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Peculiarities of Portuguese Word-Formation  

Graça Rio-Torto

Portuguese shares major word-formation mechanisms—affixation, composition, conversion, blending, clipping—with Romance languages, but also displays some peculiarities related to different Latin, Celtiberian, Germanic, and Mozarabic lexical heritages and to the internal dynamics of the language from the 12th to the 21st century. Portuguese has preserved the core of the medieval word-formation framework, but new patterns were of course introduced from time to time, especially during the 20th century. Portuguese word-formation peculiarities are partly conservative, partly innovative; some comply with international trends of word-formation, others depart from them. The proliferation of Neo-Latin compounding and the increase of blending, as well as the introduction of phenomena such as clipping, reanalysis, and grammaticalization illustrate the convergence of modern Portuguese with international word-formation tendencies. In Portuguese, as in other languages, learned suffixes tend to be less productive than the corresponding nonlearned ones coexisting with them. However, in specific cases such as gentilic adjectives/nouns, a learned suffix like -ense could also win over its nonlearned rival (in this case, Pt. -ês/-esa), while in Italian the nonlearned suffix -ese prevails. Apart from peculiar phonological outcomes of some Latin suffixes and the greater weight of interfixation due to phonological and prosodic conditions, the major distinctive traits of Portuguese word-formation include: (a) the unique distribution of the major evaluative suffixes, grounded in subjective/attitudinal values; (b) the subjective meanings associated with several suffixes that are not found in the corresponding suffixes of other Romance languages; (c) the specific set of suffixal resources for forming agentive and instrumental deverbal nouns; and (d) the expansion of the categorial bases selected by some suffixes.


The Acquisition of Word-Formation in the Romance Languages  

Eve V. Clark

Several factors influence children’s initial choices of word-formation options––simplicity of form, transparency of meaning, and productivity in current adult speech. The coining of new words is also constrained by general pragmatic considerations for usage: Reliance on conventionality, contrast, and cooperation between speaker and addressee. For children acquiring French, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish, the data on what they know about word-formation for the coining of new words consist primarily of diary observations; in some cases, these are supplemented with experimental elicitation studies of the comprehension and production of new word-forms. The general patterns in Romance acquisition of word-formation favor derivation over compounding. Children produce some spontaneous coinages with zero derivation (verbs converted to nouns in French, for example) from as young as 2 years, 6 months (2;6). The earliest suffixes children put to use in these languages tend to be agentive (from 2;6 to 3 years onward), followed by instrumental, objective, locative, and, slightly later, diminutive. The only prefixes that emerge early in child innovations are negative ones used to express reversals of actions. Overall, the general patterns of acquisition for word-formation in Romance are similar to those in Semitic, where derivation is also more productive than compounding, rather than to those in Germanic, where compounding is highly productive, and emerges very early, before any derivational forms.