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In linguistics, reduplication 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.

The classic observation on the semantics of reduplication is Edward Sapir's: "generally employed, with self-evident symbolism, to indicate such concepts as distribution, plurality, repetition, customary activity, increase of size, added intensity, continuance."[1] 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.[]

Typological description


Reduplication is often described phonologically in one of two 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.[2] Pingelapese has both forms:[3]

Basic verb Reduplication Triplication
k?ul  'to sing' k?uk?ul  'singing' k?uk?uk?ul  'still singing'
mejr  'to sleep' mejmejr  'sleeping' mejmejmejr  'still sleeping'

Triplication occurs in other languages, e.g. Ewe, Shipibo, Twi, Mokilese, Min Nan (Hokkien), Stau.[2]

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:

    [?in] 'ourselves' -> [?in?in] 'we (to) us' (?in-?in)
    [ja:] 'themselves' -> [ja:ja:] 'they (to) them' (ja:-ja:) (Watters 2002)

Another example is from Musqueam Halkomelem "dispositional" aspect formation:

    [k'?] 'to capsize' -> [k'?k'] 'likely to capsize' (k'?-k')
    [q?él] 'to speak' -> [q?élq?el] 'talkative' (q?él-q?el) (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):

    [?u?ab] 'afternoon' -> [?u?u?ab] 'late afternoon' (?u-?u?ab)
    [?a?aj] 'a long time' -> [?a?a?aj] 'a long time (in years)' (?a-?a?aj) (Healey 1960)

Final reduplication in Dakota (-CCV suffix):

    [hãska] 'tall (singular)' -> [hãskaska] 'tall (plural)' (hãska-ska)
    [wa?te] 'good (singular)' -> [wa?te?te] 'good (plural)' (wa?te-?te) (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)[4] -> 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)
    [al?al] -> [al?al?al] '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:

    [?a?] 'eye' -> [a?] 'eyes' (?-?a?)
    [t?q] 'break' -> [qt?q] 'they break' (q-t?q) (Reichard 1959)

Final L -> R copying in Chukchi:

    nute- 'ground' -> nutenut 'ground (abs. sg.)' (nute-nut)
    jil?e- 'gopher' -> jil?ejil 'gopher (abs. sg.)' (jil?e-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)
    [tuko:jo?] 'snow' -> [tutko:jo?] '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)
    [sl] 'to marry (perfective)' -> [s?l] 'to marry (continuative)' (s-?-l??) (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:

    [k?:?] -> [k?k?:?] 'to vomit' (k?-k?:?)
    [dh] -> [dhdh] 'appearance of nodding constantly' (dh-dh)
    [cruha:w] -> [cwcruha:w] 'monsoon rain' (cw-cruha:w) (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 vowel alternation,[5] 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 [o?]. This can be written succinctly as -Co?. Below are some examples:

  • [kaq] 'red' -> [kaqko?] 'reddish'  (kaq-k-o?)
  • [q'an] 'yellow' -> [q'anq'o?] 'yellowish'  (q'an-q'-o?)
  • [ja?] 'water' -> [ja?jo?] 'watery'  (ja?-j-o?)   (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):

  • [to?] 'ditch' -> [to?a?] 'ditches'  (to?-a-?)
  • [?ad] 'lump of meat' -> [?adad] 'lumps of meat'  (?ad-a-d)
  • [w?:l] 'boy' -> [w?:lal] 'boys'  (w?:l-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)
  • [w] 'hit (unitative)' -> [w] 'hit (repetitive)'  (-?-w)   (Haugen forthcoming)

Sometimes gemination can be analyzed as a type of reduplication.[]

Phonological processes, environment, and reduplicant-base relations

  • overapplication
  • underapplication
  • backcopying - A putative phenomenon of over-application in the reduplicant of a process triggered by the reduplicant in the base[6]
  • 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 Malaysian orthography, 2 was shorthand for the reduplication that forms plurals: orang "person", orang-orang or orang2 "people".[7] 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: ? rén for "person", rénrén for "everybody". Japanese does it too: ? toki "time", tokidoki "sometimes, from time to time". Both languages can use a special written iteration mark ? 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")
  • , ? (Greek, "I leave, I left")
  • , ? (Greek, "I see, I saw"; these Greek examples exhibit ablaut as well as reduplication)
  • háitan, haíháit (Gothic, "to name, I named")

Those forms do not survive in Modern English but existed in its parent Germanic languages. Many 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 , , (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 those Indo-European inherited reduplicating forms are subject to reduction by other phonological laws.

