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A Handbook of the English Language by Latham

The term meiotic for the true diminutives


his "Outlines of Logic," the present writer has given reasons for considering the word _no_ (as in _no man_) an article.

That _the_, in expressions like _all the more_, _all the better_, &c., is no article, has already been shown.

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s. 268. Compared with the words _lamb_, _man_, and _hill_, the words _lambkin_, _mannikin_, and _hillock_ convey the idea of comparative smallness or diminution. Now, as the word _hillock_ = _a little hill_ differs in _form_ from _hill_, we have in English a series of _diminutive_ forms, or _diminutives_.

The English diminutives may be arranged according to a variety of principles. Amongst others:

1. _According to their form._--The word _hillock_ is derived from _hill_, by the _addition_ of a _syllable_. The word _tip_ is derived from _top_, by the _change_ of a _vowel_.

2. _According to their meaning._--In the word _hillock_ there is the simple expression of comparative smallness in size. In the word _doggie_ for _dog_, _lassie_ for _lass_, the addition of the -ie makes the word not so much a diminutive as a term of tenderness or endearment. The idea of smallness, accompanied,

perhaps, with that of neatness, generally carries with it the idea of approbation; hence, the word _clean_ in English, means, in German, _little_ = _kleine_. The feeling of protection which is extended to small objects engenders the notion of endearment.

s. 269. The Greek word [Greek: meiosis] (_mei[^o]sis_) means diminution; the Greek word [Greek: hupokorisma] (_hypokorisma_) means an endearing expression. Hence we get names for the two kinds of diminutives; viz., the term _meiotic_ for the true diminutives, and the term _hypocoristic_ for the diminutives of endearment.

3. _According to their historical origin._--The syllable -ock, as in _hillock_, is of Anglo-Saxon and Gothic origin. The -et, as in _lancet_, is of French and classical origin.

4. _According as they affect proper names, or common names._--_Hawkin_, _Perkin_, _Wilkin_, &c. In these words we have the diminutives of _Hal_, _Peter_, _Will_, &c.

s. 270. The diminutive forms of Gothic origin are the first to be considered.

1. _Those formed by a change of vowel._--_Tip_, from _top_. The relation of the feminine to the masculine is allied to the ideas conveyed by many diminutives. Hence in the word _kit_, from _cat_, it is doubtful whether there be meant a female cat or a little cat. _Kid_ is a diminutive form of _goat_.

2. _Those formed by the addition of a letter or letters._--Of the diminutive characteristics thus formed the commonest, beginning from the simpler forms, are

Ie.--Almost peculiar to the Lowland Scotch; as _daddie_, _lassie_, _minnie_, _wifie_, _mousie_, _doggie_, _boatie_, &c.

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