Reduplication in the Russian language

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The reduplication in the Russian language serves for various kinds of the intensification of the meaning.

Reduplication is also observable in borrowed words, such as "пинг-понг" ([pʲinˈpoŋk]; ping-pong) and "зигзаг" ([zʲɪɡˈzak]; zig-zag), but since the words were borrowed as is from other languages, they are not examples of reduplication as it works in the grammar of Russian.

Syllabic/root/stem reduplication[edit]

There is virtually no productive syllabic or root/stem reduplication in the modern Russian language.[1]

An ancient lexical stratum of the Russian language provides examples such as "мама" ([ˈmamə]; mommy), "папа" ([ˈpapə]; daddy), "баба" ([ˈbabə]; granny)—a phenomenon common to many languages. It is argued that these words originated in the reduplicated babbling of infants.

Word reduplication[edit]

Word reduplications are mostly the feature of the colloquial language and in most cases do not constitute separate dictionary entries.[1] Word reduplication may occur in the following forms:

  • a hyphenated word, both of standard vocabulary or standard ad hoc word formation
    • exact reduplication:
      • "чуть-чуть" ([tɕʉtʲ ˈtɕʉtʲ]; "very few", lit. "few-few")—a vocabulary word
      • "белый-белый (снег)" ([ˈbʲɛlɨj ˈbʲɛlɨj (sʲnʲɛk)]; "very white (snow)", lit. "white-white (snow)")—ad hoc formation, for adjectives
    • inflected reduplication:
      • "давным-давно" ([dɐˈvnɨm dɐˈvno]; "very long time ago", lit. "pastly-past")
      • "белым-бело" ([bʲɪˈlɨm bʲɪˈlo]; "very white", lit. "whitely-white")
    • Reduplication of adjectives using the enhancement preposition "пре-" (/prʲe/)
      • "большой-пребольшой" (bɐˈlʲʂoj prʲɪbɐˈlʲʂoj]; "very big", lit. "big-very-big"
      • "белый-пребелый" ([ˈbʲɛlɨj prʲɪˈbʲɛlɨj]; "very white", lit. "white-very-white")
  • A repetition of a word in dialogues as a device used either to request or to promise a higher degree of cooperation:[2]
    • "Давай, давай!" or "Давай-давай", ([dɐˈvaj dɐˈvaj])—a general-purpose urge to do something, literally "give it, give it!", meaning "Come on!" or "Let's do it!"
    • "Беги, беги!" ([bʲɪˈɡʲi bʲɪˈɡʲi]; "Run, run!")—a specific urge to run: to run fast or to run right away.
    • "Конечно, конечно!" ([kɐˈnʲeʂnə kɐˈnʲeʂnə])—an enhanced agreement: "Of course, of course!"
    • "Да, да" ([da da] "Yes, yes")—an utterance used in dialogs to indicate either constant attention ("yes, yes, I am listening") or agreement ("yes, yes, of course")
  • Shm-reduplication and m-reduplication, to express irony, borrowed from Yiddish and Central Asian cultures respectively, sometimes used as a mockery of the corresponding languages or peoples; see Russian jokes about Georgians for examples of this phenomenon
  • As an expression of a frequentative or of a prolonged action
    • "Тянут-потянут, вытянуть не могут" ([ˈtʲanut pɐˈtʲanut ˈvɨtʲɪnutʲ nʲɪ ˈmoɡut]; "They are pulling and pulling, but cannot pull it [the turnip] out")—a phrase from the classical fairy tale Repka ("Репка", "The Turnip")
    • "Смотрит, смотрит" ([ˈsmotrʲɪt ˈsmotrʲɪt]; "[he] is looking and looking")
    • "Шёл, шёл" ([ʂol ʂol]; "[he] went and went")
  • Onomatopoeic reduplication
    • "Кап-кап-кап" ([kap kap kap]; the sound of the droplets of water)
    • "Тик-так" ([tik tak]) or "тик-тик-тик" ([tik tik tik]); the sound of a clock ticking
    • "Гав-гав" ([ɡav ɡaf]; bowwow)
  • Frequentative, often combined with ideophonic/onomatopoeic derivation

Affixal reduplication[edit]

A peculiarity of Russian language is synonymic affixal reduplication, whereby a root may acquire two productive suffixes or prefixes, different, but of the same semantics, with the corresponding intensification of the meaning:[1]

  • Affectional diminutives:
    • "Подруга" ([pɐˈdruɡə])→"подружка" ([pɐˈdruʂkə])→"подруженька" ([pɐˈdruʐɨnʲkə] "girlfriend"). Here, "г"→"ж" is an example of consonant mutation, and "-к-" and "-ень-" are two diminutive-generating suffixes. This kind of word formation is especially productive for given names: "Екатерина" ([jɪkətʲɪˈrʲinə], "Catherine")→"Катя" ([ˈkatʲə], hypocoristic)→"Катюша" ([kɐˈtʲuʂə] "Katyusha")→"Катюшенька" ([kɐˈtʲuʂɨnʲkə])→"Катюшенечка" ([kɐˈtʲuʂɨnʲɪtɕkə], sounds intentionally ridiculous)
  • Another example:
    • "Забыть" ([zɐˈbɨtʲ], "to forget")→"призабыть" ([prʲɪzɐˈbɨtʲ], "to forget for a while")→"попризабыть" ([pəprʲɪzɐˈbɨtʲ])

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c О. Ю. Крючкова, "Специфика внутрисловных удвоений в русском языке", in Proc. Intl. Congress Russian Language: Historical Fates and Modern Times ("Русский язык: исторические судьбы и современность"), Moscow, MSU, March 13–16, 2001, section "Word Formation of the Modern Russian Language" (in Russian)
  2. ^ Israeli, A. (1997). "Syntactic reduplication in Russian: A cooperative principle device in dialogues". Journal of Pragmatics, 27(5), 587-609