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It's really impressive how 子 [zi] is super productive as a noun suffix. But I can't see any relation of how the idea of "child" could turn into a suffix.

Thanks!

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    Are you familiar with the concept of diminutives? E.g. -zinho
    – Michaelyus
    Jan 22, 2019 at 13:18
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    Does this help? chinese.stackexchange.com/questions/31303/…
    – dROOOze
    Jan 22, 2019 at 19:38
  • This is not unusual among languages. 儿 is the other Chinese diminutive and has a similar literal meaning. I'm pretty sure that in Thai the diminutive is also formed using a word literally meaning "child" except it's a prefix rather than a suffix. Mar 4, 2019 at 12:38

2 Answers 2

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It's called a diminutive suffix, about which you can read these entries:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diminutive

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_diminutives_by_language

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  • While this is true I feel it is a little bit of an oversimplification. While 子 may have begun as a diminutive suffix, there are many examples of common nouns in which it has lost any diminutive meaning and is present only for prosodic reasons, ie, to make a two syllable word out of a one syllable word. 帽子 vs. 帽.
    – Buddy L
    Jun 8, 2022 at 18:51
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In Chinese, 子 has multiple meanings and usages.

(1) One of them is the noun "child" such as 父与子(the father and the child).

(2) You can also say 孔子 which means Confucius. Here 子 is used as a suffix to some great ancient scholars. The usage here is similar as we put "Dr." before the person who has a Ph.D. degree.

(3) The case you mentioned which the 子 is used as the noun suffix is another usage, such as 桌子,椅子,瓶子,镜子(table, chair, bottle, mirror). It doesn't really have a relationship with the meaning "child".

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