Головатенко Т.Ю. Reduplication as one of the ways to create new words in English

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Головатенко Тетяна Юріївна – студентка Педагогічного інституту Київського університету імені Бориса Грінченка, напрям підготовки «Початкова освіта», кафедра іноземних мов і методик їх навчання Київського університету імені Бориса Грінченка

В статті розглянуто феномен редуплікації як одного із шляхів словотвору в англійській мові. Представлено детальний опис різним класифікаціям редуплікації та їх значень. Проілюстровано багато прикладів різноманітних типів цього явища і його використання. Досліджено роль редуплікації в англійській мові та у побутовому мовленні.

Ключові слова: редуплікація, словотвір, утворення складних слів, лексикологія, сучасна англійська мова, створення нових слів, вираження емоцій.

В статье рассмотрен феномен редупликации как один из путей словообразования в английском языке. Предоставлено детальное описание разных классификаций редупликации и их значений. Проиллюстрированы множественные примеры разнообразных типов этого явления и его использования. Исследована роль редупликации в английском языке и в бытовой речи.

Ключевые слова: редупликация, словообразование, образование сложных слов, лексикология, современный английский язык, создание новых слов, выражения эмоций.

The article dwells upon the phenomenon of reduplication as one of the ways of word formation in the English language. The detailed description of different classifications of reduplication and their meanings are given. A number of examples of various types of the phenomenon and its usage are illustrated. The role of reduplication in the English language and colloquial speech is investigated.

Key words: reduplication, word formation, compounding, lexicology, Modern English, creating new words, expressing emotions.


Relevance of the topic

The problem of word formation and expressive abilities of the language is actual since de Sossure investigations. Modern English is characterized by the high influence on language. One of modern ways of creating words is compounding. It falls into several subtypes. Reduplication is one of them. Our article is devoted to reduplication as a way to create new words in English.

The analysis of research

Nowadays, the process of reduplication in English hasn’t been investigated fully. Nils Thun, William Cooper and Andrew Nevins made a great scientific contribution on the topic. Reduplication in other languages has been of a great interest and observance of the scientists David Watters, George Van Huyssteen and Kenneth L. Rehg.

The purpose formulation of research

The purpose of our article is to investigate the process of reduplication and the meaning of reduplicated words. In this article we set for us the following goals:

1) to distinguish main ways of word formation;

2) to investigate the place of reduplication in word forming;

3) to give examples illustrating different reduplication classifications in Modern English;

4) to explore the purpose of using reduplication in language.

The main material

Modernity influences language a lot. Creating new words has becomes immensely popular nowadays. Recent studies showed that the usage of reduplication by English speakers is more widespread and needs in-depth investigation of the problem.

There are several main types of word formation in Modern English. They are:

1) derivation (teach+er, un+pleasant);

2) conversion (clean /adj./ → to clean /v./) and

3) compounding (black + board, chit-chat).

Compounding is the process of putting words together to build a new one that “does not denote two things, but one” and that is “pronounced as one unit” [7, p. 14].

We believe, it is also important for reaching the goal of the article to investigate reduplication as the subtype of compounding.

According to the Oxford Dictionary “To reduplicate verb [with object] means to repeat either a syllable or other linguistic element exactly or with a slight change. For example: hurly-burly – метушня, itsy-bitsy – малюсінький [3].

The most general definition of the notion is “Reduplication is a linguistic form which contains systematic non-recursive repetition of phonological material for morphological or lexical purposes”.

As mentioned in “A Crosslinguistic Study Of Reduplication” by Shanthi Nadarajan [1], redupliction is a word formation process in which some part of a base (a segment, syllable, morpheme) is repeated, either to the left, or to the right of the word or, occasionally, within the middle of the word. While reduplication is found in a wide range of languages and language groups, its level of linguistic productivity varies.

The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language says about the process the following: “An interesting type of lexeme is one which contains two identical or very similar constituents: a reduplicative. Items with identical spoken constituents such as goody – goody (пер. авт. – мій хороший) and din – din (пер. авт. – дитяче “обід”) are rare. What is normal is for a single vowel or consonant to change between the first constituent and the second, such as see – saw (пер. авт. – дитяча гойдалка) and walkie – talkie (пер. авт. – портативна рація).

Reduplicatives are used in a variety of ways. Some simply imitate sounds: ding – dong, bow – wow. Some suggest alternative movements: flip – flop, ping – pong. Some are disparaging: dilly – dally (пер. авт. – марнувати час), wishy – washy (пер. авт. – невиразний, нерішучий). And some intensify meaning: teeny – weeny (пер. авт. – малюсінький), tiptop (пер. авт. – найвища точка; навшпиньки). Thus, reduplication is not a major means of creating lexemes in English, but it is perhaps the most unusual one [6, p. 130].

To conclude above mentioned it should be said that the process needs further in-depth investigation.

Recently, several ways of classifying reduplication have appeared in the scientific literature of many languages.

Scientists have distinguished the following types of the reduplication: formal and functional.

The formal reduplication is represented by the correlation of the partial reduplication to the full.

Full reduplication means that “morphological constituent (the simplex form) is copied as a whole”, e.g.: bye-bye – бувай, choo-choo – імітація звуку, pee-pee [4, p. 27].

Partial reduplication, on the contrary, means that a part of the simplex form, smaller than the whole, is copied. E.g.: hokey-pokey – барахло, шахрайство, razzle-dazzle – метушня, piggy-wiggy – замазура.

