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REDUPLICATION IN ENGLISH AND VIETNAMESE

A CONTRASTIVE ANALYSIS

Student: Phan Lien Yen Phi

Class: 4B08, Contrastive Analysis

Instructor: Bui Nguyen Khanh

HO CHI MINH CITY UNIVERSITY OF EDUCATION

DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH

HO CHI MINH CITY, DECEMBER 31, 2011

ABSTRACT


Reduplication is phonologically described as reduplicated segments (sequences of consonants or vowels) or reduplicated prosodic units (syllables or moras) (Nadarajan, n.d.). In morphology, "reduplication is the repetition of a syllable, a morpheme or a word” (Nguyen, 2004). Reduplication is one of the ways to create new words, so it exists in many languages, especially in Vietnamese, it helps to make our mother tongue melodious not only in literature but in everyday speech as well. How about in English? Reduplication rarely occurs in English and is primarily used in words that reflect sounds or noises such as “click clack” (Thompson, 1965, as cited in Tang, 2007). In this paper, I would like to examine the forms and functions of reduplication in English and Vietnamese through a contrastive view and then, some useful implications for teaching reduplication and how to translate them from Vietnamese into English and vice versa will be discussed.

REDUPLICATION IN ENGLISH AND VIETNAMESE

A CONTRASTIVE ANALYSIS

Reduplication in English


Forms

According to Nguyen (2004), we should distinguish reduplication from compound words because reduplication also consists of two parts, but otherwise in most cases [it] fails to satisfy the definition of a compound word1. Some of them contain only one free morpheme, the other constituents being a variation of this. In other cases, both constituents are jocular pseudo-morphemes, meaningless and fanciful sound clusters which never occur elsewhere. Nguyen (2004) states that it is a very mixed group which consists of three subgroups: reduplicative compounds proper, ablaut combinations, and rhyme combinations.



  1. Reduplicative compounds proper (also called exact reduplication): contains usual free forms, onomatopoeic stems and pseudo-morphemes.

    • None-imitative words may be used in reduplication and possess a ironical ring, but they are not numerous and occur only in colloquial speech such as pretty-pretty (affectedly pretty), goody-goody (sentimentally and affectedly good), never-never (an ellipsis of a phrase never-never system which means “a hire-purchase system in which the consumer may never be able to become the owner of the thing purchased”).

    • Onomatopoeic repetition exists but it is not very extensive, for example: hush-hush (secret), murmur (to speak or say very quietly), pooh-pooh (to express contempt).

    • In some exact reduplication, the constituents are pseudo-morphemes which do not occur elsewhere, like in blah-blah (nonsense, idle talk). People often say blah, blah, blah when they do not want to repeat what somebody has said or written. Some nursery words, such as: quack-quack (duck), Pops-Pops (father), bye-bye, choo-choo (a train), night-night, no-no, pee-pee, poo-poo… also belong to this type.

  2. Ablaut combinations: are twin forms consisting of one basic morpheme (usually the second), sometimes a pseudo-morpheme which is repeated in the other constituent with a different vowel. In ablaut reduplications, the first vowel is almost always a high vowel and the reduplicated ablaut variant of the vowel is a low one (Wikipedia). There are two typical changes: /ɪ/ – /æ/, such as chit-chat (gossip), dilly-dally (loiter), knick-knack (small articles of ornament), riff-raff (the mob), shilly-shally (hesitate), zigzag (a line or pattern that looks like a series of letters W’s), pitter-patter (a quick light knocking sound)…, and /ɪ/ – /ɔ/, such as ding-dong (said of the sound of the bell), ping-pong (table-tennis), singsong (monotonous voice), tiptop (first-rate), criss-cross (to move or exist in a pattern of lines crossing something or each other)…

  3. Rhyme combinations: are twin forms consisting of two elements (most often two pseudo-morphemes) which are joined to rhyme. Some typical examples for this subgroup are: razzle-dazzle (noticeable activity or very colorful appearance intended to attract attention), lovey-dovey (darling), harum-scarum (disorganized), helter-skelter (in disordered haste), hoity-toity (snobbish), hurry-scurry (great hurry), hurdy-gurdy (a small organ), namby-pamby (weakly sentimental), willy-nilly (compulsorily)…

