I happened to stumble across an interesting video on the BBC related to English grammar rules the other day and, to be honest, it intrigued me. 

The video was about Ablaut Reduplication. Ablaut is the linguistic term for words that often begin and end with the same sound, but they have a slight change in the internal part of the word, usually the vowel sound. Examples of this concept could be nitty gritty, hanky panky. This concept is not only true in English, but also in French, Spanish and German.

The video basically explains why we say compound words in the order that we do, with reference to their sounds. For instance, why is it PING PONG and not PONG PING? Why do we say FLIP FLOPS rather than FLOP FLIPS? It is all a consequence of Ablaut Reduplication.

 

To watch the video: click HERE

(REFERENCE BBC.CO.UK)

The rule goes that an I or E sound will always come before an A, O or U sound. Study the examples and it always makes sense.

SING SONG

CHITTER CHATTER

DING DONG

RIFF RAFF

ZIG ZAG

PITTER PATTER

MISS MATCH

DILLY DALLY

WISHY WASHY

 

However, it doesn’t work within one word or we would end up with words like TAMOTO instead of TOMATO or PIRRODGE instead of PORRIDGE.

 

The point I am trying to make here is that it can go in conflict with the Rule for the order of adjectives. 

 

We usually use adjectives before the noun and they go in a specific order, for example:

I used to have a big, hairy dog called Lucy.

 

THE ORDER OF ADJECTIVES IS AS FOLLOWS:

  1. OPINION
  2. SIZE
  3. AGE
  4. SHAPE
  5. COLOUR
  6. PLACE
  7. MATERIAL
  8. PURPOSE

 

Study the example: 

 

It is a big, brown dog… this makes sense according to the logic of Ablaut Reduplication. But it is not always true, like when we say, it is a wonderful, pink car.

 

The simple reason is that these adjectives are not compounds and therefore do not always need to follow the rule, yet still, they normally do.

So, what is reduplication and why is it used?

Reduplication is the repeating of sounds and it is used for emphasis, creativity or fun. We use it in childish language to reinforce sounds or make it sound cute.

 

There are 3 types: use these forms or reduplication to sound like a native or more poetic.

Exact repetition used in childish language, it could be something like pi-pi, bot-bot, blah-blah, poo-poo, ta-ta.

Intensifying meaning: we often repeat the same word to reinforce it, like cool cool.

Rhyming: to sound more poetic we might use phrases like cool for school.

Ablaut: a slight change of internal sounds in a word, usually the vowel.

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