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Reduplication in linguistics is a morphological process in which the root or stem of a word (or part of it) or even the whole word is repeated exactly or with a slight change.

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, repetition, and tautonym when it is used in biological taxonomies, such as "Bison bison".

The origin of this usage of tautonym is uncertain, but it has been suggested that it is of relatively recent derivation.

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Typological description


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 two 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'

(Rehg 1981)

Triplication occurs in other languages, e.g. Ewe, Shipibo, Twi, Mokilese, Min Nan (Hokkien).

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

Full reduplication involves a reduplication of the entire word. For example, Kham derives reciprocal forms from reflexive forms by total 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)

Reduplicant position

Reduplication may be initial (i.e. prefixal), final (i.e. suffixal), or internal (i.e. infixal), e.g.

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)[1] tamaloloa 'men' (plural) (tama-lo-loa)

Internal reduplication is much less common than the initial and final types.

Copying direction

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 Austroasiatic 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 Austroasiatic 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' (-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--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.

In Tohono O'odham initial reduplication also involves gemination of the first consonant in the distributive plural and in repetitive verbs:

  • [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.

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Phonological processes, environment, and reduplicant-base relations

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  • overapplication
  • underapplication
  • backcopying
  • 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".[2] 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.

Indo-European languages formerly used reduplication to form a number of verb forms, especially in the preterite or perfect. In the older Indo-European languages, many such verbs survive:

  • spondeo, spopondi (Latin, "I vow, I vowed")
  • λείπω, λέλοιπα (Greek, "I leave, I left")
  • δέρκομαι, δέδορκα (Greek, "I see, I saw"; these Greek examples exhibit ablaut as well as reduplication)
  • háitan, haíháit (Gothic, "to name, I named")

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.

Finnish slang sometimes 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 jäätelöä ja karkkia, sekä tietysti ruokaruokaa. "I ate ice cream and candy, and of course food-food". Here, "food-food" is contrasted to "junk-food". 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

Reduplication comes after inflection in Finnish. While reduplication is intelligible to most Finns, its usage is confined mostly to subgroups of young women and children (and possibly fathers of young children when talking to their children). However, most young women and children do not use reduplication. Reduplication has a somewhat childish connotation, and may be perceived as annoying.

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 'plural small knives' (Haeberlin 1918:159). Reduplication has been found to be a major part of Salish languages.[3]

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 home 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,[4] Gothic, and Latin verbs preserves this reduplication:

  • Ancient Greek λύω lúō 'I free' vs. λέλυκα léluka "I have freed"
  • Gothic hald "I hold" vs. haíhald (hĕhald) "I/he held"
  • Latin 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:[5]

  • δίδωμι dídōmi "I give" (present)
  • δέδωκα dédōka "I have given" (perfect)
  • *σίσδω sísdōἵζω hízō "I set" (present)
  • *σέσδομαι sésdomaiἕζομαι hézomai "I sit down" (present; from sd-, zero-grade of root in *sed-os → ἕδος hédos "seat, abode")

Reduplication in nouns was rare, the best example being Proto-Indo-European *kʷé-kʷl-oswheel’ (cf. Lithuanian kãklas ‘neck’, Sanskrit cakrá ‘wheel’), which doubled *kʷel-o- (cf. Old Prussian kelan ‘wheel’, Welsh pel ‘ball’),[6] itself likely a deverbative of *kʷelh₁- ‘to turn’.


English has several types of reduplication, ranging from informal expressive vocabulary (the first four forms below) to grammatically meaningful forms (the last two below).

  • Rhyming reduplication: hokey-pokey, razzle-dazzle, super-duper, boogie-woogie, teenie-weenie, walkie-talkie, hoity-toity, wingding, ragtag, easy-peasy.
  • 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. In South African English, 'now-now' means 'immediately' (whereas an ordinary 'now' can also mean 'somewhat later').
  • Ablaut reduplications: bric-a-brac, chit-chat, criss-cross, ding-dong, jibber-jabber, kitty-cat, knick-knack, pitter-patter, splish-splash, zig-zag, flimflam. 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.
  • Shm-reduplication 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.

