Reduplication is used in inflections to convey a grammatical function, such as plurality, intensification, etc., and in lexical derivation to create new words. It is often used when a speaker adopts a tone more "expressive" or figurative than ordinary speech and is also often, but not exclusively, iconic in meaning. Reduplication is found in a wide range of languages and language groups, though its level of linguistic productivity varies.
Reduplication is the standard term for this phenomenon in the linguistics literature. Other terms that are occasionally used include cloning, doubling, duplication, and repetition.
Reduplication is often described phonologically in one of two different ways: either (1) as reduplicated segments (sequences of consonants/vowels) or (2) as reduplicated prosodic units (syllables or moras). In addition to phonological description, reduplication often needs to be described morphologically as a reduplication of linguistic constituents (i.e. words, stems, roots). As a result, reduplication is interesting theoretically as it involves the interface between phonology and morphology.
The base is the word (or part of the word) that is to be copied. The reduplicated element is called the reduplicant, often abbreviated as RED or sometimes just R.
In reduplication, the reduplicant is most often repeated only once. However, in some languages, reduplication can occur more than once, resulting in a tripled form, and not a duple as in most reduplication. Triplication is the term for this phenomenon of copying three times. Pingelapese has both reduplication and triplication.
Basic Verb Reduplication Triplication kɔul 'to sing' kɔukɔul 'singing' kɔukɔukɔul 'still singing' mejr 'to sleep' mejmejr 'sleeping' mejmejmejr 'still sleeping'
Sometimes gemination (i.e. the doubling of consonants or vowels) is considered to be a form of reduplication. The term dupleme has been used (after morpheme) to refer to different types of reduplication that have the same meaning.
Full and partial reduplication
[ɡin] 'ourselves' → [ɡinɡin] 'we (to) us' (ɡin-ɡin) [jaː] 'themselves' → [jaːjaː] 'they (to) them' (jaː-jaː) (Watters 2002)
Another example is from Musqueam Halkomelem "dispositional" aspect formation:
[kʼʷə́ɬ] 'to capsize' → [kʼʷə́ɬkʼʷəɬ] 'likely to capsize' (kʼʷə́ɬ-kʼʷəɬ) [qʷél] 'to speak' → [qʷélqʷel] 'talkative' (qʷél-qʷel) (Shaw 2004)
Partial reduplication involves a reduplication of only part of the word. For example, Marshallese forms words meaning 'to wear X' by reduplicating the last consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) sequence of a base, i.e. base+CVC:
kagir 'belt' → kagirgir 'to wear a belt' (kagir-gir) takin 'sock' → takinkin 'to wear socks' (takin-kin) (Moravsik 1978)
Many languages often use both full and partial reduplication, as in the Motu example below:
Base Verb Full reduplication Partial reduplication mahuta 'to sleep' mahutamahuta 'to sleep constantly' mamahuta 'to sleep (plural)' (mahuta-mahuta) (ma-mahuta)
Initial reduplication in Agta (CV- prefix):
[ɸuɾab] 'afternoon' → [ɸuɸuɾab] 'late afternoon' (ɸu-ɸuɾab) [ŋaŋaj] 'a long time' → [ŋaŋaŋaj] 'a long time (in years)' (ŋa-ŋaŋaj) (Healey 1960)
Final reduplication in Dakota (-CCV suffix):
[hãska] 'tall (singular)' → [hãskaska] 'tall (plural)' (hãska-ska) [waʃte] 'good (singular)' → [waʃteʃte] 'good (plural)' (waʃte-ʃte) (Shaw 1980, Marantz 1982, Albright 2002)
Internal reduplication in Samoan (-CV- infix):
savali 'he/she walks' (singular) → savavali 'they walk' (plural) (sa-va-vali) alofa 'he/she loves' (singular) → alolofa 'they love' (plural) (a-lo-lofa) (Moravcsik 1978, Broselow and McCarthy 1984) le tamaloa 'the man' (singular) → tamaloloa 'men' (plural) (tama-lo-loa)
Internal reduplication is much less common than the initial and final types.
