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CODIT. A new resource for the study of Italian from a diachronic perspective: Design and applications in the morphological field

CODIT. Une nouvelle ressource pour l’étude de l’italien dans une perspective diachronique: applications dans le domaine morphologique
M. Silvia Micheli

Résumés

Cet article présente un nouveau corpus diachronique de la langue italienne : CODIT (COrpus Diacronico dell’ITaliano « Corpus diachronique de l’italien »). Après une description du corpus, la deuxième partie de l’article est consacrée à montrer les applications du corpus dans le domaine morphologique, en particulier dans le domaine de la morphologie évaluative. Nous soulignons les forces et les limites du corpus à travers l’analyse diachronique de deux affixes, sopra- ‘sur-’ et -oide ‘-oïd’. L’étude contribue à éclairer le dynamisme de la morphologie évaluative en s’intéressant à la perte de la fonction d’intensification subie par sopra- et à l’émergence d’une valeur d’approximation qui affecte actuellement -oide.

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1. Introduction

  • 1 We have chosen to compare CODIT with MIDIA since the latter represents the only other balanced diac (...)

This paper presents a new resource for the study of Italian from a diachronic perspective, i.e., CODIT (COrpus Diacronico dell’ITaliano ‘Diachronic corpus of Italian’), namely a balanced corpus containing about 29 million occurrences. In the first part of the article, we describe the corpus structure and discuss its features compared to another diachronic corpus of Italian (i.e., MIDIA, Morfologia dell’italiano in diacronia ‘Italian morphology in diachrony’).1 In the second part of the article, we provide the analysis of two case studies to show how CODIT can contribute to the study of morphological phenomena from a diachronic perspective. Both cases deal with evaluative morphology, which so far has been mostly investigated from a synchronic point of view: in particular, we will outline the diachrony of the prefix sopra- (e.g., sopravvalutare ‘to overestimate’) and the suffix -oide (e.g., sferoide ‘spheroid’). Both affixes allow us to illustrate the dynamism that characterizes the domain of evaluative morphology, where evaluative values (such as diminution, augmentation, pejoration) undergo a cyclic renewal to preserve their expressiveness (see Grandi 2011).

The paper is structured as follows. Section 2 provides a detailed description of the corpus design. Section 3 offers a diachronic analysis of sopra- and -oide in Italian, based on both qualitative and quantitative data extracted from CODIT. Section 4 focuses on the potential and the limits of the corpus and outlines future developments.

2. Corpus design

CODIT is a balanced diachronic corpus of written Italian of about 29 million occurrences, hosted by the Czech National Corpus website, where it can be queried through the Kontext interface.2 It represents a revised version of the CODIT_com corpus, which has been collected for the diachronic study of Italian compounding provided in Micheli (2020). Although it has initially been collected with the goal of allowing morphological investigations from a diachronic perspective, it can be considered a general-purpose corpus. At present, the corpus has not been lemmatized nor POS-tagged, but both steps are planned for the near future, as we will discuss in more details in Section 4.

The texts collected within CODIT cover a period ranging from the earliest attestations of the Italian language to 1947. It is structured into five subcorpora depending on the chronological period. The periodization follows that adopted for the MIDIA corpus (see Iacobini, De Rosa & Schirato 2017):3 it is based on important linguistic and social facts of Italian history. Specifically, the five chronological periods are the following:

1) 13th century-1375: this subcorpus covers a period ranging between the earliest attestations of Italian and Boccaccio’s death.

2) 1376-1532: this subcorpus encompasses Humanism and Renaissance. It ends in 1532 with the publication of the third edition of the Orlando furioso by Ludovico Ariosto.

3) 1533-1691: this subcorpus encompasses literary Mannerism and Baroque. It ends in 1691 with the publication of the third edition of the Vocabolario by the Accademia della Crusca.

4) 1692-1840: this subcorpus encompasses the Enlightenment and Romantic period. It ends in 1840 with the publication of the final edition of the Promessi Sposi by Alessandro Manzoni.

5) 1841-1947: this subcorpus represents a period ranging from the Risorgimento to the end of the Second World War. It ends in 1947 with the publication of the Italian Constitution.

Each subcorpus collects texts belonging to six genres, i.e., essays, literary prose, poetry, letters, scientific texts, theatre. The only exception is the first subcorpus, which does not include scientific texts. As we will show in Section 3.2.2, the presence of texts of different genres is crucial to shed light on semantic changes occurring in word-formation as well as on the relationship between ordinary language and scientific terminologies.