Another way to classify the forms of reduplication is shown in the research of Nadarajan (n.d). It is illustrated by the table below:

Group

Full reduplication: the exact repetition of a sound or word

Partial reduplication: reduplication of only a part of a word

Subgroup




Vowel alternation

Onset alternation:

h-C’ / ‘C-w1



Rhyming words:

rhyme – diminutive suffix2



Examples

- murmur

- quack quack

- leaving-leaving3


- chit chat

- criss cross

- see saw


- handy dandy

- hurly burly

- bow wow

- teeny weeny



- boogie woogie

- lovey dovey




Functions

In terms of functions, most linguists agree that English reduplications are either colloquial, slang or nursery words and markedly expressive and emotional (the emotion is not expressed in the constituents but suggested by the whole pattern) (Nguyen, 2004). Reduplications depend on sound-symbolism so much that their phonetic make-up plays the most important role in their functioning. In ablaut combinations, both groups (/ɪ/ – /æ/ and /ɪ/ – /ɔ/) are based on sound symbolism expressing polarity, they symbolize to and fro rhythm (criss-cross), or suggest hesitation (shilly-shally), and the semantically predominant group are the words meaning idle talk, such as bibble-babble, chit-chat, clitter-clatter, etc. In the third subgroup (rhyme combinations), the semantically predominant group are the words denoting disorder, trickery, teasing names for persons, and some playful nursery words.


Reduplication in Vietnamese


Forms

While it is not productive in English, reduplication is found abundantly in Vietnamese. However, the definition of “từ láy” in Vietnamese is a little bit different from this in English. According to Mai, Vu, & Hoang (1997), in Vietnamese, reduplicative words are phonetically repeated (called “điệp”), but they still have some different feature (called “đối”), for example đỏ đắn has the same onset consonant but different rhymes. In “người người”, “nhà nhà”, “ngành ngành”, they are only repeated the entire word without any differences, therefore, they are reduplicative forms of word, not the reduplicative words. Vietnamese reduplicative words can be divided into three groups based on the number of syllables they contain: two-syllable (bi-syllabic) reduplicative words (e.g. xanh xanh, khe khẽ, ngơ ngác…), three-syllable (tri-syllabic) reduplicative words (e.g. sạch sành sanh, khít khìn khít…), and four-syllable reduplicative words (e.g. lúng ta lúng túng, trùng trùng điệp điệp…). Among them, the bi-syllabic is the most important group because they make up more than 98% amount of Vietnamese reduplicative words (Le, Nguyen, & Roussanaly, n.d.). Therefore, in this paper, I would like to take a long, hard look at bi-syllabic reduplicative words in Vietnamese. In this group, we have two types of reduplication: full reduplication and partial reduplication. (Mai et al, 1997)



  1. Full reduplication: consists of the reduplicative words whose phonetic feature is not identical. They are divided into 3 sub classes:

    • Full reduplication with alternate stress: contains two identical elements in which one is pronounced in a stronger or longer way: cào cào, ba ba, rề rề, lăm lăm, khăng khăng, lù lù, lâng lâng, đùng đùng, hây hây, đăm đăm…

    • Full reduplication with alternate tone: bằng tone (ngang, huyền) precedes trắc tone (hỏi, sắc, ngã nặng) based on the following rule:

Bằng

Trắc

1. Ngang

Hỏi

Sắc

2. Huyền

Ngã

Nặng

E.g.: (1) đo đỏ, ra rả, thoang thoảng, lay láy, đau đáu, phơi phới…

(2) sừng sững, lững thững, nhè nhẹ, ngờ ngợ, vành vạnh…

There are some exeptions, such as cỏn con, dửng dưng, mảy may…


    • Full reduplication with alternate final consonant due to the so-called “quy luật dị hóa”: m – p (e.g. ăm ắp, cầm cập, chiêm chiếp…), n – t (e.g. chan chát, sồn sột, ngùn ngụt…), ng – c (e.g. phưng phức, khang khác, rừng rực…), nh – ch (e.g. anh ách, phanh phách, rinh rích…)