A reduplicant can copy from either the left edge of a word (left-to-right copying) or from the right edge (right-to-left copying). There is a tendency for prefixing reduplicants to copy left-to-right and for suffixing reduplicants to copy right-to-left:
Initial L → R copying in Oykangand Kunjen (a Pama–Nyungan language of Australia):
[eder] → [ededer] 'rain' (ed-eder) [alɡal] → [alɡalɡal] 'straight' (alg-algal)
Final R → L copying in Sirionó:
achisia → achisiasia 'I cut' (achisia-sia) ñimbuchao → ñimbuchaochao 'to come apart' (ñimbuchao-chao) (McCarthy and Prince 1996)
Copying from the other direction is possible although less common:
Initial R → L copying in Tillamook:
[ɡaɬ] 'eye' → [ɬɡaɬ] 'eyes' (ɬ-ɡaɬ) [təq] 'break' → [qtəq] 'they break' (q-təq) (Reichard 1959)
Final L → R copying in Chukchi:
nute- 'ground' → nutenut 'ground (abs. sg.)' (nute-nut) jilʔe- 'gopher' → jilʔejil 'gopher (abs. sg.)' (jilʔe-jil) (Marantz 1982)
Internal reduplication can also involve copying the beginning or end of the base. In Quileute, the first consonant of the base is copied and inserted after the first vowel of the base.
Internal L → R copying in Quileute:
[tsiko] 'he put it on' → [tsitsko] 'he put it on (frequentative)' (tsi-ts-ko) [tukoːjoʔ] 'snow' → [tutkoːjoʔ] 'snow here and there' (tu-t-ko:jo’) (Broselow and McCarthy 1984)
In Temiar, the last consonant of the root is copied and inserted before the medial consonant of the root.
Internal R → L copying in Temiar (an Austro-Asiatic language of Malaysia):
[sluh] 'to shoot (perfective)' → [shluh] 'to shoot (continuative)' (s-h-luh) [slɔɡ] 'to marry (perfective)' → [sɡlɔɡ] 'to marry (continuative)' (s-ɡ-lɔɡ) (Broselow and McCarthy 1984, Walther 2000)
A rare type of reduplication is found in Semai (an Austro-Asiatic language of Malaysia). "Expressive minor reduplication" is formed with an initial reduplicant that copies the first and last segment of the base:
[kʉːʔ] → [kʔkʉːʔ] 'to vomit' (kʔ-kʉːʔ) [dŋɔh] → [dhdŋɔh] 'appearance of nodding constantly' (dh-dŋɔh) [cruhaːw] → [cwcruhaːw] 'monsoon rain' (cw-cruhaːw) (Diffloth 1973
Reduplication and other morphological processes
All of the examples above consist of only reduplication. However, reduplication often occurs with other phonological and morphological process, such as deletion, affixation of non-reduplicating material, etc.
For instance, in Tz'utujil a new '-ish' adjective form is derived from other words by suffixing the reduplicated first consonant of the base followed by the segment [oχ]. This can be written succinctly as -Coχ. Below are some examples:
- [kaq] 'red' → [kaqkoχ] 'reddish' (kaq-k-oχ)
- [qʼan] 'yellow' → [qʼanqʼoχ] 'yellowish' (qʼan-qʼ-oχ)
- [jaʔ] 'water' → [jaʔjoχ] 'watery' (jaʔ-j-oχ) (Dayley 1985)
Somali has a similar suffix that is used in forming the plural of some nouns: -aC (where C is the last consonant of the base):
- [toɡ] 'ditch' → [toɡaɡ] 'ditches' (toɡ-a-ɡ)
- [ʕad] 'lump of meat' → [ʕadad] 'lumps of meat' (ʕad-a-d)
- [wɪːl] 'boy' → [wɪːlal] 'boys' (wɪːl-a-l) (Abraham 1964)
This combination of reduplication and affixation is commonly referred to as fixed-segment reduplication.