Reduplication can be used to refer to the most prototypical instance of a word's meaning. In such a case, it is called contrastive focus reduplication. Finnish colloquial speech uses the process; nouns can be reduplicated 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"); that means that one was actually suffering from an illness instead of 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

Words can be reduplicated with their case morphemes, as in lomalla lomalla, where the adessive morpheme (--lla) appears twice. 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 they talk 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 they are combined with other verbs.

In some Salishan languages, reduplication can mark both diminution and plurality, with one process being applied to each end of the word, as in the following example from Shuswap. Note that the transcription is not comparable to the IPA, but the reduplication of both initial and final portions of the root is clear: k!Em?''n 'knife' reduplicated as ?uk!?uk!Emen''me'n 'plural small knives' (Haeberlin 1918:159). Reduplication has been found to be a major part of Salish languages.[8]

Reduplicative babbling in child language acquisition

At 25-50 weeks after birth, 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 idididi. 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,[9] Gothic, Latin, Sanskrit, Old Irish, and Old Norse verbs preserve this reduplication:

  • Ancient Greek lú? 'I free' vs. léluka "I have freed"
  • Gothic hald "I hold" vs. haíhald (h?hald) "I/he held"
  • Latin curr? "I run" vs. cucurr? "I ran" or "have run"
  • Old Irish maidid "it breaks" vs. memaid "it broke"
  • Old Norse roe "I row" vs. rera (røra) "I rowed"
  • Sanskrit likhati 'he writes' vs. lilekha "he has written" or "he wrote"
  • A rare modern English reflex is do vs. did

Proto-Indo-European also used reduplication for the 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:[10]

  • díd?mi "I give" (present)
  • déd?ka "I have given" (perfect)
  • * sísd? -> híz? "I set" (present)
  • * sésdomai -> hézomai "I sit down" (present; from sd-, zero-grade of root in *sed-os -> ? hédos "seat, abode")

Reduplication in nouns was rare, the best example being Proto-Indo-European *k?é-k?l-os 'wheel' (cf. Lithuanian kãklas 'neck', Sanskrit cakrá 'wheel', Greek (kýklos) 'circle'), which doubled *k?el-o- (cf. Old Prussian kelan 'wheel', Welsh pêl 'ball'),[11] itself likely a deverbative of *k?elh?- '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). See also the alliteration section of the irreversible binomial article for cases like flip-flop, dribs and drabs, etc.

  • Rhyming reduplication: hokey-pokey, hocus-pocus, hanky-panky, razzle-dazzle, super-duper, boogie-woogie, teenie-weenie, itsy-bitsy, walkie-talkie, hoity-toity, wingding, ragtag, raggle-taggle, easy-peasy, hurdy-gurdy.
  • Exact reduplications: Ack ack, aye-aye, boo-boo, bye-bye, chin-chin, choo-choo, chow-chow, dik-dik, fifty-fifty, gogo, housey-housey, juju, klop-klop, muumuu, night-night, no-no, pee-pee, pip-pip, pom-pom, poo-poo, putt putt, ta-ta, tut-tut, tutu, wah-wah, wee-wee, yo-yo. While in many forms of English, exact reduplications can also be used to emphasise the strength of a word ("He wants it now now"), in South African English, 'now-now' means 'relatively soon'.
  • Ablaut reduplications: In ablaut reduplications, the first vowel is almost always a high vowel (typically ? as in hit) and the reduplicated vowel is a low vowel (typically æ as in cat or ? as in top). Examples include: bric-a-brac, chit-chat, clip-clop, ding-dong, flimflam, flip-flop, hip-hop, jibber-jabber, kitty-cat, knick-knack, mishmash, ping-pong, pitter-patter, riffraff, sing-song, slipslop, splish-splash, tick-tock, tip-top, whiff-whaff, wibble-wobble, wishy-washy, zig-zag. Three-part ablaut sequences are less numerous, but are attested, e.g. tic-tac-toe, bing-bang-boom, bish-bash-bosh and splish-splash-splosh.[12] Spike Milligan's poem On the Ning Nang Nong achieves comic effect by varying the ordering of vowels in such triples: There's a Nong Nang Ning/Where the trees go Ping!.
  • Shm-reduplication can be used with most any word; e.g. baby-shmaby, cancer-shmancer and fancy-shmancy. 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.

