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A4 - Dynamics of linguistic representations in morphology

The proposed project deals with German diminutive suffixes. This is a very heterogeneous and linguistically dynamic field of research, where native (e.g., -lein, -chen) and non-native suffixes (e.g., -ette) meet. The project will, firstly, focus on the formation of diminutives and, secondly, on their mental representation. To this end, corpus analyses are planned to examine the use of diminutive forms in different genres and contexts in previous and current generations of language users. Additionally, experimental approaches are possible, which can provide specific information about the cognitive processing of diminutives. A possible setup would be (i) a corpus analysis on the current use of diminutives in relation to both its semantically modifying usage (e.g., smallness, partitivity) and its expressive usage (e.g., solidarizing, confrontational). To assess the status of a possible language change, (ii) a decision-task experiment could test the semantic or pragmatic relevance of the diminutives in an inter-generational comparison. Finally, the contextually varying mental representations of morphological and lexical diminutives could (iii) be explored in neurolinguistic experiments.