- [nowiu] 'ox' → [nonnowiu] 'ox (distributive)' (no-n-nowiu)
- [hódai] 'rock' → [hohhodai] 'rock (distributive)' (ho-h-hodai)
- [kow] 'dig out of ground (unitative)' → [kokkow] 'dig out of ground (repetitive)' (ko-k-kow)
- [ɡɨw] 'hit (unitative)' → [ɡɨɡɡɨw] 'hit (repetitive)' (ɡɨ-ɡ-ɡɨw) (Haugen forthcoming)
Sometimes gemination can be analyzed as a type of reduplication.
Phonological processes, environment, and reduplicant-base relations
- base-reduplicant "identity" (OT terminology: BR-faithfulness)
- tonal transfer/non-transfer
Function and meaning
In the Malayo-Polynesian family, reduplication is used to form plurals (among many other functions):
- Malay rumah "house", rumah-rumah "houses".
In pre-1972 Indonesian and Malay orthography, 2 was shorthand for the reduplication that forms plurals: orang "person", orang-orang or orang2 "people". This orthography has resurfaced widely in text messaging and other forms of electronic communication.
The Nama language uses reduplication to increase the force of a verb: go, "look;", go-go "examine with attention".
Chinese also uses reduplication: 人 rén for "person", 人人 rénrén for "everybody". Japanese does it too: 時 toki "time", tokidoki 時々 "sometimes, from time to time". Both languages can use a special written iteration mark 々 to indicate reduplication, although in Chinese the iteration mark is no longer used in standard writing and is often found only in calligraphy.
None of these sorts of forms survive in modern English, although they existed in its parent Germanic languages. A number of verbs in the Indo-European languages exhibit reduplication in the present stem rather than the perfect stem, often with a different vowel from that used for the perfect: Latin gigno, genui ("I beget, I begat") and Greek τίθημι, ἔθηκα, τέθηκα (I place, I placed, I have placed). Other Indo-European verbs used reduplication as a derivational process; compare Latin sto ("I stand") and sisto ("I remain"). All of these Indo-European inherited reduplicating forms are subject to reduction by other phonological laws.
Contemporary spoken Finnish uses reduplicated nouns to indicate genuinity, completeness, originality and being uncomplicated as opposed to being fake, incomplete, complicated or fussy. It can be thought as compound word formation. For example, Söin viisi jäätelöä, pullapitkon ja karkkia, sekä tietysti ruokaruokaa. "I ate five choc-ices, a long loaf of coffee bread and candy, and of course food-food". Here, the "food-food" is contrasted to the "junk-food" -- the principal role of food is nutrition, and "junkfood" isn't nutritious, so "food-food" is nutritious food, exclusively. One may say "En ollut eilen koulussa, koska olin kipeä. Siis kipeäkipeä" ("I wasn't at school yesterday because I was sick. Sick-sick, that is"), meaning one was actually suffering from an illness and is not making up excuses as usual.
- ruoka "food", ruokaruoka "proper food", as opposed to snacks
- peli "game", pelipeli "complete game",as opposed to a mod
- puhelin "phone", puhelinpuhelin "phone for talking", as opposed to a pocket computer
- kauas "far away", kauaskauas "unquestionably far away"
- koti "home", kotikoti "home of your parents", as opposed to one's current place of residence
These sorts of reduplicative forms, such as "food-food," are not merely literal translations of the Finnish but in fact have some frequency in contemporary English for emphasising, as in Finnish, an "authentic" form of a certain thing. "Food-food" is one of the most common, along with such a possibilities for "car-car" to describe a vehicle which is actually a car (small automobile) and not something else such as a truck, or "house-house," for a stand-alone house structure as opposed to an apartment, for instance.
Reduplication comes after inflection in Finnish. Young adults may ask one another Menetkö kotiin vai kotiinkotiin? "Are you going home or home-home?" The reduplicated home refers to the old home that used to be their home before they moved out to their new home.