  1. Partial reduplication: includes the reduplicative words in which either initial consonant or rhyme is repeated. There are 2 sub classes:

    • Initial reduplication with alternate rhyme: bập bềnh, đẹp đẽ, ngơ ngác, say sưa, vồ vập, hấp háy, bồng bềnh, xơ xác, lung linh… We should pay attention to the main vowel alternation rule in some reduplicative words:

u – i: cũ kĩ, xù xì, tủm tỉm, mũm mĩm…

ô – ê: ngô nghê, hổn hển, xồ xề…

o – e: vò ve, khò khè, nhỏ nhẻ…

i – a: rỉ rả, xí xóa, hí hoáy…

u – ă: tung tăng, vùng vằng, thủng thẳng…

u – ơ: ngu ngơ, khù khờ, cũn cỡn…

ô – a: hốc hác, ngột ngạt, mộc mạc…

ê – a: nghêu ngao, rề rà, xuề xòa…



    • Rhyme reduplication with alternate initial consonant: bâng khuâng, bơ vơ, càu nhàu, thao láo, hấp tấp, lảng vảng, lúng túng, thình lình, lưa thưa, lơ thơ…

Functions

Reduplication in Vietnamese has multiple semantic functions (Nguyen, T.C., 1999; Nguyen, T.G., 2003, as cited in Tang, 2007) in comparison with English reduplication which is primarily used in words that reflect sounds or noises (Thompson, 1965, as cited in Tang, 2007). When a verb is repeated, this reduplication indicates movement, for example when we reduplicate the verb gật [đầu] (to nod [one’s head]), we have gật gật đầu to indicate a repetitive nodding motion. For an adjective reduplication, it can imply a lesser degree of quality, such as xinh (pretty) while xinh xinh (kind of/ less pretty), or the color of xanh xanh is lighter than that of xanh. Some certain nouns can be reduplicated to indicate reoccurrence or multiple instances, like ngày ngày (day day) implies many days or all days (Nguyen, T.C., 1999; Nguyen, T.G., 2003, as cited in Tang, 2007). In terms of semantic effects of intensifying or attenuating the meaning of the root word, below are some examples of full reduplication in Vietnamese:



Reduplication Table

simple form

meaning

redup. form

meaning

semantic effect

ầm

noisy

ầm ầm

rumble, roar

intensifying

ào

impetuous

ào ào

roar, thunderously

intensifying

bầu

rounded

bầu bầu

roundish

attenuative

bời

be disordered

bời bời

be in disorder

no change

chan

pour broth

chan chan

abundant, plentiful

opaque

chênh

be tilted, slanting

chênh chênh

oblique, tilted, slant

no change

chong

stare for a long time

chong chong

staring for a long time

continuous

chuồn

move stealthily

chuồn chuồn

dragon-fly

opaque

dần

beat

dầu dầu

gradually

continuous

gạch

underline

gạch gạch

shade with parallel lines

?

ha

hurrah

ha ha

aha

intensifying

hầm

stew

hầm hầm

angry

intensifying/opaque

hây

rosy, ruddy

hây hây

rosy, ruddy

no change

hăng

very enthusiastic

hăng hăng

enthusiastic

attenuative

hay

good

hay hay

rather good

attenuative

hề

clown

hề hề

grin broadly

?