As far as the corpus size is concerned (see Table 1), each subcorpus includes around 6 million tokens, except for the first subcorpus, which consists of 4.5 million tokens, due to the difficulty of collecting electronic form texts. The normalization of the frequency data extracted from CODIT is advised, given the slightly different size of the subcorpora. The structure of the corpus is illustrated in Table 1.

Table 1. CODIT: structure and size

1

2

3

4

5

essays

1,545,178

575,328

1,914,096

1,057,300

1,167,999

letters

28,023

1,120,431

982,128

1,582,788

1,312,679

poetry

945,047

1,674,318

1,257,071

856,507

1,350,275

literary prose

1,393,433

1,585,877

1,472,700

1,501,061

1,808,785

scientific texts

0

536,028

641,160

719,599

647,945

theatre

65,537

410,363

465,163

449,978

428,717

3,977,218

5,902,345

6,732,318

6,167,233

6,716,400

The CODIT’s design is heavily indebted to MIDIA. In particular, the main debt to MIDIA deals with the identification of the five chronological periods, which has been adopted without modification. On the other hand, the choice of text genres shows a slight difference: differently from CODIT, MIDIA includes a subcorpus containing legal and administrative texts. Moreover, the selection of texts that make up the corpus does not coincide with that carried out for MIDIA.

Notably, the main difference between the two resources concerns size, since CODIT consists of 29 million occurrences, while MIDIA contains 7.5 million occurrences. Small size represents a significant limitation to analyzing linguistic phenomena that are not particularly frequent in texts, such as many morphological phenomena (both inflectional and derivational). The main goal of CODIT is to provide a large amount of data belonging to different domains, in order to capture a wide range of phenomena and linguistic variation.

Moreover, it should be noted that MIDIA comprises portions of texts containing 8,000 tokens, while, within CODIT, each text has been included in its entirety.

Texts have been collected in .txt format and cleaned from spelling inconsistencies. Each text is associated with a set of metadata, i.e., doc ID, title, author, year (or century, when the dating is unclear), chronological period, textual genre, variety (this latter parameter applies only to the first two subcorpora, corresponding to the period before the normalization of literary Italian proposed by Pietro Bembo and based on the Florentine variety). As an example, Table 2 illustrates metadata associated to Storia d’Italia by Francesco Guicciardini.

Table 2. Metadata associated to Storia d’Italia by Francesco Guicciardini

p.id

805

doc.period

1533-1691

doc.id_file

3_ESP_GUICCIARDINI_STORIA D’ITALIA

doc.genre

ESPOSITIVI

doc.author

Francesco Guicciardini

doc.title

Storia d’Italia

doc.year

1561

doc.variety

Thanks to the Kontext interface, the corpus can be queried using both simple and advanced queries (through regular expressions); restricted queries based on metadata are also possible.

As already mentioned, texts are still raw, non-annotated, thus the corpus can be searched only for forms (not for POS-tags or lemmas). Annotation represents the main further step of this project (see Section 4).

In the following Sections, we provide the diachronic analysis of two evaluative affixes based on data extracted from CODIT. These case studies allow us to illustrate possible uses of the corpus in the study of word-formation from a diachronic perspective.

3. Case studies

3.1. Theoretical issues

According to Grandi (2002: 31-34), the semantic functions performed by evaluative morphemes can be classified into two classes, i.e., ‘quantitative’ evaluation and ‘qualitative’ evaluation. The former encompasses the values ‘diminution’ and ‘augmentation’, which imply a descriptive evaluation based on objective properties. The latter includes a more significant number of values, namely intensification, endearment, prototypicality, attenuation/approximation, contempt, which express an evaluation based on a subjective and personal judgement by the speaker. Although in the last decades evaluative morphology has been extensively investigated (see Grandi & Körtvélyessy 2015), not all semantic functions performed by evaluative morphemes have been equally addressed, especially within the field of qualitative evaluation. Focusing on Italian, while intensification has been recently investigated (see Grandi 2017, for an overview), less attention has been paid to approximation (see Masini & Micheli 2020). Except for Napoli’s (2012, 2017) studies on the intensive prefix stra- (e.g., strapieno ‘chock-full’), intensification and approximation have so far only been investigated from the synchronic perspective. Notably, the diachronic perspective is crucial to capture the dynamism that characterizes the domain of evaluative morphology. With the aim of enriching the literature on the emergence (and the decay) of evaluative meanings, we outline the diachrony of the prefix sopra- and the suffix -oide throughout the history of Italian.

