Premodifiers and a scarcity-productivity hypothesis in Yorùbá: Does the scarcity of adjectives influence productivity of the premodification slot?

Research Article

Premodifiers and a scarcity-productivity hypothesis in Yorùbá: Does the scarcity of adjectives influence productivity of the premodification slot?

DOI: 10.2989/16073614.2023.2229024
Author(s): Mayowa Akinlotan SOAS University of London, UK

Abstract

The notion that the Yorùbá language operates only a small, closed class of adjectives is well noted in the literature. However, this hypothesis of scarcity of adjectives in the Yorùbá language is yet to be examined in light of how such scarcity may influence the creativity of speakers in creating new functional adjectives, influence the placement of ‘created’ adjectives and the productivity of the premodification slot in the noun phrase structure. Combining theoretical concepts from construction grammar with corpus evidence drawn from a major source of contemporary Yorùbá, the article shows how speakers of Yorùbá negotiate between scarcity, creativity, placement and complexity in modifying their referents. The article identifies different forms of premodifiers, especially a sort of ‘creative premodifier’ with which a complex syntactic-semantic behaviour is built into the ensuing NP structure. It is argued that a scarcity of attributive adjectives in the language is a crucial variable with which relations between premodifiers and postmodifiers can be explored.

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