In Swiss German, the verbs gah or goh "go", cho "come", la or lo "let" and aafa or aafo "begin" reduplicate when combined with other verbs.
example: Si chunt üse Chrischtboum cho schmücke. literal translation: she comes our Christmas tree come adorn translation She comes to adorn our Christmas tree. example: Si lat ne nid la schlafe. literal translation: she lets him not let sleep translation: She doesn't let him sleep.
In some Salishan languages, reduplication is used to mark both diminution and plurality, one process applying to each end of the word, as in the following example from Shuswap. Note that the data was transcribed in a way that is not comparable to the IPA, but the reduplication of both initial and final portions of the root is clear: ṣōk!Emē'’n 'knife' reduplicated as ṣuk!ṣuk!Emen'’me’n (Haeberlin 1918:159).
Reduplicative babbling in child language acquisition
During the period 25–50 weeks after birth, all typically developing infants go through a stage of reduplicated or canonical babbling (Stark 198, Oller, 1980). Canonical babbling is characterized by repetition of identical or nearly identical consonant vowel combinations, such as 'nanana' or 'didididi'. It appears as a progression of language development as infants experiment with their vocal apparatus and hone in on the sounds used in their native language. Canonical/reduplicated babbling also appears at a time when general rhythmic behavior, such as rhythmic hand movements and rhythmic kicking, appear. Canonical babbling is distinguished from earlier syllabic and vocal play, which has less structure.
The Proto-Indo-European language used partial reduplication of a consonant and e in many stative aspect verb forms. The perfect or preterite (past) tense of some Ancient Greek, Latin, and Gothic verbs preserves this reduplication:
- λύω lúō 'I free' vs. λέλυκα léluka "I have freed"
- hald "I hold" vs. haíhald (hĕhald) "I/he held"
- currō "I run" vs. cucurrī "I ran" or "have run"
Proto-Indo-European also used reduplication for imperfective aspect. Ancient Greek preserves this reduplication in the present tense of some verbs. Usually, but not always, this is reduplication of a consonant and i, and contrasts with e-reduplication in the perfect:
- δίδωμι dídōmi "I give" (present)
- δέδωκα dédōka "I have given" (perfect)
- *σίσδω sísdō → ἵζω hízō "I set" (present)
- *σέσδομαι sésdomai → ἕζομαι hézomai "I sit down" (present; from sd-, zero-grade of root in *sed-os → ἕδος hédos "seat, abode")
English uses some kinds of reduplication, mostly for informal expressive vocabulary. There are three types:
- Rhyming reduplication: hokey-pokey, razzle-dazzle, super-duper, teenie-weenie, wingding
Although at first glance "Abracadabra" appears to be an English rhyming reduplication it in fact is not; instead, it is derived from the Aramaic formula "Abəra kaDavəra" meaning "I would create as I spoke")
- Exact reduplications (baby-talk-like): bye-bye, choo-choo, night-night, no-no, pee-pee, poo-poo
Couscous is not an English example for reduplication, since it is taken from a French word which has a Maghrebi origin.
- Ablaut reduplications: bric-a-brac, chit-chat, criss-cross, ding-dong, jibber-jabber, kitty-cat, knick-knack, pitter-patter, splish-splash, zig-zag.
In the ablaut reduplications, the first vowel is almost always a high vowel and the reduplicated ablaut variant of the vowel is a low vowel.
None of the above types are particularly productive, meaning that the sets are fairly fixed and new forms are not easily accepted, but there is another form of reduplication that is used as a deprecative called shm-reduplication that can be used with most any word; e.g. baby-shmaby, cancer-schmancer and fancy-schmancy. This process is a feature of American English from Yiddish, starting among the American Jews of New York City, then the New York dialect and then the whole country.
When the slang -ma- infix is used on a two-syllable word with an initial open syllable, the second syllable is reduplicated and the infix appears in between, though often the first instance of the reduplicated syllable is reduced to consonant-schwa. Thus from oboe we get oboe-ma-boe or oba-ma-boe, and from purple we get purple-ma-ple or purpa-ma-ple (Yu 2004).
