks Become Nicer
2021, Wittenberg, Eva, Trotzke, Andreas
Upper German dialects make heavy use of diminutive strategies, but little is known about the actual conceptual effects of those devices. This paper is the first to present two large-scale psycholinguistic experiments that investigate this issue in East Franconian, a dialect spoken in Bavaria. Franconian uses both the diminutive suffix -la and the quantifying construction a weng a lit. ‘a little bit a’ to modify noun phrases. Our first experiment shows that diminutization has no effect on conceptualization of magnitude: People do not think of a smaller/weaker/shorter etc. referent when the NP is modified by the morphological diminutive, the quantifying construction, or their combination. The second experiment involves gradable NPs and shows that, again, the morphological diminutive has no effect on how people conceptualize the degree to which a gradable nominal predicate holds; in contrast, a weng a reduces it significantly. These experiments suggest that diminutization does not have uniform effects across semantic domains, and our results act as a successful example of extending the avenue of cognitive psychology into dialectology with the active participation of a speaker community.