Of the above types, only shm-reduplication 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?".[13] This is similar to the Finnish use mentioned above. Furthermore, it is used to contrast "real" or "pure" things against imitations or less pure forms. For example, at a coffee shop one may be asked, "Do you want soy milk?" and respond, "No, I want milk milk." This gives the idea that they want "real" milk.

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 & Ross (1975), and Nevins & 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).[14] Another example is a former safe sex campaign slogan in Flanders: Eerst bla-bla, dan boem-boem (First talk, then have sex; lit. First blah-blah, then boom-boom). 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.[15] 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",[16] whereas "dit het plek-plek gereën", means "it rained here and there".[17] 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.[18]

Romance languages

In Italian reduplication was used both to create new words or word associations (tran-tran, via via, leccalecca) and to intensify the meaning (piano piano "very softly").[]

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.")[19]

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: morm?i, ?ur?ur, dârdâi, expressions talme?-balme?, harcea-parcea, terchea-berchea, ?ac-pac, calea-valea, hodoronc-tronc.
  • 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.[20]

Celtic languages

Reduplication is a common feature of Irish and includes the examples rírá, ruaille buaille both meaning 'commotion' and fite fuaite meaning 'intertwined'.[21]

South Asian 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.[22] South Asian languages are also rich in other forms of reduplication: morphological (expressives), lexical (distributives), and phrasal (aspectual).

  • morphological ? [23]
    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: ? ? [24]
    pillavu na?ust? na?ust? pa?i p?yu
    child walking walking fall went
    'The child fell down while walking.' Telugu

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

Hindi & Urdu

There are a number of constructions in Hindi and Urdu that are constructed by reduplication. Nouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, pronouns, all have possibility of reduplications.[25][26][27]

(1) Reduplication of numbers (2) Reduplication of pronouns
-- baccõ ko ek-ek toffee do.
-- children.DAT one-one.RDUP t?f? give.IMP
-- 'give a toffee to each child, one toffee per child.'
-- tumne ky?-ky? dekh
-- you.ERG what-what.RDUP saw.MASC.PRF?
-- what (all things) did you see?
-- bacce-bacce ko pac?s-pac?s t?fiy mil.
-- child-child.DAT fifty-fifty toffees received.PRF.FEM.PLU
-- 'each and every child received 50 toffies each'
-- jo-jo ge unh? k?hn?.
-- who-who.NOM will-come them.DAT say.IMP.FUT
-- 'say to whoever will come (to all and every visitor)'
(3) Reduplication of nouns (4) Reduplication of adjectives
-- bacc?-bacc? j?nt? hai.
-- child-child.NOM know.PTCP be.3P.PRST?
-- (each and) every child knows.
-- ye garm-garm c?y piyo.
-- hot-hot tea drink.2P.IMP
-- drink this hot tea. (emphasis on hotness)
-- c?y-y ho j?ye?.
-- tea-tea.NOM happen.PRF.SING.SUBJ?
-- shall we have a cup of tea? (emphasis on meeting over tea)
-- udhar har?-har? gh?s hai.
-- tither/that way green-green grass be.3P.PRS
-- there is (so much) green grass that way/over there. (emphasis on the quantity)
(5) Reduplication of verbs (6) Reduplication of adverbs
-- kh?te-kh?te mat bolo.
-- eat-eat.PTCP.IMPV not talk.2P.IMP
-- do not talk while eating.
-- kal-kal m? h? ho j?yeg?.
-- tomorrow-tomorrow.LOC happen.3P.FUT.PRF
-- It'll be done before tomorrow ends.
-- soye-soye mar gaye.
-- sleep-sleep.PTCP.PRF die.PRF.MASC.PLU.
-- he died while sleeping / he died in his sleep.
-- cill?y? zor-zor se.
-- shouted.PRF.SING.FEM loud-loud.INST
-- she shouted loudly. (emphasis on the loudness)