hồng

rosy

hồng hồng

slightly rosy

attenuative

hơi

a little

hơi hơi

a little bit

attenuative

hung

reddish

hung hung

slightly reddish

attenuative

keng

clang

keng keng

clang

no change

khè

snore

khè khè

snoring

no change

lầm

make a mistake

lầm lầm

look angry

opaque

lần

time

lần lần

gradually

continuous

lắm

very

lắm lắm

very much

intensifying

lăm

five

lăm lăm

keep ready

opaque

lảng

sneak away

lảng lảng

sneak off

attenuative

lờ

ignore

lờ đờ

dull

opaque

đầm

pond

đầm đầm

be in bad mood

opaque

đâu

where

đâu đâu

everywhere

intensifying

đăm

right side

đăm đăm

look fixely

opaque

đằng

direction

đằng đằng

inflamed with

opaque

nao

which, where

nao nao

with emotion, touched

opaque

ngày

day

ngày ngày

day by day

continuous

nhầu

rumpled

nhầu nhầu

rush in a pack

opaque

nhao

be in a stir

nhao nhao

to get in general uproar

?

nhẹ

light

nhẹ nhẹ

very light

intensifying

nhè

snivel

nhè nhè

snivelling

continuous

nhèo

flabby

nhèo nhèo

very flabby

intensifying

nhiều

a lot of

nhiều nhiều

a little bit more

attenuative

nhông

wander

nhông nhông

wander

no change

oang

loud and powerful

oang oang

stentorian

opaque

phạch

flop

phạch phạch

flipflop

continuous

phềnh

swell

phềnh phềnh

swell

no change

phơ

snowy

phơ phơ

slightly snowy

attenuative

quen

familiar

quen quen

somewhat acquainted with

attenuative

rầm

loud

rầm rầm

uproarious

intensifying

rành

have a knowledge

rành rành

plain, obvious, undeniable

?

rào

rivulet

rào rào

cascading noise

opaque



stingly

sè sè

very low

?

song

but, however

song song

at the same time

opaque

tanh

fishy

tanh tanh

somewhat fishy

attenuative



decline

tà tà

decline obliquely

attenuative

tàng

old

tàng tàng

rather old

attenuative

tênh

very

tênh tênh

like a feather

intensifying

thanh

slim

thanh thanh

rather slim

attenuative

thẹn

ashamed

thẹn thẹn

a little ashamed

attenuative

thinh

(làm thinh) be quiet

thinh thinh

broad

opaque

thình

bang

thình thình

loudly

intensifying

thiu

snooze

thiu thiu

snooze

no change

thôi

stop

thôi thôi

enough

opaque

thòm

tomtom beat

thòm thòm

continous roll of tomtom

continuous

thường

often

thường thường

often

continuous

thớt

chopping board

thớt thớt

lip-service

opaque

tom

collect, gather

tom tom

noise of drum

continuous

tòm

plop

tòm tòm

plopping

continuous

trắng

white

trắng trắng

slightly white

attenuative

trừng

stare at

trừng trừng

wide open

intensifying

trùng

coincide

trùng trùng

numberless

attenuative

ù

buzz

ù ù

rumble

continuous

ủi

shoo

ủi ủi

shoo

no change

vân

veined

vân vân

etc . . .

opaque

xa

far

xa xa

in the distance

attenuative

xăm

written oracle, body tattooing

xăm xăm

straight and in a hurry

intensifying

xanh

green, blue

xanh xanh

bluish, greenish

attenuative

xinh

pretty

xinh xinh

rather pretty

attenuative

xổng

escape

xổng xổng

unimpeded

?

xơi

eat

xơi xơi

many, much

opaque

xờm

hang down

xờm xờm

really hang down

intensifying

xương

bone

xương xương

bony, thinnish

attenuative







chề chề

heavy, grave

opaque







dàu dàu

withered, gloomy

opaque







him him

unable to open wide

opaque







khư khư

hold tight

opaque







lâng lâng

relieving

opaque







thênh thênh

spacious

opaque







nhâu nhâu

crowd

opaque







nhong nhong

tintinnabulation

opaque

Note. The data is originally compiled by Jeanne Tieu, retrieved from http://vietnamese-grammar.group.shef.ac.uk/grammar_en.php?ID=11

In addition, reduplicative words are very onomatopoeic (such as ầm ầm, ào ào, rì rào…) and figurative (chót vót, thăm thẳm, cheo leo…), so they are often used in literature as a literary device and everyday speech.