3.2. Basic facts on sopra- and -oide

In Contemporary Italian, the prefix sopra- (also occurring as sovra-) is homophonous to the preposition sopra ‘above, over, on’ (from Latin sŭpra ‘id.’), which expresses a locative value and, more rarely, the meaning ‘about X, concerning X’. According to Iacobini (2004: 132, 139, 149, 154), sopra- can convey the following values:

  • 4 The morphological status of words such as soprammobile (SOPRA+piece of forniture) has been discusse (...)

(1)
a. location ‘above, over’: sopraelevare ‘to super-elevate’, sovrapporre ‘to overlap’, soprannaturale ‘supernatural’, sovraregionale ‘supraregional’, soprammobile ‘ornament’4

b. time ‘after’: sopraggiungere ‘suddenly arrive’, sopravvivere ‘survive’

c. quantity ‘larger amount, excess amount’: sovrannumero ‘supernumerary’, soprattassa ‘additional fee’

  • 5 According to Iacobini (2004: 157), in sovrastampare ‘overprint, print over another print’, sopra- s (...)

d. repetition ‘again’ (very rare): sovrastampare ‘overprint’5

As shown by these examples, sopra-/sovra- can combine with adjectives (especially relational adjectives), nouns and verbs. Some of these words are already attested in the earliest stages of the language and show a certain degree of lexicalization (i.e., soprassedere ‘overlook’). Intensification is not mentioned among the values illustrated in (1); however, Iacobini (2004: 385) mentions that when sopra- combines with qualifying adjectives like in sopraffino it conveys the value ‘very’. Notably, Grandi & Montermini (2005) mentioned sopra-/sovra- among those prefixes used to express an evaluative meaning (which now is no longer productive according to the authors) in the previous stages of the language. This point deserves further attention and will be addressed in our analysis. In the last decades, sopra-/sovra- seems scarcely productive: sopra- words are not attested within the two principal repositories of neologisms, i.e., the Treccani Dictionary of Neologisms6 and the repository provided by the Osservatorio neologico della lingua italiana (ONLI).7

As far as -oide is concerned, it comes from Lat. -oīde(m), in its turn arising from Ancient Greek -oeidḗs (cf. eîdos ‘shape’). According to Rainer (2004: 263), -oide primarily is an adjectival suffix expressing similarity (e.g., antropoide ‘human-like in appearance’, antropo- ‘human’ +OIDE). In scientific terminology, it often derives also nouns from nouns (e.g., metalloide ‘metalloid’, metal+OIDE). Both in ordinary language and specialized domains, -oide conveys the value ‘X is similar to Y’ (where Y is the base of the derived word). Wandruszka (2004: 400) includes -oide words in the class of ‘disposition adjectives’, namely adjectives referring to human referents based on an inclination/tendency that they show to the entity conveyed by the base (e.g., sinistroide ‘leftist’, left-OIDE). As noted by Ricca (2004: 434), -oide shares some features with other similative suffixes, such as -esco (e.g., spagnolesco ‘Spanish-like’) and -eggiante (e.g., orientaleggiante ‘oriental-like’). According to Merlini Barbaresi (2004: 449-450), -oide originally occurred in scientific terms (mainly in medicine, geometry, anthropology languages). The spread in ordinary language is more recent and entails the emergence of a pejorative value since what is imperfect (i.e., not precisely coincident with X) is considered as worse than X. The expression of evaluative meanings by affixes originally occurring in scientific terminology has been already observed in Italian by Masini & Micheli (2020) in the cases of simil- (e.g., temperature simil-estive ‘summery-like temperatures’) but also of para- ‘id.’ , quasi- ‘almost’, and semi- ‘half’, all expressing a set of values related to approximation. Our analysis will contribute to shed light on the path towards evaluation followed by affixes originally expressing a categorizing/classificatory function.

3.3. Methodology

Our analysis is based on data extracted from CODIT. The corpus has been queried through the Kontext interface for forms that start with sopra and forms that end with oid(e/i/a/o). As far as sopra- is concerned, all variants (namely, sopra-, supra- and sovra-) have been considered. A manual check is needed to exclude false positives (e.g., soprano). Finally, the selected forms have been manually lemmatized.

Data have been analyzed according to the following parameters. From the formal standpoint, we have considered the lexical category of the base as well as the lexical category of the complex word. Semantically, we have analyzed the values conveyed by sopra- and -oide; a qualitative analysis of each context has been crucial for the interpretation of the value conveyed by the two affixes.

