Repeated Words
Thread poster: Hipyan Nopri

Hipyan Nopri  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:58
Member (2005)
English to Indonesian
+ ...
Jan 21, 2007

Hello Fellow Translators,

I am just curious about the existence of repeated words in other languages.

In Indonesian (Bahasa Indonesia), repeated words usually function to pluralize noun.
buku (a book) buku-buku (books)
pohon (a tree) pohon-pohon (trees)
jalan (a street) jalan-jalan (streets)
bapak (a father) bapak-bapak (fathers)

The different rules of pluralization between English and Indoensian are often considered as one of the difficulties in learning English. Students are often faced with great challenges during writing tasks. Therefore, particularly among junior high school students, it is not surprising to find out the following cases:

1. "Father-father and mother-mother," (Bapak-bapak dan ibu-ibu), when it should be "Ladies and gentlemen," in English.

2. "New-new this," (Baru-baru ini), when it should be "Recently," in English.

3. "Eye-eye" (Mata-mata), when it should be "Spy" in English.

4. "Shy-shy" (Malu-malu), when it should be "Shy" in English.
and many more.

Your responses are greatly appreciated.

Best Regards

Hipyan Nopri


Local time: 06:58
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Basque Spanish Jan 22, 2007

In Bilbao, when people want to make a superlative they say the word twice. If something is very big it's grande grande (big big). Or if something is really good it's bueno bueno (good good). My Spanish philology and linguistics teacher told me that it's common throughout the Spanish Basque Country.


Alan R King
Local time: 09:58
Basque to English
+ ...
Reduplication Jan 22, 2007

Hipyan Nopri,

What you describe is an example of the phenomenon referred to in linguistic terminology as "reduplication". This is defined as follows in A Dictionary of Grammatical Terms in Linguistics by R.L. Trask:

"Reduplication: The morphological phenomenon in which some morphological material is repeated within a single form for lexical of grammatical purposes."

For a fuller description of the phenomenon you may like to look at the article of Reduplication in Wikipedia (




transparx  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:58
English to Italian
+ ...
very interesting! Jan 22, 2007

Hipyan Nopri wrote:

I am just curious about the existence of repeated words in other languages.

I was aware that in some languages this was the rule for pluralization, but didn't know that Bahasa Indonesia was one such language.

In Calabrian, one of the dialects spoken in Southern Italy, reduplication has quantification force.

means "from house to house," that is, "to every house."
Note, however, that "casi" is already plural.

that is "town-town" means "all over (the) town."

In addition, we reduplicate the verb to form free relatives.
An illustration of this phenomenon is the following:
"Aundi vaju vaju, u viju"
where I-go go him see = Wherever I go, I see him.

This construction is actually also found in informal standard Italian (dove vado vado, lo vedo). However, while in Italian this structure is very colloquial ("dovunque vada" = "wherever I go[subjunctive]" is, in fact, the preferred form), in Calabrian -and perhaps in other varieties- reduplicating the verb is the only way to construct free relatives.

[Edited at 2007-01-22 17:29]


transparx  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:58
English to Italian
+ ...
also... Jan 22, 2007

...note that syntactic reduplication is much more widespread than people often think, especially in spoken language. There now exists a good body of literature on this fascinating topic.

Even in English, people say things like "I don't like like it!"
In this case, reduplication is used to show emphasis.


Melanie Nassar  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 10:58
German to English
+ ...
Arabic Jan 22, 2007

In colloquial Arabic, adjectives are often repeated to express intensity. For example shob shob (hot hot) means it's very hot (weather), foq foq (high high) means at the very top. Shwayya (a little) so shwayya shwayya means slowly, carefully (little by little).

This extends to the colors of course, akhdar akhdar (really green), bringing to mind the "green green grass of home" which I miss sometimes, but not the mowing of same.


Hipyan Nopri  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:58
Member (2005)
English to Indonesian
+ ...
Many Thanks Jan 23, 2007

for your responses.

Thank you, Alan, for the really useful link.

You all have widened my insight into the phenomenon of lexical reduplication. It appears that the phenomenon is found in several languages of the world, not only Asian but also European languages.

In my country, it often interferes with student's understanding of English nouns, particularly plural nouns. The sample funny cases I quoted above are commounly found among junior high school students when they are asked to write a piece of writing. However, during my study at the university, the same cases were not surprising either.

I wonder if the same intereference happens to learners of other languages.


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