Contrastive focus reduplication. Exact reduplication can be used with contrastive focus (generally where the first noun is stressed) to indicate a literal, as opposed to figurative, example of a noun, or perhaps a sort of Platonic ideal of the noun, as in "Is that carrot cheesecake or carrot CAKE-cake?". This is similar to the Finnish use mentioned above. An extensive list of such examples is found in .
More can be learned about English reduplication in Thun (1963), Cooper and Ross (1975), and Nevins and Vaux (2003).
While not common in Dutch, reduplication does exist. Most, but not all (e.g., pipi, blauwblauw (laten), taaitaai (gingerbread)) reduplications in Dutch are loanwords (e.g., koeskoes, bonbon, (ik hoorde het) via via) or imitative (e.g., tamtam, tomtom). Another example is a former safe sex campaign slogan in Flanders: Eerst bla-bla, dan boem-boem (First talk, then have sex). In Dutch the verb "gaan" (to go) can be used as an auxiliary verb, which can lead to a triplication: we gaan (eens) gaan gaan (we are going to get going). The use of gaan as an auxiliary verb with itself is considered incorrect, but is commonly used in Flanders. Numerous examples of reduplication in Dutch (and other languages) are discussed by Daniëls (2000).
Afrikaans regularly utilizes reduplication to emphasize the meaning of the word repeated. For example, krap means "to scratch one's self," while krap-krap-krap means "to scratch one's self vigorously."  Reduplication in Afrikaans has been described extensively in the literature - see for example Botha (1988), Van Huyssteen (2004) and Van Huyssteen & Wissing (2007).
In Italian reduplication was used both to create new words or words associations (tran-tran, via via, leccalecca) and to intensify the meaning (corri!, corri! = run!, run!).
Common in Lingua Franca, particularly but not exclusively for onomatopoeic action descriptions: "Spagnoli venir...boum boum...andar; Inglis venir...boum boum bezef...andar; Francés venir...tru tru tru...chapar." ("The Spaniards came, cannonaded, and left. The English came, cannonaded heavily, and left. The French came, trumpeted on bugles, and captured it.")
Common uses for reduplication in French are the creation of hypocoristics for names, whereby Louise becomes Loulou, and Zinedine Zidane becomes Zizou; and in many infantile words, like dada, 'horse' (standard cheval), tati, 'aunt' (standard tante), or tonton, 'uncle' (standard oncle).
In Romanian, reduplication is not uncommon and it has been used for both the creation of new words (including many from onomatopoeia), for example, mormăi, ţurţur, dârdâi, and for expressions, like talmeş-balmeş, harcea-parcea, terchea-berchea, ţac-pac, calea-valea, hodoronc-tronc, or in more recent slang, trendy-flendy.
The reduplication in the Russian language serves for various kinds of intensifying of the meaning and exists in several forms: a hyphenated or repeated word (either exact or inflected reduplication), and forms similar to shm-reduplication.
Reduplication is a very common practice in Persian, to the extent that there are jokes about it. Mainly due to the mixed nature of the Persian language, most of the reduplication comes in the form of a phrase consisting of a Persian word -va- (and) and an Arabic word, like "Taghdir-Maghdir". Reduplication is particularly common in the city of Shiraz in southwestern Iran. One can further categorize the reduplicative words into "True" and "Quasi" ones. In true reduplicative words, both words are actually real words and have meaning in the language in which it is used. In quasi-reduplicative words, at least one of the words does not have a meaning. Some examples of true reduplicative words in Persian are: "Xert-o-Pert" (Odds and ends); "Čert-o-Pert" (Nonsense); "Čarand-o-Parand" (Nonsense); "Āb-o-Tāb" (much detail). Among the quasi-reduplicative words are "Zan-o-man" (wife); "Davā-Mavā" (Argument); "Talā-malā" (jewelry); and "Raxt-o-Paxt" (Items of Clothing). In general reduplication in Persian, is mainly a mockery of words with non-Persian origins.