In Turkish, there are three kinds of reduplication.[28]

  1. Emphatic Reduplication: A word can be reduplicated partially, such that an emphatic stem is created to be attached to the adjective. This is done by taking the first syllable of the adjective, dropping the syllable-final phoneme, and adding one of four interpolated consonants (p, s, m, r). For example, k?rm?z? (red) becomes k?pk?rm?z? (very red); mavi (blue) becomes masmavi (very blue); ye?il (green) becomes yemye?il (very green), and temiz (clean) becomes tertemiz ("spotless"). However, the consonant added to the emphatic stem is unpredictable grammatically-speaking, however phonological studies, such as Wedel (1999)[29] do shed new light on the subject.
  2. Echo Reduplication: 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 ye?il me?il meaning "green, greenish, whatever". Although not used in formal written Turkish, it is a completely standard and fully accepted construction.
  3. Doubling: 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. There are a lot of reduplications in this category which do not, if used as one word, have a place in the Turkish language's vocabulary but is used solely in this way. These words are called mimetic in linguistics. An example is 'r?l r?l' (used for the sound of a waterfall). They try to give sounds to not only audible but also non-audible phenomena. For example, 'ml ml' is used for sleeping soundly.


In Armenian, reduplication follows the same classification as in Turkish, namely emphatic reduplication, echo reduplication,[30] and doubling. Many appear as lexical entries in Armenian lexicographical sources.

  1. Emphatic reduplication, one of two interpolated consonants (?, ?), as in (red), which becomes (very red).[31]
  2. Echo Reduplication, as in - (table schmable).[32]
  3. Doubling, as in - (little [by] little) [33]


Reduplication is a common phenomenon in Bantu languages and is usually used to form a frequentive verb or for emphasis.[34][35]

  • 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.[36] 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.[37]


In Hebrew, reduplication is used in nouns, adjectives, adverbs and verbs for various reasons:

  • For emphasis: in le'at le'at, where the adverb ‎ "slowly" is duplicated to mean "very slowly". In the slangism gever gever, the noun ‎ "man" is duplicated to mean a "very manly man".
  • To mean "one by one":
    • yom yom is based on ‎ "day", and means "every day, day by day".
    • para para is based on ‎ "cow", and literally means "cow by cow", referring to "one thing at a time". This is possibly a folk etymology, and a derivation from Spanish "para" meaning "stop" is possible.
  • To create a diminutive: by reduplicating the last two consonants (bi-consonantal reduplication):
    • kelev "dog"
      • klavlav "puppy"
    • ?khatul "cat"
      • khataltul "kitten"
    • lavan "white"
      • levanban "whitish"
    • katan "small"
      • ktantan "tiny"
  • To create secondary derivative verbs: by reduplicating the root or part of it:
    • dal (‎) "poor" > dilel (‎) "to dilute", and also dildel (?‎) "to impoverish, weaken".
    • nad (‎) "to move, nod"' > nadad (‎) "to wander" but also nidned (?‎) "to swing" and - due to phono-semantic matching of the Yiddish lexical item nídyen / núdzhen "to bore, bother" - also "to bother, pest, nag, annoy".[38]
    • tzakhak (‎) "to laugh" > tzikhkek (?‎) "to chuckle".
  • For onomatopoeia:
    • ? shikshék "to make noise, rustle".[38]
    • ? rishrésh "to make noise, rustle".[38]