Only the last of the above types is productive, meaning that examples of the first three are fixed forms and new forms are not easily accepted.

  • Comparative reduplication: In the sentence "John's apple looked redder and redder," the reduplication of the comparative indicates that the comparative is becoming more true over time, meaning roughly "John's apple looked progressively redder as time went on." In particular, this construction does not mean that John's apple is redder than some other apple, which would be a possible interpretation in the absence of reduplication, e.g. in "John's apple looked redder." With reduplication, the comparison is of the object being compared to itself over time. Comparative reduplication always combines the reduplicated comparative with "and". This construction is common in speech and is used even in formal speech settings, but it is less common in formal written texts. Although English has simple constructs with similar meanings, such as "John's apple looked ever redder," these simpler constructs are rarely used in comparison with the reduplicative form. Comparative reduplication is fully productive and clearly changes the meaning of any comparative to a temporal one, despite the absence of any time-related words in the construction. For example, the temporal meaning of "The frug seemed wuggier and wuggier" is clear: Despite not knowing what a frug is or what wugginess is, we know that the apparent wugginess of the frug was increasing over time, as indicated by the reduplication of the comparative "wuggier".
  • 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?".[7] This is similar to the Finnish use mentioned below.

The double copula is in some cases a type of reduplication, which may be regarded as non-standard or incorrect.

More can be learned about English reduplication in Thun (1963), Cooper and Ross (1975), and Nevins and Vaux (2003).


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In addition to having some reduplicated presents and perfects, Latin uses reduplication for some indefinite relative pronouns, such as quisque "whoever" and ubiubi "wherever".

Latin jingles. There are also several complete two word sentences such as: Cǒmam cōmam. "I shall tidy my hair."[8]


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).[9] 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.[10] Numerous examples of reduplication in Dutch (and other languages) are discussed by Daniëls (2000).


Afrikaans makes use of reduplication to emphasize the meaning of the word repeated and to denote a plural or event happening in more than one place. For example, krap means "to scratch one's self," while krap-krap-krap means "to scratch one's self vigorously",[11] whereas "dit het plek-plek gereën", means "it rained here and there".[12] Reduplication in Afrikaans has been described extensively in the literature - see for example Botha (1988), Van Huyssteen (2004) and Van Huyssteen & Wissing (2007). Further examples of this include: "koes" (to dodge) being reduplicated in the sentence "Piet hardloop koes-koes weg" (Piet is running away while constantly dodging / cringing); "sukkel" (to struggle) becoming "sukkel-sukkel" (making slow progress; struggling on); and "kierang" (to cheat) becoming "kierang-kierang" to indicate being cheated on repeatedly.[13]


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.")[14]

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 nursery words, like dada 'horsie' (vs. cheval 'horse'), tati 'auntie' (vs. tante 'aunt'), or tonton 'unkie' (vs. oncle 'uncle').

In Romanian and Catalan, reduplication is not uncommon and it has been used for both the creation of new words (including many from onomatopoeia) and expressions, for example,

  • Romanian: mormăi, ţurţur, dârdâi, expessions talmeş-balmeş, harcea-parcea, terchea-berchea, ţac-pac, calea-valea, hodoronc-tronc, and recent slang, trendy-flendy.
  • Catalan: balandrim-balandram, baliga-balaga, banzim-banzam, barliqui-barloqui, barrija-barreja, bitllo-bitllo, bub-bub, bum-bum, but-but, catric-catrac, cloc-cloc, cloc-piu, corre-corrents, de nyigui-nyogui, farrigo-farrago, flist-flast, fru-fru, gara-gara, gloc-gloc, gori-gori, leri-leri, nap-buf, ning-nang, ning-ning, non-non, nyam-nyam, nyau-nyau, nyec-nyec, nyeu-nyeu, nyic-nyic, nyigo-nyigo, nyigui-nyogui, passa-passa, pengim-penjam, pif-paf, ping-pong, piu-piu, poti-poti, rau-rau, ringo-rango, rum-rum, taf-taf, tam-tam, tau-tau, tic-tac, tol·le-tol·le, tric-trac, trip-trap, tris-tras, viu-viu, xano-xano, xau-xau, xerric-xerrac, xim-xim, xino-xano, xip-xap, xiu-xiu, xup-xup, zig-zag, ziga-zaga, zim-zam, zing-zing, zub-zub, zum-zum.