3.4. Results

3.4.1. Sopra-

As illustrated by Table 3, we have started off our analysis by calculating both type and token frequencies of sopra- within the five subcorpora of CODIT.

  • 8 Normalized data in brackets.

Table 3. Sopra-: type and token frequencies8

1

2

3

4

5

Type

58 (87.5)

59

(60)

61

(54.3)

63

(61.3)

83

(74)

Token

971

(1,465)

1,689

(1,717)

1,327

(1,183)

1,138

(1,107)

1,543

(1,378)

Data reported in Table 3 highlights that sopra- words are attested in all five periods of CODIT. As far as type frequency is concerned, the first period contains the highest number of sopra- words; after a slight decrease corresponding to the subcorpora 2-3-4, the number of types increases in the last period. A similar path can be observed in token frequency.

Our investigation continues with a more in-depth analysis of types, according to the lexical categories of the bases and the semantics conveyed by sopra-. The results are illustrated in Table 4.

Table 4. Sopra- words (type frequency, raw data): lexical categories of the bases and semantics

1

2

3

4

5

Lexical category of the base

ADJ

ADV

NOUN

V

PRON

  

10

1

14

31

2

  

4

0

21

33

1

  

8

1

22

28

2

  

7

1

23

31

1

  

10

1

35

35

2

Semantics

LOCATIVE

QUANTITY

TIME

INTENSIFICATION

  

29

12

6

12

  

34

15

7

3

  

38

12

7

4

  

33

17

7

5

  

50

20

7

6

The analysis revealed that sopra- mainly combines with verbs (e.g., sopravincere ‘to prevail’, SOPRA+win) and nouns (e.g., sopravveste ‘clothes worn over other garments’, SOPRA+clothes), more rarely with adjectives (e.g., soprabello ‘very good’, SOPRA+good). In three cases, sopra- combines with an adverb (i.e., soprapiù ‘surplus’, SOPRA+plus) and a pronoun (i.e., sopracciò ‘responsible for administrative functions’, SOPRA+anything, and soprattutto ‘above all’, SOPRA+all). Moreover, while the presence of verbal bases is stable over the centuries, the combination of sopra- and nouns is more frequent in the last period.

As far as the lexical categories of the outputs are concerned, the combination of sopra- with a base generally does not change the lexical category of the base (e.g., SOPRA+grandeADJ ‘big’ > sopragrandeADJ ‘very big’). However, we have found the following cases containing sopra- and a noun (or a pronoun in the case of soprattutto) that function as adverbs: 1) sopramano (SOPRA+hand) ‘openly’ (e.g., parlare sopramano ‘to speak openly’) and ‘from top to bottom’ (e.g., colpire sopramano ‘to hit from top to bottom’); 2) soprammercato (SOPRA+trade) ‘what is more’; 3) soprammodo (SOPRA+manner) ‘extremely’; 4) soprattutto (SOPRA+all) ‘above all, especially’. All these words always occur as adverbs, except for sopramano, which also functions as a noun referring to a stitching type. Moreover, we can also mention soprapiù and sopracciò (see above), where sopra- combines with (respectively) an adverb and a pronoun to create nouns.

Turning to the semantics of sopra-, we have found that sopra- most frequently conveys a locative meaning (i.e., ‘above, over, on’ as in soprastruttura ‘superstructure’, SOPRA+structure) that sometimes can be figured (e.g., sopradivino ‘more than heavenly’, SOPRA+heavenly’). Throughout the centuries, the value QUANTITY (i.e., ‘excess amount, additional’; e.g., sopraperizia ‘additional expert opinion’) becomes more frequent. When sopra- expresses a temporal meaning, it conveys the idea that a given event has now taken place or takes place suddenly, as in the cases of soprarrivato ‘just arrived’ or sopraprendere ‘catch suddenly’, exemplified in (3).

(3)

a.

Un

di

coloro

si

staccò

dalla

    

   

one

of

those

refl

separate.3.sg.pfv

of the

    

   

brigata,

s’

accostò

al

soprarrivato

e

    

   

brigade

refl

approach.3.sg.pfv

to the

SOPRA-arrived

and

    

   

gli

domandò

se

veniva

da

Milano.

    

   

he.dat

ask.3.sg.pfv

if

come.3.sg.ipfv

from

Milan

    

   

‘One of those separated from the brigade, approached one who had just arrived and asked him if he was coming from Milan’. (Alessandro Manzoni, I Promessi Sposi, ed. 1840)

    

b.

giunto

a

l’

uscio

de

la casa

paterna ,

    

   

arrived.ptcp.pst

to

the

door

of

the house

of.his.father

    

   

ode

la

voce

de

parenti,

onde

sente

    

   

hear.3.sg.prs

the

voice

of

relatives

for which

feel.3.sg.prs

    

   

sopraprendersi

da

una

certa

letizia […].

