Bye-bye, bling-bling, ding-dong, ping-pong, chit-chat, criss-cross, sing-song, wishy-washy, knick-knack.  Reduplication is the repetition of the root of a word or the word itself either exactly or with a slight change.  It exists in kreol morisien as well: gidi-gidi, tipti-tipti, gri-gri, kram-kram, lao-lao, lagli-lagli, manti-manti, manz manze, pagla-pagla, pagli-pagli, plin-plin, sournwa-sournwa, simp-simp, zoli-zoli, malang-malang.



“Mars vit” carries one meaning but “mars vit-vit” adds urgency to the action.  “Lizie ver-ver”, “figir rouz-rouz”, “kouler zonn-zonn” may express emphasis.  “Get kouma zot pe asiz kol-kole” may express disapproval; “li kontan plant-plante” expresses work done for pleasure.  “Galoupe” can be once in a while but “sa zanfan-la kontan galoup-galoupe” suggests repeated action and may have a negative connotation.  “Roul dousman-dousman” brings out feelings of fear.  “Fer travay-la dousman” may mean quietly but repetition of “dousman” may feel like an appeal to be careful.  “Li’nn mars boukou” would mean walked but “Li’nn mars-marse li’nn ale” would suggest a relaxing walk.

“Li tap-tap mwa”, “bat-bat mwa”, “pins-pins mwa”, “grat-grat so latet” give us the idea of constant action which may be deliberate.  “Pa amerd mwa”: the action may have been done on a single occasion but “li amerd-amerd mwa” may be over a period of time and even disapproved by the speaker.  A teenager invites his girlfriend to the cinema.  Pointing a warning finger, she says “Si to atrap-atrap mwa dan nwar-nwar, mo kas kas twa, to gete.”

Why does the child want to change his place in the classroom?  He says to the father, “Mo kamarad gor-gore dan mo kaye”.  You may not give much thought to “li pik mwa ek krayon” but “pik-pik mwa” (which, incidentally, is another expression that often goes with “kontan”) may seem alarming.  A father learns that his daughter “pe mars ansam” with a boy after tuition.  He may not object.  He sees it as togetherness.  A simple doubling up of “ansam” may create an impression of proximity and intimacy.  He may get into a wild rage.  “Li paret kouyon-kouyon” translates the degree to which the speaker perceives the person to be foolish.  “Aret kriye for”: shouting may be louder than necessary while “for-for” would suggest intolerable behaviour.  “Fer li gol-gol” (make it round), “manz bwi-bwi” (to eat boiled food), “li pe roul-roul mwa” (he’s taking me for a ride), “pa bwar kiksoz fre-fre” (don’t take cold drinks), “inn gagn nouvo-nouvo liv dan libreri” are other examples.

Reduplication can produce a humorous effect.  Imagine someone saying he/she saw “gro-gro lera dan lakaz” accompanied by gestures of panic, or a child saying “sak-fwa sak-fwa dimounn-la dimann mwa kouma mo apele” and cannot see that the man is merely pulling his leg. Two children are wondering where they’ll get money to buy cakes. The younger boy tells his sister: “Nou al pez-pez dada so lipie, nou pou gagn kas.”

Ma-ma, pa-pa, da-da, da-di, na-na, na-ni, pi-pi, tou-tou, cou-cou are common in baby talk.  Reduplication has a role to play in language acquisition.

Someone came to see you.  Who was it?  “Misie-la inpe vie vie?”  Reduplication is used to seek information or precise details.


Intensity of feelings is conveyed in “khafa khafa” (anger), “saath saath” (togetherness), “zor zor se” (loudly, forcefully), “ghutan ghutan se lagta hai yahan” (to feel suffocated here), “jaldi jaldi” (in a rush), “meethi meethi batein” (sweet words), “karwa karwa batein” (bitter words), “ghari ghari mera dil dharke” (time and again my heart beats), “tanha tanha” (solitude), “ghoor ghoor ke dekhna” (look fixedly).

Reduplication facilitates retention of lyrics because they’re pleasant to the ears: “kabhi kabhi” (sometimes), “roz roz” (every day), “dhire dhire” (gradually), “kaise kaise log” (all types of people), “dhuan dhuan” (smoky, foggy).  They’re easily picked up by adults and children alike.  Freshly in love, a person may feel like “naya naya hai safar, nayi nayi hai zindagi” (it’s a new journey, a new life).  “Tere mast mast do nain” (your fascinating eyes) has not only a catchy sound, it also carries a rhythmical touch.

“Aage aage” (in front), “peeche peeche” (behind you), “koi na koi waaja to hoga” (there must be a reason), “door door se batein kare” (talk while keeping a distance), “sach sach bolo” (tell the truth), “bol halke halke” (speak softly), “ankhon ankhon mein” (locking of eyes), “baar baar yehi kehta hai” (he keeps saying the same thing), “ahista ahista” (slowly) are popular in spoken and written hindi.

Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy have composed an irresistible romantic piece in “Bunty Aur Babli” (2005) with singers Sonu Nigam and Mahalaxmi Iyer:  Chup chup ke/chup chup ke/chori se chori/chup chup ke/ chup chup ke re (silently, secretly, silently). It’s penned by widely-acclaimed Gulzar.  The recurring sound makes the composition immediately appealing and haunting.

Lyricist Mukul Dutt, legendary music director R.D.Burman, and singers Kumar Sanu and Kavita Krishnamurthy teamed up for “1942: A Love Story” (1994) to create a melodious rain song:


Rimjhim rimjhim

Rumjhum rumjhum
(pitter patter, pitter patter)

Tum hum, hum tum
(You and I, I and you)

Chalte hai, chalte hai
(We walk together)

It’s amazing how creative talents can give a new life to ordinary reduplications.