In colloquial Mexican Spanish it is common to use reduplicated adverbs such as luego luego (after after) meaning "immediately", or casi casi (almost almost) which intensifies the meaning of 'almost'.

Slavic languages

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.[15]


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 partial or echoic 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.[16] South Asian languages are also rich in other forms of reduplication: morphological (expressives), lexical (distributives), and phrasal (aspectual).

  • morphological: मनात हूर हूर दाटून येते [17]
    manaa-t hur-hur daaT.un yete
    mind-in longing choking comes
    'Yearning desire floods into my heart.' Marathi
  • lexical: 'Each-each boy take one-one chair.' Indian English
  • phrasal: పిల్లవాడు నడుస్తూ నడుస్తూ పడి పోయాడు [18]
    pillavāḍu naḍustū naḍustū paḍi pōyāḍu
    child walking walking fall went
    'The child fell down while walking.' Telugu

Reduplication also occurs in the 3th[clarification needed] gaṇa (verb class) of the Sanskrit language: bibheti "he fears", bibharti "he bears", juhoti "he offers", dadāti, "he gives". Even though the general idea is to reduplicate the verb root as a prefix, several sandhi rules change the final outcome.


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 there are two kinds of reduplication:

1. 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.

2. A word can be reduplicated totally, giving a related but different meaning or used for emphasizing. For example, zaman zaman (time time) meaning "occasionally"; uzun uzun (long long) meaning "very long or many things long". This type is used also in formal Turkish, especially in literature.


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.

Bantu languages

Reduplication is a common phenomenon in Bantu languages and is usually used to form a frequentive verb or for emphasis.[19][20]

  • 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


Semitic languages frequently reduplicate consonants, though often not the vowels that appear next to the consonants in some verb form.[21] This can take the shape of reduplicating the antepenultimate consonant (usually the second of three),[clarification needed] the last of two consonants, or the last two consonants.[22]


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 (biconsonantal reduplication), 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 Amharic, verb roots can be reduplicated three different ways. These can result in verbs, nouns, or adjectives (which are often derived from verbs).

From the root sbr 'break', antepenultimate reduplication produces täsäbabbärä 'it was shattered'[23] and biconsonantal reduplication produces täsbäräbbärä 'it was shattered repeatedly' and səbərbari 'a shard, a shattered piece'.[24]

From the root kHb 'pile stones into a wall', since the second radical is not fully specified, what some call "hollow", the antepenultimate reduplication process reduplicates the k, which is by some criteria antepenultimate, and produces akakabä 'pile stones repeatedly'.[25]



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 (လှပလှလှပပ '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) (this can also reflect a "cute", juvenile or informal register). In the case of adjectives composed of two characters (morphemes), generally each of the two characters 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)). This can be analyzed as an instance of omission of "一" (originally, e.g., "坐一坐" or "等一等" ) or "一下" (originally, e.g., "坐一下").

Noun reduplication, though nearly absent in Standard Chinese, is found in the southwestern dialect of Mandarin. For instance, in Sichuan Mandarin, bāobāo 包包 (handbag) is used whereas Beijing use bāor 包儿 (one exception is the colloquial use of bāobāo 包包 by non-Sichuan Mandarin speakers to reflect a perceived fancy or attractive purse). 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 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" (hb 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,[26][27] and many others are formed by partial reduplication, as in がささ〜 ga-sa-sa- (rustling)[28] – 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, or to generalize a word's meaning. It is often used as a literary device (like alliteration) in poetry and other compositions but is also prevalent in everyday speech. In some cases, the word's tone may be reduplicated in addition to an initial or final sound (see tone sandhi).