    

   

SOPRAcatch.inf=refl

by

a

certain

joy

    

   

‘When he arrives in front of the door of his father’s house, he hears the voice of his relatives and is suddenly caught by a certain joy’. (Pietro Aretino, La Talanta)

In (3a), soprarrivato refers to someone who had arrived at that moment, unexpectedly; similarly, in (3b), sopraprendere indicates that the character is suddenly caught by a feeling of joy as soon as he arrives at the front door. The value ‘suddenly’ can also be attributed to words like sopraggiungere (SOPRA+arrived) or sopravvenire (SOPRA+come), both meaning ‘to arrive unexpectedly’, in which, on the contrary, Iacobini (2004; see Section 3.2) identified the value ‘after’. Among the sopra- words attested in CODIT, the value ‘after’ only occurs in sopravvivere ‘survive, continue to live after a lethal event or after the death of other people’ which comes from Latin supravīvere ‘id.’.

Notably, sopra- can also express an evaluative meaning, namely intensification, as in the cases of sopragridare and sopranobile.

(4)

a.

Tosto

che

parton

l’

accoglienza

    

   

once

that

leave.3.pl.prs

the

welcome

    

   

amica ,

prima

che

‘l

primo

passo

    

   

friendly

before

that

the

first

step

there

    

   

trascorra,

sopragridar

ciascuna

s’

affatica.

    

   

spend.3.sg.subj

SOPRA+shout.3.sg.prs

each one

refl

toil.3.sg.prs

‘Immediately after separating from that friendly welcome, even before moving a step away from each other, each host of souls strives to shout out’. (Dante Alighieri, Commedia)

    

b.

Di

capo

di

queste

tre

giornate ,

    

   

Of

end

of

these

three

days

    

   

si

truova

la

sopranobile

città di

    

   

refl

find.3.sg.prs

the

SOPRA+noble

city of

    

   

Quinsai […].

E

conterovi

di

sua

nobiltà ,

    

   

Quinsai

and

tell.1.sg.fut=you

of

its

nobility

    

   

però

ch’

è

la

più

nobile

città

    

   

hence

that

be.3.sg.prs

the

most

noble

city

    

   

del

mondo

e

la

migliore.

    

   

of the

world

and

the

best

    

   

‘At the end of these three days, the excellent city of Quinsai can be found. And I will tell you about its nobility since it is the noblest and best city in the world’. (Marco Polo, Milione)

In (4a), sopragridare indicates that the souls in purgatory described by Dante shout out loud so as to overpower others’ voices: in this case, sopra- conveys the idea of excess, referring to an action that has gone beyond a specific limit. In (4b), the Chinese city of Quinsai (today’s Hangzhou) is described by Marco Polo as sopranobile, namely excellent, very noble, and a little further on as la più nobile ‘the noblest’. In this case, sopra- attributes to the base a meaning comparable to that of the superlative -issimo. As illustrated in Table 3, the intensifying function of sopra- is well attested in the first period while becomes marginal in the following centuries. It should be noted that already in Old Italian, the use of sopra- as intensifying prefix is mainly restricted to adjectives (i.e., 11 adjective, seven verbs, one noun) and mainly occurs in literary texts (especially poetries): in most cases, these words are hapaxes that do not occur in other text genres. The only exception is the adjective sopraffino ‘excellent, masterly’ (SOPRA+fine) which is attested from the third period and shows a significant frequency in the last subcorpus (i.e., 19 occ.). Currently, it shows a certain degree of lexicalization, also due to the low frequency of the base fino ‘elegant, fine’.

In Table 5, we have analyzed the relationship between the semantics of sopra- and the lexical categories of the bases.

Table 5. Semantics of sopra- and lexical categories of the bases (raw data)

Lexical categories of the bases

LOCATIVE

QUANTITY

TIME

INTENSIFICATION

Adj

10

3

0

11

Adv

0

1

0

0

Noun

38

23

1

1

Pronoun

2

0

0

0

Verb

45

10

7

7

As illustrated in Table 5, the LOCATIVE value of sopra- is well attested in nouns and verbs, while the QUANTITY value mainly occurs in nouns, especially nouns referring to quantifiable things (e.g., soprassoldo ‘additional compensation’). As already mentioned, the evaluative function of sopra- is more frequent when it combines with qualifying gradable adjectives (e.g., bello ‘good, nice’, acuto ‘smart’, mirabile ‘marvellous’, piacente ‘pleasant’) and verbs (e.g., gioire ‘rejoice’, vincere ‘win’, gridare ‘shout’). Finally, we can observe that the temporal value is almost exclusively attested when sopra- combines with verbs.

