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Sociolinguistic Remarks on the Indo-Iranian *-ka-Suffix: A Marker of Colloquial Register

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The widespread Indo-Iranian *-ka suffix (also widely distributed elsewhere in Indo-European) is generally characterized as a diminutive or deprecatory marker, shading into pleonastic meaninglessness. However, it is easier to account for its extremely varied distribution and diverse functions by interpreting it as a sociolinguistic marker of colloquial or informal speech. The explosive growth of the suffix in the "middle" period languages of both Iranian and Indo-Aryan results in part from the greater representation of vernacular speech in those languages, but also from the convenience of the suffix as a means of staving off word-final phonological erosion. The suffix is also associated with speech by and about women from the ancient period (Vedic Sanskrit and Avestan) onwards. is association results from the fact that women are typed as colloquial speakers throughout these texts, lacking access to high-register grammatical forms and styles, and therefore paying attention to women's speech in ancient texts may give us a window on the colloquial register that is otherwise unavailable to us in these elite products.


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