Examples of reduplication increasing intensity:

  • chỉchỉ trỏ (final L→R plus tone): to point → to point about
  • đauđau điếng (final L→R): to hurt → to hurt horribly
  • khókhó khăn (final L→R): difficult → severely difficult
  • mạnhmạnh mẽ (final L→R): strong → very strong
  • nhẹnhè nhẹ (initial full, excluding tone): gently → as gently as possible
  • rựcrực rỡ (final L→R): flaring → blazing

Examples of reduplication decreasing intensity:

  • nhỏnho nhỏ (initial full, excluding tone): small → somewhat small
  • đỏđo đỏ (initial full, excluding tone): red → somewhat red
  • xanhxanh xanh (full): blue/green → somewhat blue/green
  • xinhxinh xinh (full): pretty → cute

Examples of generalization:

  • đauđau đớn (final L→R): painful → pain and suffering
  • họchọc hành (final L→R): to study (something) → to study (in general)
  • lỏnglỏng lẻo (final L→R plus tone): watery → loose, insecure
  • máymáy móc (final L→R plus tone): machine → machinery
  • nhanhnhanh nhẹn (final L→R): rapid → nimble

Examples of blunt sounds or physical conditions:

  • loảng xoảng (R→L plus tone) — sound of glass breaking to pieces or metallic objects falling to the ground
  • hớt hảihớt hơ hớt hải or hớt ha hớt hải (compound) — hard gasps → in extreme hurry, in panic, panic-stricken
  • lục đục (R→L) — the sound of hard, blunt (and likely wooden) objects hitting against each other → disagreements and conflicts inside a group or an organisation

Examples of emphasis without a change in meaning:

  • khúm númkhúm na khúm núm (compound): to cower
  • vớ vẩnvớ va vớ vẩn (compound): silly
  • bậybậy bạ (initial L→R plus tone): objectionable
  • nói bậynói bậy nói bạ (verb phrase): to say vulgarities

In colloquial speech, almost any arbitrary word can be reduplicated to express a dismissive attitude:

  • phimphim phéo (final L→R): movie → movies and stuff

As seen above, disyllabic words undergo a complex transformation: <first syllable> <left edge of second syllable plus a vowel> <first syllable> <second syllable>.


Khmer uses reduplication for several purposes, including emphasis and pluralization. The Khmer script includes a reduplication sign, , indicating that the word or phrase preceding it is to be pronounced twice. 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.


Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found. 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).[29]

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 three meanings:

  1. Diversity or non-exhaustive plurality:
    1. Burung-burung itu juga diekspor ke luar negeri = "All those birds are also exported out of the country".
  2. Conceptual similarity:
    1. langit-langit = "ceiling; palate; etc." < langit = "sky";
    2. jari-jari = "spoke; bar; radius; etc." < jari = "finger" etc.
  3. Pragmatic accentuation:
    1. 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 memukul-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 Tagalog, an Austronesian language in the Philippines, upon which the national language "Filipino" was based, reduplication is employed productively in multiple parts of speech.

Reduplication of the root, prefix or infix is employed to convey different grammatical aspects in verbs. In "Mag- verbs" reduplication of the root after the prefix "mag-" or "nag-" changes the verb from the infinitive form, or perfective aspect, respectively, to the contemplated or imperfective aspect.[30] Thus:

  • magluto inf/actor trigger-cook "to cook" or "cook!" (Imperative)
  • nagluto actor trigger-cook "cooked"
  • nagluluto actor trigger-reduplication-cook "cook" (as in "I cook all the time) or "is/was cooking"
  • magluluto inf/actor trigger-rdplc-cook (contemplated) "will cook"

For Ergative verbs (frequently referred to as "object focus" verbs) reduplication of part the infix and the stem occur:

  • lutuin cook-inf/object trigger-cook "to cook"
  • niluto object trigger infix-cook (perf-cook) "cooked"
  • niluluto object trigger infix-reduplication-cook "cook"/"is/was cooking"
  • lulutuin rdp-cook-object trigger "will cook".[30]

Adjectives and adverbs employ morphological reduplication for many different reasons such as plurality agreement when the adjective modifies a plural noun, intensification of the adjective or adverb, and sometimes because the prefix forces the adjective to have a reduplicated stem".[30]

Agreement (optional, plurality, and agreement with a plural noun, is entirely optional in Tagalog (e.g. a plural noun does not have to have a plural article marking it"[30]):

  • "Ang magandang puno" "the beautiful tree".
  • "Ang mga magagandang puno" "the beautiful trees".