To summarize, based on data extracted from CODIT, we have found that starting from Old Italian sopra- conveys different values when it combines with verbs, adjectives, nouns (and, more rarely, with pronouns and adverbs). The primary function of sopra- is to express a locative indication ‘above, over’, according to the meaning of the free preposition/adverb sopra. We have also noted that sopra- can convey the idea of excess, which can be interpreted as ‘excess amount of X, additional X’ (e.g., sopralavoro ‘excessive work’ soprattassa ‘additional fee’) or as ‘very X’ (e.g., sopragioioso ‘very joyful’) depending on the lexical category and the semantics of the base. In particular, our analysis highlighted that the evaluative, intensifying interpretation can be primarily found when sopra- combines with qualifying (gradable) adjectives, while the QUANTITY value is often attested with nouns referring to quantifiable entities. Finally, we have found that sopra- can also convey a temporal value and indicate that a given event has just occurred.

The decreasing number of words where sopra- expresses intensification can be related to the history of another originally locative prefix that acquired an intensifying function and became one of the most frequent morphological means to express this value, namely stra- (e.g., strafamoso ‘very popular’, STRA+popular). As pointed out by Napoli (2012), stra- (from Latin adverb/preposition extra ‘outside, beyond’) shows an intensifying value already in Old Italian, mostly in combination with qualifying adjectives. It shows significant similarities with sopra-, as demonstrated by the fact that, in some cases, they attach to the same bases (e.g., strabundanza and soprabbondanza ‘superabundance’). Thus, they can be considered in competition in the expression of intensification in adjectives, at least in the most ancient stages of the language. A further in-depth comparison between sopra- and stra- (as well as between sopra- and other intensifying elements such as super-) can be carried out based on data extracted from CODIT.

3.4.2. -Oide

Turning to -oide, we have calculated the type and token frequencies of -oide words in each subcorpus of CODIT.

Table 6. -oide: type and token frequencies (normalized data in brackets)

1

2

3

4

5

Type

0

0

1

(1)

1

(0.9)

10

(9.7)

45

(40.2)

Token

0

0

2

(2)

1

(0.9)

99

(96)

178

(159)

  • 9 However, it should be noted that romboide is attested within the corpus of Old Italian OVI (Opera V (...)

As illustrated in Table 6, -oide words are not attested in the first subcorpus.9 The first attestations of complex words containing -oide as suffix have been found in the second and third subcorpora (corresponding, respectively, to the periods 1376-1532 and 1533-1691). Specifically, the oldest type we have found is romboide ‘parallelogram that is neither rhombus nor rectangle’, attested in the ancient feminine form romboida (used as an adjective referring to the noun figura ‘figure’) and the masculine noun romboido. The geometrical term romboide represents a learned loan from Ancient Greek ῥομβοειδής (see Latin rhomboides) and was introduced by Euclid to refer to a type of parallelograms which are similar in shape to rhombuses. Within the subcorpus 3, we only found the adjective concoide (a loan from Ancient Greek κογχοειδής where κόγχη ‘shell’) used in physics to indicate a type of fracture with a curved surface.

Starting from the fourth period, -oide begins to occur more frequently in complex words: we have focused on the last two subcorpora due to increased data availability. Subcorpus 4 contains 10 types, six of which belong to the geometry vocabulary, namely cicloide ‘cycloid’, conoide ‘conoid’, ellissoide ‘ellipsoid’, paraboloide ‘paraboloid’, romboide ‘rhomboid’, sferoide ‘spheroid’. The four exceptions are still part of scientific terminology, e.g., ovoide ‘ovoidal’ (egg+OIDE) and aracnoide ‘arachnoid mater’ (aracn- ‘spider’) are used in medical vocabulary to indicate body parts or organs showing a shape similar to that conveyed by the base. Within subcorpus 5, we have found 45 types containing -oide, mostly attested in scientific texts. In particular, 29 types only occur in scientific texts, four types occur both in scientific texts and essays or letters, while 14 types only occur in essays.