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'[39] and biconsonantal reduplication produces täsbäräbbärä 'it was shattered repeatedly' and s?b?rbari 'a shard, a shattered piece'.[40]

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 inserting the vowel a along with the consonant as a place holder for the hollow consonant, which is by some criteria antepenultimate, and produces akakabä 'pile stones repeatedly'.[41][42]


A small number of native Japanese nouns have collective forms produced by reduplication (possibly with rendaku), such as hitobito "people" (h -> b is rendaku) - these are written with the iteration mark "?" 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 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, such as ? kirakira (sparkling or shining). By one count, approximately 43% of Japanese mimetic words are formed by full reduplication,[43][44] and many others are formed by partial reduplication, as in ? ga-sa-sa- (rustling)[45] - compare English "a-ha-ha-ha".


The wide use of reduplication is certainly one of the most prominent grammatical features of Austronesian languages.[46]

Malay (Indonesian and Malaysian)

In the Malay language, 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.


The M?ori language (New Zealand) uses reduplication in a number of ways.[47]

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"


The Mortlockese language is a Micronesian language spoken primarily on the Mortlock Islands. In the Mortlockese language, reduplication is used to show a habitual or imperfective aspect. For example, /jææjæ/ means "to use something" while the word /jæjjææjæ/ means "to use something habitually or repeatedly".[48] Reduplication is also used in the Mortlockese Language to show extremity or extreme measures. One example of this can be seen in /?iimw alt?j/ which means "hate him, her, or it". To mean "really hate him, her, or it," the phrase changes to /?ii~mw al~mw alt?j/.[48]


Pingelapese is a Micronesian language spoken on the Pingelap atoll and on two of the eastern Caroline Islands, called the high island of Pohnpei. Pingelapese utilizes both duplication and triplication of a verb or part of a verb to express that something is happening for certain duration of time. No reduplication means that something happens. A reduplicated verb means that something IS happening, and a triplication means that something is STILL happening. For example, saeng means 'to cry' in Pingelapese. When reduplicated and triplicated, the duration of this verb is changed:

  • saeng - cries
  • saeng-saeng - is crying
  • saeng-saeng-saeng - is still crying

Few languages employ triplication in their language. In Micronesia, Pingelapese is one of only two languages that uses triplication, the other being Mokilese. Reduplication and triplication are not to be confused with tense however. In order to make a phrase past, present, or future tense, a temporal phrase must be used.[49]


Rapa is the French Polynesian language of the island of Rapa Iti.[50] In terms of reduplication, the indigenous language known as Old Rapa uses reduplication consistent to other Polynesian languages. Reduplication of Old Rapa occurs in four ways: full, rightward, leftward, and medial. Full and rightward are generally more frequently used as opposed to the leftward and medial. Leftward and medial only occur as CV reduplication and partial leftward and medial usually denote emphasis.[50]

Example of Reduplication Forms:[50]

Base Form Reduplicated Form
Full Reduplication kini 'pinch'

kati 'bite'

kinikini 'pinch skin'

katikati 'nibble'

Rightward Reduplication m?ringi 'pour'

taka'uri 'go backward'

p?t? 'bounce'

ngaru 'wave'

m?ringiringi 'pour continuously'

taka'uri'uri 'roll back and forth'

p?t?t? 'splash (of raindrops)'

ngaruru 'sea sick'

Leftward Reduplication komo 'sleep'

kume 'drag'

kokomo 'deep sleep'

kukume 'large, flat leaf seaweed'

Medial Reduplication maitaki 'good; well' maitataki 'excellent; very well'

For the Rapa Language the implementation of reduplication has specific implications. The most evident of these are known as iterative, intensification, specification, diminutive, metaphorical, nominalizing, and adjectival.[50]


  • naku 'come, go' -> nakunaku 'pass by frequently'
  • ipuni 'hide' -> ipunipuni 'hide and seek'