Indo-Aryan (and Dravidian) languages
Typically all Indo-Aryan languages, like Hindi, Punjabi, Gujarati and Bengali use reduplication in some form or the other. It is usually used to sound casual, or in a suggestive manner. It is often used to mean etcetera. For example in Hindi, chai-shai (chai means tea, while this phrase means tea or any other supplementary drink or tea along with snacks). Quite common in casual conversations are a few more examples like shopping-wopping, khana-wana. Reduplication is also used in Dravidian languages like Telugu for the same purpose.
A number of Nepalese nouns are formed by reduplication. As in other languages, the meaning is not that of a true plural, but collectives that refer to a set of the same or related objects, often in a particular situation.
For example, "rangi changi"* describes an object that is extremely or vividly colorful, like a crazy mix of colors and/or patterns, perhaps dizzying to the eye. The phrase "hina mina" means "scattered," like a large collection of objects spilled (or scampering, as in small animals) in all different directions. The basic Nepalese word for food, "khana" becomes "khana sana" to refer to the broad generality of anything served at a meal. Likewise, "chiya" or tea (conventionally made with milk and sugar) becomes "chiya siya": tea and snacks (such as biscuits or cookies). *Please note, these examples of Nepalese words are spelled with a simplified Latin transliteration only, not as exact spellings.
In Turkish, a word can be reduplicated while replacing the initial consonants (not being m, and possibly missing) with m. The effect is that the meaning of the original word is broadened. For example, tabak means "plate(s)", and tabak mabak then means "plates, dishes and such". This can be applied not only to nouns but to all kinds of words, as in yeşil meşil meaning "green, greenish, whatever". Although not used in formal written Turkish, it is a completely standard and fully accepted construction.
Reduplication is commonly used only with 'suurensuuri' 'big of big', 'pienenpieni' 'small of small' and 'hienonhieno' 'fine of fine' but other adjectives may sometimes be duplicated as well, where a superlative is too strong an expression, somewhat similarly to slavic languages. The structure may be written also separately as 'genitive' 'nominative', which may create confusion on occasion (f.e. 'suurensuuri jalka' 'big of big foot' vs. 'suuren suuri jalka' 'big foot of a big one')
Reduplication is usually rhyming. It can add emphasis: 'pici' (tiny) -> ici-pici (very tiny) and it can modify meaning: 'néha-néha' ('seldom-seldom': seldom but repeatedly), 'erre-arra' ('this way-that way', meaning movement without a definite direction), 'ezt-azt' ('this-that', meaning 'all sort of things'), Reduplication often evokes a sense of playfulness and it's quite common when talking to small children.
- Swahili piga 'to strike'; pigapiga 'to strike repeatedly'
- Ganda okukuba (oku-kuba) 'to strike'; okukubaakuba (oku-kuba-kuba) 'to strike repeatedly, to batter'
- Chewa tambalalá 'to stretch one's legs'; tambalalá-tambalalá to stretch one's legs repeatedly'
Popular names that have reduplication include
In the Hebrew, reduplication is used in nouns and adjectives. For stress, as in גבר גבר (Gever Gever) where the noun גבר 'man' - is duplicated to mean a manly man, a man among man. Or as in לאט לאט (le-aht le-aht) where the adverb לאט 'slowly' - is duplicated to mean very slowly.
Meaning every, as in יום יום (yom yom) where the noun יום 'day' is duplicated to every day, day in day out, day by day.
Some nouns and adjectives can also be made into diminutives by reduplication of the last two consonants, e.g.
- כלב (Kelev) = Dog
- כלבלב (Klavlav) = Puppy
- חתול (Chatul) = Cat
- חתלתול (Chataltul) = Kitten
- לבן (Lavan) = White
- לבנבן (Levanban) = Whitish
- קטן (Katan) = Small
- קטנטן (Ktantan) = Tiny
Reduplication in Hebrew is also productive for the creation of verbs, by reduplicating the root or part of it e.g.:
dal (דל) 'poor,spare' > dilel (דלל) 'to dilute' but also dildel (דלדל) 'to impoverish, to weaken'; nad (נד) 'to move, to nod' > nadad (נדד) 'to wander' but also nidned (נדנד) 'to swing, to nag'.