TEACHING IMPLICATION


After examining the similarities and differences in forms and functions of reduplication in English and Vietnamese, I would like to draw out some teaching implications concerning English and Vietnamese reduplication.

First of all, reduplication is a very interesting linguistic phenomenon, so it more or less has influence on language acquisition and learning. Especially, Vietnamese has many, many reduplicative words that can cause difficulty in translating them into English and vice versa. Therefore, being aware of the forms and functions of reduplication in English and Vietnamese may help teachers and students overcome these problems. To do that, teacher should give students some possible ways to translate Vietnamese reduplicative words into English, such as adding a proper adverb to an adjective (xinh xinh can be translated to quite pretty, đo đỏ can be slightly red…), or using synonyms or hyponyms to indicate the degree of quality (đo đỏ can be reddish, xanh xanh can be bluish…), etc.

Secondly, this phenomenon can sometimes arouse students’ interest, so teachers can use it to design warm-up or review activities like find out as much as possible reduplication in nursery words (bye-bye, no-no, night-night, choo-choo, quack-quack, pops-pops…) in 3 minutes, or match the reduplicative words with their meaning.

One more thing is that knowing reduplication in English and Vietnamese may help students create positive transfer from L1 (Vietnamese) to L2 (English). The students can understand and distinguish the differences between the two languages and develop their linguistic competencies in both languages.


CONCLUSION


In conclusion, reduplication is an interesting phenomenon that exists in many languages, especially in Vietnamese, it makes our mother tongue harmonious because it is used not only as a literary device but also in everyday conversations. This paper aims to point out the similarities and differences in forms and functions of reduplication in English and Vietnamese. Through the literature review, we see that Vietnamese reduplicative words are much more than English in quantity and there are a lot of differences between Vietnamese and English reduplications in terms of forms and functions. Some teaching implications are also discussed in this paper. I hope that the information here will be helpful.

REFERENCES


Le, H.P, Nguyen, T.M.H., & Roussanaly, A. (n.d.). Finite-state description of Vietnamese reduplication. Retrieved December 19, 2011, from http://www.loria.fr/~lehong/pubs/ALR-709.pdf

Lexical reduplication. (n.d.). In Online grammar. Retrieved December 29, 2011, from http://vietnamese-grammar.group.shef.ac.uk/grammar_en.php?ID=11

Mai, N.C., Vu, D.N., & Hoang, T.P. (1997). Co so ngon ngu hoc va tieng Viet. Hanoi: Education Publishing House.

Nadarajan, S. (n.d.). A cross-linguistic study of reduplication. Retrieved Demcember 14, 2011, from http://w3.coh.arizona.edu/AWP/AWP13/AWP13%5BNadarajan%5D.pdf

Nguyen, H.L. (2004). An outline of morphology. Ho Chi Minh City: University of Education Press.

Reduplication.(n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved December 10, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reduplication



Tang, M.G. (2007). Cross-linguistic analysis of Vietnamese and English with implications for Vietnamese language acquisition and maintenance in the United States. Journal of Southeast Asian American education & advancement, 2. Retrieved Demcember 19, 2011, from http://jsaaea.coehd.utsa.edu/index.php/JSAAEA/article/view/13/8

1 compound word: A combination of two or more words which functions as a single word. Compound words are written either as a single word (e.g. headache), as hyphenated words (e.g. self-government), or as two words (e.g. police station).

1 Onset alternation occur when the consonant (C) change in ‘h-C’ or ‘C-w’ alternation. The root word would have the meaning while the reduplicant would lack any explicit meaning.

2 As for rhyme with diminutive suffixes, the words tend to lack independent meanings, but take on a new meaning when combined. These words are often found in nursery rhymes and children’s story books.

3 Full reduplication would be used to provide emphasis as indicated in “Are you leaving-leaving now?”, i.e. “Are you ‘really’ leaving (for good) or merely stepping out for a minute” (Ghomeshi et al, 2004, as cited in Nadarajan, n.d.)


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