  • mare 'cough' -> maremare 'cough forcefully'
  • roa 'much' -> roroa 'very much'
  • maki 'sick'makimaki 'really sick'


  • kini 'to pinch' -> kinikini 'pinch skin'


  • paki 'slap, strike'pakipaki 'clap'
  • kati 'bite' -> katikati 'nibble'

Metaphorical (typically comparing an animal action with a human action):[50]

  • kapa 'mime with hands' -> kapakapa 'flap wings (a bird)'
  • m?kuru 'detach oneself' -> m?kurukuru 'shed or molt'
  • ta?i 'Yell' -> ta?ita?i 'chirp (a bird)'


  • para 'Finished'parapara 'leftovers'
  • Panga'a 'divide' -> panaga'anga'a 'a break, a divide'


  • repo 'dirt, earth' -> reporepo 'dirty'
  • pake 'sun' -> pakepake 'shining, bright'


Philippine languages are characterized as having the most productive use of reduplication, especially in Tagalog (the basis of the Filipino language). Reduplication in Tagalog is complex. It can be roughly divided into six types:[51][52][53]

  1. Monosyllabic; e.g. olol ("mad")
  2. Reduplication of the final syllable; e.g. himaymay ("separate meat from bones"), from himay (same meaning)
  3. Reduplication of the final syllable of a disyllabic word, where the added syllable is created from the first consonant of the first syllable and the last consonant of the second syllable; e.g. kaliskis ("[fish] scale"), from kalis ("to scrape")
  4. Reduplication of the initial syllable of the root; e.g. susulat ("will write"), from sulat ("to write")
  5. Full reduplication; e.g. araw-araw ("every day"), from araw ("day" or "sun")
  6. Combined partial and full reduplication; e.g. babalibaligtad ("turning around continually", "tumbling"), from baligtad ("reverse")

They can further be divided into "non-significant" (where its significance is not apparent) and "significant" reduplication. 1, 2, and 3 are always non-significant; while 5 and 6 are always significant. 4 can be non-significant when used for nouns (e.g. lalaki, "man").[51][52][53]

Full or partial reduplication among nouns and pronouns can indicate emphasis, intensity, plurality, or causation; as well as a diminutive, superlative, iterative, restrictive, or distributive force.[51][52][53]

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".[54]

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":[54]

  • "Ang magandang puno" "the beautiful tree".
  • "Ang 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"

In verbs, reduplication of the root, prefix or infix is employed to convey different grammatical aspects. 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.[54] 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".[54]

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 is not a productive noun derivation process in Wuvulu-Aua as it is in other Austronesian languages. Some nouns exhibit reduplication, though they are considered to be fossilized.[55]

Verb roots can undergo whole or partial reduplication to mark aspect. Actions that are continuous are indicated by a reduplicated initial syllable. A whole reduplication can also be used to indicate imperfective aspect.[56]

  • "roni" "to hurry"
  • "roroni" "hurrying"
  • "rawani" "good"
  • "rarawani" "good" (continuous)
  • "ware" "talk"
  • "wareware" "talked" (durative)

The onomatopoeia in Wuvulu language also uses reduplication to describe the sound. These onomatopoeic words can be used as alienable nouns.

  • "ba?a" or "ba?aba?a" is a word for the sound of knocking.[57]

