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The Diachronic Development of French -age between Usage-Related Shifts and Grammatical Change

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image of Language Dynamics and Change

French -age developed from Latin relational adjectives in -aticus that were by and by nominalized, thereby incorporating the former head noun as a semantic constituent. In this article, it is argued that the Modern French -age derivation originated from the (re-)association of a semantically vacuous formative and an abstract semantic feature. This semantic feature gradually emerged through abstraction from the existing concrete derivatives and, once established, has determined the range of possible interpretations of newly coined formations up to this day. The most important result of the analysis is that, apart from a structural reanalysis of the Latin nominalized relational -aticus adjectives, French -age did not undergo any meaning change at all, the stability of its meaning being due to the abovementioned continuous interplay between the abstract semantic feature and the usage of the various concrete -age nominalizations.

Affiliations: 1: University of Cologne


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