In Burmese, reduplication is used in verbs and adjectives to form adverbs. Many Burmese words, especially adjectives such as လှပ ('beautiful' [l̥a̰pa̰]), which consist of two syllables (when reduplicated, each syllable is reduplicated separately), when reduplicated (လှပ → လှလှပပ 'beautifully' [l̥a̰l̥a̰ pa̰pa̰]) become adverbs. This is also true of many Burmese verbs, which become adverbs when reduplicated.
Some nouns are also reduplicated to indicate plurality. For instance, ပြည်, means "country," but when reduplicated to အပြည်ပြည်, it means "many countries" (as in အပြည်ပြည်ဆိုင်ရာ, "international"). Another example is အမျိုး, which means "kinds," but the reduplicated form အမျိုးမျိုး means "multiple kinds."
A few measure words can also be reduplicated to indicate "one or the other":
- ယောက် (measure word for people) → တစ်ယောက်ယောက် (someone)
- ခု (measure word for things) → တစ်ခုခု (something)
Adjective reduplication is common in Standard Chinese, typically denoting emphasis, less acute degree of the quality described, or an attempt at more indirect speech: xiǎoxiǎo de 小小的 (small), chòuchòu de 臭臭的 (smelly). In case of adjectives composed of two characters (morphemes), each character is reduplicated separately: piàoliang 漂亮 (beautiful) reduplicates as piàopiàoliangliang 漂漂亮亮.
Verb reduplication is also common in Standard Chinese, conveying the meaning of informal and temporary character of the action. It is often used in imperative expressions, in which it lessens the degree of imperativity: zuòzuò 坐坐 (sit (for a while)), děngděng 等等 (wait (for a while)). Compound verbs are reduplicated as a whole word: xiūxixiūxi 休息休息 (rest (for a while)).
Noun reduplication is found in the southwestern dialect of Mandarin, which is nearly absent in Standard Chinese. For instance, in Sichuan, bāobāo 包包 (handbag) is used whereas Beijing and Guoyu use bāor 包儿. However, there are few nouns that can be reduplicated in Standard Chinese, and reduplication denotes generalisation and uniformity: rén 人 (human being) and rénrén 人人 (everybody (in general, in common)), jiājiāhùhù 家家户户 (every household (uniformly)) - in the latter jiā and hù additionally duplicate the meaning of household, which is a common way of creating compound words in Chinese.
A small number of native Japanese nouns have collective forms produced by reduplication (possibly with rendaku), such as 人々 hitobito "people" (h → b is rendaku) – these are written with the iteration mark "々" to indicate duplication. This formation is not productive and is limited to a small set of nouns. Similarly to Standard Chinese, the meaning is not that of a true plural, but collectives that refer to a large, given set of the same object; for example, the formal English equivalent of 人々 would be "people" (collective), rather than "persons" (plural individuals).
Japanese also contains a large number of mimetic words formed by reduplication of a syllable. These words include not only onomatopoeia, but also words intended to invoke non-auditory senses or psychological states. By one count, approximately 43% of Japanese mimetic words are formed by full reduplication, and many others are formed by partial reduplication, as in がささ〜 ga-sa-sa- (rustling) – compare English "a-ha-ha-ha".
Words called từ láy are found abundantly in Vietnamese. They are formed by repeating a part of a word to form new words, altering the meaning of the original word. Its effect is to sometimes either increase or decrease the intensity of the adjective, and is often used as a literary device (like alliteration) in poetry and other compositions, as well as in everyday speech.