The entire adjective is repeated for intensification of adjectives or adverbs:

  • Magandang maganda ang kabayo "the horse is very pretty"

The complete superlative prefix pagka- demands reduplication of the first syllable of the adjective's stem:

  • "Ang pagkagagandang puno" "The most beautiful tree (and there are none more beautiful anywhere)"

Reduplication of nouns happens in Tagalog, but is far less productive, and more sporadic. Examples of such nouns formed by reduplication are "halo-halo" "ice cream" (lit. "mix mix") and "tago-tago" "refugee or even illegal immigrant (lit. "latent-latent").


In Tetum, reduplication is used to turn adjectives into superlatives.


The Māori language (New Zealand) uses reduplication in a number of ways.[31]

Reduplication can convey a simple plural meaning, for instance wahine "woman", waahine "women", tangata "person", taangata "people". Biggs calls this "infixed reduplication". It occurs in 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

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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 southeastern 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.

See also


  1. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  2. The Malay Spelling Reform, Asmah Haji Omar, (Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society, 1989-2 pp.9-13 later designated J11)
  3. p. 18ff. Czaykowska-Higgins, Ewa and M. Dale Kinkade. 1998. Salish Languages and Linguistics: Theoretical and Descriptive Perspectives. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.
  4. Smyth 1920, §440: Greek reduplication of a simple consonant + e in the perfect stem
  5. Smyth 1920, §447: Greek reduplication of an initial consonant + i in the present stem
  6. Guus Kroonen, Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Germanic (Leiden: Brill, 2013), 264-5.
  7. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  8. BL Arundel 83 f126v
  9. [1] Archived July 8, 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  10. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  11. [2] Archived August 6, 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  12. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  13. [3] Archived August 4, 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  14. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  15. Vitaly Voinov. 2012. Rhyming reduplication in Russian paired words. Russian Linguistics 36:175–191.
  16. Emeneau, M.B. 1971. Onomatopoetics in the Indian linguistic area. In Language 45: 274-299
  17. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  18. Abbi, Anvita. 1992. Reduplication in South Asian languages. New Delhi: Allied Publishers. Page 37.
  19. [4] Archived December 11, 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  20. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  21. Butts, Aaron Michael. 2011. Reduplicated Nominal Patterns in Semitic. Journal of the American Oriental Society 131.1: 83-108.
  22. Peter Unseth. 2003. Surveying bi-consonantal reduplication in Semitic. In Selected Comparative-Historical Afrasian Linguistic Studies in Memory of Igor M. Diakonoff, ed. by M. Lionel Bender, 257-273. Munich: Lincom Europa.
  23. p. 1029. Wolf Leslau. 1995. Reference Grammar of Amharic. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.
  24. Peter Unseth. 2002. Biconsonantal reduplication in Amharic. Doctoral dissertation, University of Texas at Arlington.
  25. p. 1035. Wolf Leslau. 1995. Reference Grammar of Amharic. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.
  26. Tamamura, Fumio. 1979. Nihongo to chuugokugo ni okeru onshoochoogo [Sound-symbolic words in Japanese and Chinese]. Ootani Joshidai Kokubun 9:208-216.
  27. Tamamura, Fumio. 1989. Gokei [Word forms]. In Kooza nihongo to nihongo kyooiku 6, ed. Fumio Tamamura, 23-51. Tokyo: Meiji Shoin.
  28. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  29. Yury A. Lande, "Nominal reduplication in Indonesian challenging the theory of grammatical change", International Symposium on Malay/Indonesian Linguistics, Nijmegen, The Netherlands, 27–29 June 2003.
  30. 30.0 30.1 30.2 30.3 Domigpe J., Nenita, D. (2012) Elementary Tagalog Singapore: Tuttle Publishing
  31. Biggs, Bruce, 1998. Let's learn Maori: a guide to the study of the Maori language. Auckland: Auckland University Press, p.137


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