See also


  1. ^ p. 76. Sapir, Edward. 1921. Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company.
  2. ^ a b Gates 2016.
  3. ^ Rehg 1981.
  4. ^ Pratt 1984.
  5. ^ Ido, Shinji (2011). "Vowel alternation in disyllabic reduplicatives: An areal dimension". Eesti Ja Soome-ugri Keeleteaduse Ajakiri. 2: 185-194. doi:10.12697/jeful.2011.2.1.12.
  6. ^ Kirsparsky 2010, pp. 125-142.
  7. ^ Omar 1989.
  8. ^ Czaykowska-Higgins & Kinkade 1998, pp. 18ff.
  9. ^ Smyth 1920, §440: simple consonant + e.
  10. ^ Smyth 1920, §447: initial consonant + i.
  11. ^ Kroonen 2013, pp. 264-265.
  12. ^ Donka Minkova, "Ablaut reduplication in English: the criss-crossing of prosody and verbal art", English Language and Linguistics 6:1:133-169 (May 2002), doi:10.1017/S1360674302001077
  13. ^ Ghomeshi et al. 2004.
  14. ^ Gilbers 2009.
  15. ^ 1999.
  16. ^ van der Walt 2002.
  17. ^ Botha 1984.
  18. ^ Mount Allison University.
  19. ^ Corré 2005.
  20. ^ Voinov 2012.
  21. ^ Pota Focal, "fite fuaite".
  22. ^ Emeneau 1971.
  23. ^ Kulkarni 2013.
  24. ^ Abbi 1992, p. 37.
  25. ^
  26. ^ matthewjmiller07 (2015-02-11). "Reduplication Reduplication in Hindi (Matthew Miller's Morphological Musings)". Morphology 440 640. Retrieved .
  27. ^
  28. ^ Göksel & Kerslake (2005)
  29. ^ Wedel (1999)
  30. ^ Inkelas, Sharon and Downing, Laura (2015). What is Reduplication? Typology and Analysis Part 1/2: The Typology of Reduplication. Language and Linguistics Compass 9/12 (2015), p. 510
  31. ^ Malxaseanc?, Step?an (1944-1945), Hayer?n bac?atrakan ba?aran [Armenian Explanatory Dictionary] (in Armenian), Volume 2, p. 396 Yerevan: State Publishing House
  32. ^ Malxaseanc?, Step?an (1944-1945), Hayer?n bac?atrakan ba?aran [Armenian Explanatory Dictionary] (in Armenian), Volume 3, p. 198, Yerevan: State Publishing House
  33. ^ Malxaseanc?, Step?an (1944-1945), Hayer?n bac?atrakan ba?aran [Armenian Explanatory Dictionary] (in Armenian), Volume 4, p. 575, Yerevan: State Publishing House
  34. ^ Lodhi 2002.
  35. ^ Downing 2001.
  36. ^ Butts 2011.
  37. ^ Unseth 2003.
  38. ^ a b c Zuckermann, Ghil'ad (2003), Language Contact and Lexical Enrichment in Israeli Hebrew. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 9781403917232 / ISBN 9781403938695 [1]
  39. ^ Leslau 1995, p. 1029.
  40. ^ Unseth 2002.
  41. ^ Leslau 1995, p. 1035.
  42. ^ Tak 2016.
  43. ^ Tamamura 1979.
  44. ^ Tamamura 1989.
  45. ^ Nasu 2003.
  46. ^ Lande 2003.
  47. ^ Biggs 1998, p. 137.
  48. ^ a b Odango 2015.
  49. ^ Hattori 2012, pp. 34-35.
  50. ^ a b c d e Walworth 2015.
  51. ^ a b c Lopez, Cecilio (1950). "Reduplication in Tagalog". Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde. Deel 106 (2de Afl): 151-311. doi:10.1163/22134379-90002477. JSTOR 27859677.
  52. ^ a b c Blake, Frank R. (1917). "Reduplication in Tagalog". The American Journal of Philology. 38 (4): 425-431. doi:10.2307/288967. JSTOR 288967.
  53. ^ a b c Wan, Jin. "Reduplication in Tagalog verbs" (PDF). Retrieved 2019.
  54. ^ a b c d Domigpe & Nenita 2012.
  55. ^ Hafford 2015, p. 47.
  56. ^ Hafford 2015, p. 100.
  57. ^ Hafford 2015, p. 46.



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  • Watters, David E. (2002). A grammar of Kham. Cambridge grammatical descriptions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-81245-3.
  • Wilbur, Ronnie B. (1973). The phonology of reduplication. Doctoral dissertation, University of Illinois. (Also published by Indiana University Linguistics Club in 1973, republished 1997.)

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