Examples of reduplication increasing intensity:
- đau → đau điếng: hurt → hurt horribly
- mạnh → mạnh mẽ: strong → very strong
- rực → rực rỡ: flaring → blazing
Examples of reduplication decreasing intensity:
- nhẹ → nhè nhẹ: soft → soft (less)
- xinh → xinh xinh: pretty → cute
- đỏ → đo đỏ: red → somewhat red
- xanh → xanh xanh: blue/green → somewhat blue/green
Examples of blunt sounds or physical conditions:
- loảng xoảng — sound of glass breaking to pieces or metallic objects falling to the ground
- hớt hơ hớt hải- (also hớt ha hớt hải) — hard gasps -> in extreme hurry, in panic, panic-stricken
- lục đục — the sound of hard, blunt (and likely wooden) objects hitting against each other -> disagreements and conflicts inside a group or an organisation
Khmer uses reduplication for several purposes, including emphasis and pluralization. Reduplication in Khmer, like many Mon–Khmer languages, can express complex thoughts. Khmer also uses a form of reduplication known as "synonym compounding", in which two phonologically distinct words with similar or identical meanings are combined, either to form the same term or to form a new term altogether.
The wide use of reduplication is certainly one of the most prominent grammatical features of Indonesian and Malay (as well as of other South-East Asian and Austronesian languages
Malay and Indonesian
In Malay and Indonesian, reduplication is a very productive process. It is used for expression of various grammatical functions (such as verbal aspect) and it is part in a number of complex morphological models. Simple reduplication of nouns and pronouns can express at least 3 meanings :
- Diversity or non-exhaustive plurality :
- Burung-burung itu juga diekspor ke luar negeri = "All those birds are also exported out of the country".
- Conceptual similarity :
- langit-langit = "ceiling; palate; etc." < langit = "sky";
- jari-jari = "spoke; bar; radius; etc." < jari = "finger" etc.
- Pragmatic accentuation :
- Saya bukan anak-anak lagi! "I am not a child anymore!" (anak = "child")
Reduplication of an adjective can express different things :
- Adverbialisation : Jangan bicara keras-keras! = "Don't speak loudly!" (keras = hard)
- Plurality of the corresponding noun : Rumah di sini besar-besar = "The houses here are big" (besar = "big").
Reduplication of a verb can express various things :
- Simple reduplication :
- Pragmatic accentuation : Kenapa orang tidak datang-datang? = "Why aren't people coming?"
- Reduplication with me- prefixation, depending on the position of the prefix me- :
- Repetition or continuation of the action : Orang itu meukul-mukul anaknya : "That man continuously beat his child";
- Reciprocity : Kedua orang itu pukul-memukul = "Those two men would beat each other".
Notice that in the first case, the nasalisation of the initial consonant (whereby /p/ becomes /m/) is repeated, while in the second case, it only applies in the repeated word.
In Tetum, reduplication is used to turn adjectives into superlatives.
Reduplication can convey a simple plural meaning, for instance wahine "woman", waahine "women", tangata "person", taangata "people". Biggs calls this "infixed reduplication". It occurs a small subset of people words in most Polynesian languages.
Reduplication can convey emphasis or repetition, for example mate "die", matemate "die in numbers"; and de-emphasis, for example wera "hot" and werawera "warm".
Reduplication can also extend the meaning of a word; for instance paki "pat" becomes papaki "slap or clap once" and pakipaki "applaud"; kimo "blink" becomes kikimo "close eyes firmly".
Australian Aboriginal languages
Reduplication is common in many Australian place names due to their Aboriginal origins. Examples: Turramurra, Parramatta, Wooloomooloo. In the language of the Wiradjuri people of south eastern Australian, plurals are formed by doubling a word, hence 'Wagga' meaning crow becomes Wagga Wagga meaning 'place of many crows'. This occurs in other place names deriving from the Wiradjuri language including Gumly Gumly, Grong Grong and Book Book.
- Language acquisition
- Syntactic doubling
- For an example of a language with many types of reduplication see: St'at'imcets language#Reduplication.
- Word word
- List of people with reduplicated names
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