From a morphological point of view, we have noted that -oide mostly combines with autonomous words (e.g., paraboloide ‘paraboloid’, parabola ‘id.’ +OIDE), but in 16 cases, it occurs with combining forms (e.g., aracnoide ‘arachnoid mater’ where aracn- ‘spider’ is a combining form of classical origin). Moreover, the bases are mostly morphologically simplex words (e.g., negroide ‘negroid’, negro ‘black’ +OIDE), but some cases where the bases are derived words are attested (e.g., criminaloide ‘potential criminal’ where criminale ‘criminal’ is derived from crimine ‘crime’ through the suffix -ale). In some rare cases, -oide does not add to a derived base; rather, it replaces its suffix, as in epilettoide ‘epileptoid, referring to clinical manifestations reminiscent of those of epilepsy’, made up of epilett(ico) ‘epileptic’ +OIDE).

Finally, we have analyzed the lexical categories of the bases with which -oide combines and its semantics.

Table 7. -oide: lexical categories of the bases and semantics in the last two subcorpora (raw data)

4

5

Lexical categories of the bases

ADJ

NOUN

  

0

10

  

9

36

Semantics

SHAPE

SIMILARITY

  

10

0

  

27

16

As illustrated in Table 7, within the fourth subcorpus, -oide always combines with nouns and refers to ‘something similar to X in shape’, where X is the entity conveyed by the base.

  • 10 These words have been classified separately since the relationship between the derived word and the (...)

In the last subcorpus, -oide mainly occurs with nouns, while in nine cases, it combines with adjectives (especially relational adjectives), all indicating human beings (e.g., borghesoide ‘who poses as bourgeois’). From a semantic point of view, -oide can indicate similarity in shape10 (e.g., ovoide ‘ovoidal, egg-like in shape’) –namely the original value conveyed in Ancient Greek and attested in the learned loans– or express a broader notion of similarity, based on various parameters. In particular, in scientific texts, -oide is used with a categorizing function to refer to entities or materials which are similar but not identical to a given entity or material (e.g., granitoide ‘referring to igneous rocks with characteristics similar to those of granite’ or alcaloide ‘organic substance with properties similar to those of alkalis’). Within political or social essays, -oide still refers to similarity based on concrete/physical features in anthropological terms related to the classification of types of homo sapiens, defined based on the shape of the skull and other craniometric and anthropometric features (e.g. negroide ‘negroid’ or australoide ‘australoid’). These cases are crucial in that they allow both interpretation (i.e., similarity strictly based on shape and similarity based on other concrete features). Finally, -oide can refer to someone that behaves like a member of a given (social) group but without being part of it, such as in socialistoide ‘sympathizer of socialism, pseudo-socialist’ or mattoide ‘weirdo, psycho’ (crazy+OIDE), exemplified in (5).

(5) a. I governi di molti paesi d’Europa […] difficilmente possono respingere tutte queste e le analoghe aspirazioni dei socialisti e socialistoidi. (Gaetano Mosca, Elementi di scienza politica)

‘The governments of many European countries […] can hardly reject all these and similar aspirations of the socialists and pseudo-socialists’.

b. che direbbero gli insigni psichiatri, così facili a dispensare la patente di matto o di mattoide, se qualcuno affermasse invece che i mattoidi sono loro? (Olindo Guerrini, Brani di vita)

‘What would the illustrious psychiatrists, that easily dispense the license of madman or psycho, say if someone said instead that they are psycho?’.

In both examples, the derived word occurs together with the corresponding non-derived word to highlight that the speaker is referring to both the prototypical member of a given category (e.g., the true madman) and the peripheral elements that are similar but not coincident with the prototype (e.g., the psycho). In these derived words, the value conveyed by -oide is evaluative in nature in that it reflects the speaker’s judgment, which can show an approximating or a pejorative value. This approximating value is well-attested in the last decades, as illustrated in the following examples, extracted from the itTenTen16 corpus, i.e., a web corpus of Contemporary Italian.

(6) a. Dalle nostre parti quello slang non è mai approdato, nonostante il massiccio utilizzo di terminologia inglesoide.

‘That slang has never landed where we come from, despite the massive use of English-like terminology’.

b. […] con i suoi soldi il ministero dell’Interno finanzierà un osservatorio carfagnoide sulla minoranza degli omosessuali e le altre a rischio di discriminazione.

‘[…] with his money, the Ministry of the Interior will fund a Carfagna-style observatory on homosexuals and other minorities at risk of discrimination’.