Taking into consideration functional reduplications we should keep in mind that there are certain functions attributable to reduplication. In support of this argument, we would like to point out the fact that not all languages employ this kind of word-formation. Logically, if there were not any functional restrictions (besides those ensuing from the capabilities of human cognitive structures and the restrictions complying with the efficiency of communication), it would be possible to use reduplication when we preserve some semantic affiliation, and there is no obvious reason why the following sequences as face to face’, ‘little by little’, ‘one by one’, and so on, do not represent actual lexical items.

In English reduplication is considered by linguists as a case of affixes where there is a similarity between the affix and some part of its environment. Accordingly, there are three types of reduplication:

1. Prefixal or initial: the part before the base which is reduplicative formative is copied, i.e. it can be to the right of the reduplicant, e.g.: mish-mash – мішанина.

2. Suffixal or final: the part after the base which is reduplicative formative is copied, e.g.: hugger-mugger – безлад, робити абияк.

3. Infixal can be internal, and is considered by Katamba and Stonham [2] as a morphological odd process whereby a copy of part of the base is inserted in the base as an infix. It is a very rare type of reduplication, e.g.: singing /sɪ̱ŋɪŋ/.

At the present, scientists-linguists distinguish the following types of reduplication which are used for informal expressive purposes:

1. Rhyming reduplication. Its peculiarity is in usage of a rhyming sound. These expressions are constant, e.g.: super-duper – приголомшливо, boogie-woogie – бугі-вугі, teenie-weenie – крихітний.

2. Exact reduplications is often used in childish language, e.g.: night-night –надобраніч, no-no – щось недозволене, poo-poo – імітація звуку.

3. In ablaut reduplications the first vowel is almost always a high vowel (/і/, /i:/, /ʊ/, /u:/) and the reduplicated ablaut variant of the vowel is a low vowel (/æ/, /a/), e.g.: bric-a-brac – антикварні дрібнички, chit-chat – базікати, pitter-patter – тарабанити.

4. Shm-reduplication can be used with the majority of words. Its roots are in historical influence of Yiddish on the American English, e.g.: baby-shmaby, cancer-schmancer, fancy-schmancy [5].

Both home and foreign linguists observe two types of syntactic reduplication:

1. Comparative reduplication is characterized by using comparatives to strengthen the meaning of words or to give them special meaning. It 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. Comparative reduplication is productive and changes the meaning of any comparative to a temporal one, despite the absence of any time-related words in the construction. E.g.: My cheeks looked redder and redder (they were getting redder while somebody was looking at them).

2. Contrastive focus reduplication. Exact reduplication can be used with contrastive focus to indicate a literal, as opposed to figurative, example of a noun, or perhaps a sort of Platonic ideal of the noun, e.g.: “Is that carrot cheesecake or carrot CAKE-cake?” (meaning a real tasty cake).

Furthermore, we need to investigate the question of reduplication role in the English language.

Phonologically, reduplication is described as reduplicated segments (sequences of consonants/vowels) or reduplicated prosodic units (syllables). In addition to phonological description, reduplication is also described morphologically as the reduplication of linguistic constituents (i.e. words, stems, roots). Thus, reduplication is interesting theoretically because it involves the interface between phonology and morphology. For instance: She calls her child “baby-shmaby”. What a shame for her!

Reduplication from the morphological point of view is a phenomenon in which a new word is formed when it is used in lexical derivations. E.g.: “fuzzy-wuzzy” – кучерявий.

“Hubble-bubble” and etc. expresses the onomatopoeic phenomenon because they reflect sounds.

Syntactically reduplication is used to show the shadow of the meaning. Each notional part of speech can be reduplicated. For example: Well, he didn’t GIVE-IT-TO-ME-give-it-to-me (= he only lent it to me).

So, to summarize above mentioned objects of our investigation it is clear that reduplication is used to express emotional context and meaning more than the semantic definition.


As it follows from the things we have investigated above we can make a conclusion. Firstly, reduplication is a linguistic form which contains systematic non-recursive repetition of phonological material for morphological or lexical purposes.

Secondly, reduplication can be formal\functional, initial\final\internal, rhyming\exact\ablaut or comparative\contrastive.

Thirdly, reduplication exists rarely as a morphological procedure in Indo-European languages in adult speech, but is well-known as a phonological phenomenon in child’s language. The process is known in all languages and has its peculiarities.

And fourthly, in English reduplication is used mostly to create new words or to give a special meaning to the word, to express emotional attitudes or to imitate sounds, to show the onomatopoeic meaning or copy the childish language. In any of these cases it enriches the language.

Therefore, it is important to be aware of reduplication phenomenon that enriches future primary school teacher’s vocabulary, makes the process of learning English interesting, and gives them motivation to learn it properly.

We believe, further observance of the reduplication problem in all its aspects should be investigated for making future primary school teachers professional, active users of the English language both in their work and in the international communication.


  1. A Crosslinguistic Study Of Reduplication / Shanthi Nadarajan // University of Arizona. – [Електронний ресурс] – Режим доступу: http://slat.arizona.edu/sites/slat/files/page/awp13nadarajan.pdf
  2. Katamba F. Morphology / F. Katamba. – Palgrave Macmillan, 1993. – 354 p.
  3. Oxford Dictionary Online. – [Електронний ресурс] — Режим доступу: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/reduplicate?q=reduplication#reduplicate__21
  4. Pott A. Doppelung (Reduplikation, Gemination): als eines der wichtigsten Bildungsmittel der Sprache, beleuchtet aus Sprachen aller Welttheile /A. Pott. – Meyer, 1862. – 304 p.
  5. Reduplication. – [Електронний ресурс] – Режим доступу: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reduplication#English
# The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language / David Crystal. –Cambridge University Press, 2004. – 499 p.
  1. Wisniewski K. Word Formation / K. Wisniewski // Tlumaczenia Angielski. – 2011. – № 3. – PP. 14 – 17.

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