Friday, 24 May 2013

Tell Me, Who Is That Little Girl?


Introduction
This post is about the practical use of the suffixes in general and more specifically the use of diminutives.




SCENARIO
Imagine you are talking to a relative, a friend or a colleague. You are looking at some photographs. Suddenly, the other person appears intrigued by a photograph of a young girl and says to you something like:: "tell me, who is that little girl?".

In Spanish, he/ she could choose to be less formal and say to you:
Dime, ¿quién es esa muchachita?

On the other hand, he/ she could choose to be more formal and say to you:
Dígame, ¿quién es esa muchachita?


OUR TIP
The question is an invitation for you to identify a particular person. When you identify a person, you may need to consider different levels of formality for you reply. That is specifically so when the person you are talking to is referenced in your answer, either as an individual or as part of a group. In such cases, you will have to choose between a less formal/ familiar answer and a more formal answer. The set of answers below takes that into consideration.

Here are some examples of how you could reply:
  • Esa muchachita* es nuestra amiga Ana (that little girl is our friend Ana);
  • Esa muchachita* es mi prima Ana (that little girl is my cousin Ana);
  • Esa muchachita* eres tú, ¿verdad? (that little girl is you -familiar, isn't it?);
  • Esa muchachita* es usted, ¿verdad? (that little girl is you -formal, isn't it?);
  • Esa muchachita* es la hermana de Pedro (that little girl is Pedro's sister);

Now you should practise replying to someone who says to you:
Dime, ¿quién es esa muchachita?

*Please see grammar topic below- suffixes/ diminutives


Grammar-Suffixes




By suffixes we refer to a feature of certain languages which allows altering the meaning of words by changing some of the words' ending letters. An example of this feature is the English suffix -ist, which allows changes such as:





  • Piano → Pianist
  • Journal → Journalist
  • Trombone → Trombonist
  • Etc.

In addition to the above type of suffixes, there are suffixes in Spanish which are able to alter the meaning of words (usually nouns) by indicating for example a larger/ smaller size than normal. The use of suffixes is very common in Spanish, especially in the spoken language.

This post deals with perhaps the three most common of types of such suffixes. These are:

    1. Augmentatives
These are words which with the aid of a suffix have become enlarged/ bigger than the original word. The effect of using suffixes in this way is in some way the equivalent of placing the adjective “big” in front of a word in English. Often people use of these suffixes to convey a perception of something being truly outstanding. The more common of these suffixes are perhaps:
  • -azo/ -aza
  • -on/ -ona
  • -ote/ -ota

Some examples of the use of these suffixes are:
  • Coche (car) → Cochazo (big car);
  • Jarra (jar/ jug) → Jarraza (big jar/ jug);
  • Jarro (pitcher/ jug) → Jarrón (big pitcher/ jug);
  • Casa (house) → Casona (big house);
  • Abrazo (hug) → Abrazote (big hug);
  • Cabeza (hug) → Cabezota (big head);


    2. Diminutives
These are words which with the aid of a suffix have become smaller than the original word. The effect of using suffixes in this way is in some way the equivalent of placing the adjective “little” in front of a word in English. Often people use of these suffixes to convey a feeling of affection or even child-like candour. The more common of these suffixes are:
  • -cecito/ -cecita
  • -cito/ -cita
  • -illo/ -illa
  • -ito/ -ita

Some examples of the use of these suffixes are:
  • Pie (foot) → Piececito (little foot);
  • Luz (light) → Lucecita (little light);
  • Café (coffee) → Cafecito (little coffee);
  • Coche (car) → Cochecito (little car);
  • Carro (cart) → Carrillo (little cart);
  • Cuchara (spoon) → Cucharilla (little spoon);
  • Juan (John) → Juanito (little John);
  • Juana (Joan) → Juanita (little Joan);


    3. Pejoratives
These are words which with the aid of a suffix have their meaning degraded in some way. Often people use of these suffixes as a means conveying a derogatory meaning about something. There are many suffixes of this type. Some commonly used ones are are:
  • -ucho/ -ucha
  • -uzo/ -uza

Some examples of the use of these suffixes are:
  • Pueblo (town) → Pueblucho (drab dead end town);
  • Casa (house) → Casucha (grotty little house);
  • Gente (people) → Gentuza (rabble/ scum/ trash);

Now you should practise the use of suffixes with some examples of your own.

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