Reduplication is repeating a syllable with a slight change to the vowel or to a consonant. Reduplication is how you make the present and past perfect tenses in Greek, so you probably know the word already if you studied Greek.
We have it in English, too, but we don’t mention it (except maybe in linguistic circles). We use reduplication mainly in onomatopoetic words: tic tock, clip clop, and so on.
Why do I mention this? I ran into an article that mentions reduplication that also mentions a topic I wrote about two or so years ago but didn’t know the source, so I’m giving credit now.
(I wrote about ablaut a while back, too, but in a different context. In case you’re interested, it’s here. Ablaut is when you change a vowel following a pattern.)
Here’s a paragraph from the article:
You are utterly familiar with the rule of ablaut reduplication. You’ve been using it all your life. It’s just that you’ve never heard of it. But if somebody said the words zag-zig, or ‘cross-criss you would know, deep down in your loins, that they were breaking a sacred rule of language. You just wouldn’t know which one.
It’s an interesting article; I recommend you read the whole thing.
PS—sigh. Wouldn’t you know, today I ran into a comic that features ablaut reduplication.
PPS—and here’s a serious use of the word:
The name comes from Hawaiian ʻoumuamua, meaning ‘scout’ (from ʻou, meaning ‘reach out for’, and mua, reduplicated for emphasis, meaning ‘first, in advance of’), and reflects the way this object is like a scout or messenger sent from the distant past to reach out to humanity. (That apostrophe at the beginning of the name is a glottal stop, not an orphaned single quote.)
The rule about hyphenating compound words is that the hyphen tends to go away if the word is common enough. We used to write “to-day” instead of “today,” for example. A more recent change is “web site” to “website,” now unhyphenated even when used as a compound adjective.
Here’s one that should definitely still get the hyphen:
On April 30, the Pu‘u ‘O‘o crater on Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano, suddenly collapsed. It was the starting point for the volcano’s monthslong eruption, which went on to produce 320,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools’ worth of lava that transformed the landscape and ultimately destroyed 700 homes.
That’s a months-long eruption. That “nthsl” is just too long, and besides, where does the “s” go? I’m not aware of anything called a “slong.” It’s a good thing that the sentence didn’t have “swimmingpoolsworth.”
Remember, the goal of expository writing is to be clear. Try not to have bumps in your readers’ road.
PS—Those apostrophes in P’u ‘O’o aren’t contractions. They represent glottal stops, which English uses, but doesn’t have a letter for.
The quote below, from one Vykki, is a response below a comic where a guy wants to communicate with a deaf person, but he doesn’t know ASL very well. This post is actually about that comment.
I’ve also heard people say “LOL” out loud—either as “ell oh ell” or “lawl”—while not actually laughing. Basically, LOL has evolved to be something other than an abbreviation for “laughing out loud”, in much the same way that “ok” is no longer an abbreviation. (There’s a fun thought: 150 years from now, people might say, “Did you know that ‘eloel’ came from ‘laughing out loud’? That’s crazy!” Assuming they remember its origins at all—the origins of many words and phrases, including “ok”, are debated, and perhaps that one will be too.)
a comment on https://girlswithslingshots.com/comic/gws-chaser-980
I have heard someone say “LOL” myself, once, maybe twice. (Perhaps I don’t swing in the appropriate circles), but I think Vykki couldn’t have said it better. Language changes. We curmudgeons have to deal with it.
Since I’ve mentioned this problem before, I’m posting today mainly to show the comic.
English has a weakness in that it doesn’t have a singular personal pronoun that doesn’t show gender. All we have is he, she, and it, so people have been using the plural, they, for centuries (!) when they don’t want to (or can’t) show gender. That’s been long enough that it ought to be okay to use “they” for a non-gendered singular, but it’s just illogical enough that it doesn’t appeal to English teachers, so we have the continuing issue.
Anyway, here’s the comic:
I’m guessing that the monster is a pop culture reference that I don’t get…
I’ve mentioned in the past that ambiguity is bad except in poetry. (For more on this topic, put “ambiguity” in the search box in the upper right corner.) When you explain something, you want to be clear. I ran into someone pointing this out in a recent Delaware Mensa newsletter, DelaMensa:
I read the newspaper everyday. —Is that past tense or current tense? Did you read that as “I red” or “I reed”? Both are valid. Context is usually helpful, but what if the paragraph started with that?
He suggested a solution, too. Context. I’m a little wordier; I say rewrite the sentence.