On (apparently) synonymous affixes: A contrastive analysis of Catalan “des-” and “es-”



It is commonly assumed that the Catalan prefixes des- and es- are synonymous, since they can be found attached to the same base in change of state verbs with an apparently identical meaning; cf. desgranar and esgranar ‘to extract the grain’. The aim of this paper is to show that these two prefixes are non-trivially different, as suggested by the fact that only the latter, but not the former, is attested with an ingressive (or Goal-oriented) meaning; cf. estovar ‘to soften’. Following a nanosyntactic approach to grammar, I claim that the trees lexicalized by des- and es- are not composed of the same morphosyntactic features, which accounts for their different morphosyntactic behaviour as well as for their semantic contrasts. It is proposed that des- lexicalizes a Source Path, whereas es- lexicalizes a Goal Path in addition to a root node. The paper is also a contribution to the long-standing debate of how morphemes with similar meanings compete for insertion.


prefixes, roots, complex verbs, change of state, Goal Paths, Source Paths, Nanosyntax, Catalan


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