Both examples in (6) show that -oide is currently used by speakers to indicate something (or someone) that resembles –but does not coincide with– a given category. Interestingly, the base can also be represented by a proper noun, as in (6b), where carfagnoide refers to an observatory in line with the other initiatives against gender-based violence promoted by the politician Mara Carfagna (former Italian minister for Equal Opportunities). In both examples, -oide also conveys a pejorative nuance, making the speaker’s tone polemic.

To sum up, we have found that -oide firstly occurs in a small number of learned loans belonging to the geometry vocabulary where it conveyed the original Ancient Greek value related to shape. Starting from the period represented by the fourth subcorpus, the frequency of -oide starts to increase: it occurs in scientific terminologies where it combines only with nouns and always expresses the value ‘similar in shape’. Data extracted from the most recent period represented within CODIT show a significant increase in terms of frequency; moreover, we have found that -oide also occurs in essays and letters, where it combines with both nouns and adjectives. From a semantic point of view, it is used (even if not frequently) also to express the evaluative function of approximation (and sometimes pejoration). The usage of -oide in the first part of the 20th century is crucial to understand the current behaviour of -oide in ordinary language, characterized by a loosening of the semantic and morphological constraints on the selection of the base. As already mentioned, the emergence of an evaluative meaning in affixes initially used in scientific terminologies has been already noted by Masini & Micheli (2020) for Italian. This analysis confirms that affixes initially used with a categorizing function can develop an evaluative value and that the emergence of the approximating function represents a recent change.

4. Concluding remarks

This article has outlined the main features of CODIT by focusing on its structure in subcorpora, based on the chronological period and the text genre. This structure proved to be crucial to understand the semantic changes that have affected two affixes, i.e., the prefix sopra- and the suffix -oide. The corpus size has allowed us to extract a good amount of data for the quantitative analysis, while metadata provided for each text has made it possible to contextualize each occurrence of -oide or sopra- words. Finally, the lack of annotation and lemmatization has made the data preparation more time-consuming but did not prevent to carry on this investigation. Nonetheless, further steps will be devoted to lemmatization and POS annotation of the corpus.

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Bibliographie

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Notes

1 We have chosen to compare CODIT with MIDIA since the latter represents the only other balanced diachronic corpus which covers the entire history of the Italian language and includes texts of different genres. However, as noted by an anonymous reviewer, other resources have been used in previous diachronic studies on Italian, such as LIZ 4.0 (Stoppelli & Picchi 2001) and DiaCORIS (Onelli et al., 2006).

2 CODIT has been released in March 2021. It can be searched at the website https://www.korpus.cz/kontext/query?corpname=codit (accessed: 29/09/2021).

3 The corpus MIDIA is freely available at the URL: http://www.corpusmidia.unito.it/ (accessed: 29/09/2021).

4 The morphological status of words such as soprammobile (SOPRA+piece of forniture) has been discussed within the literature devoted to the boundaries between compounding and derivation. According to Scalise (1994: 136), they are exocentric compounds, in that the head of the word does not coincide with one of the two constituents (i.e., a soprammobile IS not A [type of] mobile). On the other hand, Montermini (2008: 139-48) ascribes sopra- to a set of bisyllabic prefixes (among which also contro- ‘counter/against’, sotto- ‘sub/under’) which show non-prototypical features. In this study, we have considered these words as prefixed and included them in our analysis.

5 According to Iacobini (2004: 157), in sovrastampare ‘overprint, print over another print’, sopra- show an iterative function. However, we suggest that also locative interpretation is possible here.

6 The Treccani Dictionary of Neologisms is freely available at the following URL: https://www.treccani.it/magazine/lingua_italiana/neologismi/searchNeologismi.jsp (accessed: 29/09/2021).

7 The ONLI repository can be accessed at the following URL: https://www.iliesi.cnr.it/ONLI/ (accessed: 29/09/2021).

8 Normalized data in brackets.

9 However, it should be noted that romboide is attested within the corpus of Old Italian OVI (Opera Vocabolario Italiano), which is larger than the first subcorpus of CODIT.

10 These words have been classified separately since the relationship between the derived word and the base rests on a specific kind of similarity related to a concrete feature, namely the shape.

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Référence électronique

M. Silvia Micheli, « CODIT. A new resource for the study of Italian from a diachronic perspective: Design and applications in the morphological field »Corpus [En ligne], 23 | 2022, mis en ligne le 02 mars 2022, consulté le 05 octobre 2022. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/corpus/7306 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/corpus.7306

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Auteur

M. Silvia Micheli

Università degli studi di Milano – Bicocca

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