LINGUIST List 3.140

Tue 11 Feb 1992

Disc: -ish, Def

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  1. "R.Hudson", -ish
  2. Dr M Sebba, Ish
  3. , "Def"

Message 1: -ish

Date: Mon, 10 Feb 92 08:32:33 +0-ish
From: "R.Hudson" <uclyrahucl.ac.uk>
Subject: -ish

Margaret Fleck notes that -ish can be added after a sentence, and expresses
surprise since it isn't normally an independent word. Ok, it may not be
independent in the way that, say, DOG is; but it combines quite freely with
syntactically-formed phrases, especially time-phrases:

	half past seven-ish
	eight o'clock-ish

	nine-thirty-ish

This in itself suggests that it may be a separate word, combined with a whole
phrase - i.e. a clitic along the lines of 's, as in _the king of Spain's
daughter_.

It would be very interesting to see how any of our existing generative
grammar theories could accommodate the restriction to a phrase which defines
a time of day.


Dick Hudson
Dept of Phonetics and Linguistics,
University College London,
Gower Street,
London WC1E 6BT
(071) 387 7050 ext 3152
home: (081) 340 1253
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Message 2: Ish

Date: Tue, 11 Feb 92 13:24:38 GMIsh
From: Dr M Sebba <eia023cent1.lancs.ac.uk>
Subject: Ish

In response to Margaret Fleck's note about Ish: it's widespread.
My students do it. But I've no idea how well established it is,
or what regions/classes/age groups it covers.
Plenty of interesting research to be done here. I'll try to
interest someone in doing a dissertation on it.
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Message 3: "Def"

Date: Fri, 7 Feb 92 16:26:13 PDT"Def"
From: <a-peggymmicrosoft.COM>
Subject: "Def"

I received three possible etymologies of "def" from Linguist readers
(thanks!):

(1) The Afrikaaner Hypothesis: "deftig" means 'smart' or 'chic' in
Afrikaaner. Respondent was not sure of use in Nederlands.

(2) The Death Hypothesis: possibly an alteration of the word "death", with
final /th/ becoming /f/. The semantic connection: the phrase 'to death' is
used to mean 'extremely', as in `They discussed it to death', `I love you to
 death', etc. We also say related things like 'to die for' meaning
'extremely good'.

(3) The Definite Hypothesis: possibly a back-formation of "definitely" or
"definitive", on the model of "fab" for fabulous.
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