According to WALS Feature 27A, 278/368 languages surveyed have productive full and partial reduplication. Chapter 27 gives the following example of partial reduplication in Pangasinan:

báley "town" -> balbáley "towns"

And this example of full reduplication from Sahaptian:

té:mul "hail" -> temulté:mul "sleet"

But what is reduplication often used to express?

1 Answer 1


WALS Chapter 27 describes a number of functions for reduplication. All examples below come from chapter 27 unless otherwise noted.

On nouns

Pangasinan uses reduplication to mark plurals:

báley "town"
balbáley "towns"

Ilocano uses reduplication on nouns to mark a distributive plural:

sábong "flower"
sabsábong "various flowers"

Ilocano also uses reduplication to turn nouns into reciprocal verbs:

bales "revenge"
balembales "to avenge each other"

Chukchi uses reduplication to mark the absolutive case:

jokwat "eider duck"
jokwajow "eider duck (ABS)"

Kayardild uses reduplication to turn nouns into adjectives:

kandu "blood"
kandukandu "red"

Yawelmani uses reduplication to mark associatives:

k'ɔhis  "buttocks"
k'ɔk'ɔhis  "one with large buttocks"

On verbs

Luiseño uses reduplication to mark the number of an inherent object:

lawi "to make a hole"
lawlawi "to make two holes"
lawaláwi "to make more than two holes"

Mountain Arapesh uses reduplication to mark carelessness on the part of the subject or agent:

su "to touch"
susu "to touch all over"

Luiseño also uses reduplication to turn a verb into an adjective:

lepi "to tan, soften"
lepélpiš "pliable"

Ancient Greek used reduplication to mark the perfect aspect (Ancient Greek Press Book Chapter 42):

γράφ "write"
γέγραφ "have written"

Tigak uses reduplication to turn a verb into a person who regularly performs that action:

giak "send"
gigiak "messenger"

On Adjectives

Turkish uses reduplication to mark intensity:

beyaz "white"
bembeyaz "very white"

Automatic Reduplication

Additionally, automatic reduplication is possible, where an affix requires reduplication of the root with no additional meaning. Chapter 27 gives this example from Ilocano:

singpet "behave" + agin-
aginsisingpet "pretend to behave"
  • In Austronesian languages it frequently marks repetitive or progressive aspect.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented May 22, 2020 at 3:22
  • The reduplication of adjectives to mark intensity is also found to some extent in Swedish. E.g. "Den är lite lite för stor" - "It is ever so slightly too large", or "En hård hård knut" - "A very hard knot".
    – Edvin
    Commented May 18, 2022 at 21:55

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