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Is use of diminutives that lost their diminutive meaning a common phenomenon in the development of languages?
I believe it is (add Russian, bigtime), but I’ve just gone through half a dozen historical linguistics textbooks, and it’s not discussed separately in any of them. I was even struggling to find a good term describing this phenomenon: lexicalised diminutives I guess is the best.
The problem is that semantic change is massively variegated, and the typologies of semantic change (which covers this) are pretty vague. This could be argued to be an instance of litotes/understatement, or an instance of generalisation, or an instance of bleaching.