In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Reduplication

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Edited Collections
  • Base
  • Morphological Factors
  • Other Repetitions
  • First-Language Acquisition
  • Meanings
  • Creoles
  • Diachrony
  • Sign Language Reduplication
  • Psycholinguistic Evidence

Linguistics Reduplication
Suzanne Urbanczyk
  • LAST REVIEWED: 19 September 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 October 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199772810-0036


Reduplication is a word-formation process in which meaning is expressed by repeating all or part of a word. The study of reduplication has generated a great deal of interest in terms of understanding a number of properties associated with the word-formation process. As with morphology in general, two considerations that arise in reduplication are related to form and meaning. As for form, the term “reduplicant” has been widely used to refer to the repeated portion of a word, while “base” is used to refer to the portion of the word that provides the source material for repetition. There are three key issues regarding reduplicative form for which theories of reduplication aim to account: segmental identity effects between base and reduplicant, the shape of reduplicants, and factors to consider in identifying the base of reduplication. The definitive feature of reduplication—that it involves copying a portion of the word—has generated a large variety of mechanisms to account for how repetition takes place. Because there are other phenomena in languages that involve the repetition of linguistic elements, there has also been research in how to determine whether or not a repetition is reduplication. In terms of the meaning, several recurrent meanings arise in reduplication, often related to “plurality” and “repetition.” This has led to research that explores issues related to iconicity in language. Related to research on meaning is a growing body of work investigating diachronic considerations in reduplication. Another growing area of research on reduplication relates to linguistic genesis by examining reduplication in Creoles, signed languages, and first-language acquisition. One area that lags behind others regards psycholinguistic studies of how speakers represent reduplication in their mental lexicons.

General Overviews

Several overviews of reduplication have been published in selected volumes that provide a survey of the types of reduplicative constructions found cross-linguistically (Hurch and Mattes 2009, Moravscik 1978, Rubino 2005). In addition, several works provide an overview of reduplication patterns within a specific language family (Fabricius 1998, Haeberlin 1918).

  • Fabricius, Anne H. 1998. A comparative survey of reduplication in Australian languages. LINCOM Studies in Australian Languages 3. Munich: Lincom Europa.

    Examines a range of reduplicative systems in 120 languages spoken in Australia focusing on the phonological, morphological, and semantic structures found.

  • Haeberlin, Herman. 1918. Types of reduplication in Salish dialects. International Journal of American Linguistics 1:154–174.

    DOI: 10.1086/463719

    Provides an early overview of reduplication patterns found in the twenty-three Salish languages spoken in the Pacific Northwest region of North America.

  • Hurch, Bernhard, and Veronika Mattes. 2009. Typology of reduplication: The Graz database. In Use of databases in cross-linguistic studies. Edited by Martin Everaert, Simon Musgrave, and Alexis Dimitriadis, 301–328. New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

    DOI: 10.1515/9783110198744

    This chapter discusses the Graz database of reduplicative constructions. The source languages are based on The World Atlas of Language Structures (developed by Bernard Comrie, Matthew Dryer, David Gil, and Martin Haspelmath). The database and discussion of the project are available online.

  • Moravscik, Edith. 1978. Reduplicative constructions. In Universals of human language. Vol. 3, Word structure. Edited by Joseph Greenberg, 297–334. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

    A typological survey of the reduplicative patterns found in terms of shape and meaning. A number of key generalizations are made regarding the size of reduplicants as well as the range of meanings.

  • Rubino, Carl. 2005. Reduplication: Form, function, and distribution. In Studies on reduplication. Edited by Bernhard Hurch and Veronika Mattes, 11–29. New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

    An overview of the range of forms and meanings associated with reduplication in the languages of the world. It also includes a map to indicate where languages that make productive use of reduplication are spoken.

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