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Want to Be Specific in English? No Need for New Words. Just Say Something TWICE! ?

Have you noticed people duplicating a word and wondered, ‘what’s up with that?’
Or maybe you noticed it, but haven’t thought it means anything.

In this episode I’m going to talk about this fun phenomenon – It’s called Lexical Cloning or Reduplication.

Reduplication is repeating a word or phrase twice to convey a different meaning than one word or phrase alone would potentially convey.

Some of you may already be familiar with this phenomenon as it happens in other languages as well, not just in English. But the WAY we stress the words might be a little different.

In English, the first word or phrase that’s repeated is stressed. For example: ‘I’m up, but I’m not UP-up,’ meaning that you’re awake, probably lying in bed or on the couch, but you’re not wide awake and up on your feet.

Watch the video to see more examples:


Hey, I’ve got a question for you. When you’re listening to my podcast, are you listening to my podcast or are you listening-listening to my podcast? If you just asked yourself, “What is she talking about?” then this, my friend, is for you because today we’re going to talk about reduplication, or lexical cloning.

Hey, hey everyone. Thank you so much for tuning in for another episode of the InFluency Podcast. And as you heard at the beginning, today we’re going to talk about a really cool phenomenon in English and, actually, in any language where people tend to repeat a certain word so it means something very specific.

I’m not going to explain everything now in the intro. I’m just going to say that when learning a language, sometimes we, you know, we are very geared towards what we are being taught, what the teachers tell us, or the videos tell us, or the podcasts tell us, and what we read in books. Where in fact there is something a lot more flexible and fluid in a language. Things are changing, or you hear things, or something about the intonation that indicates something that you can’t really learn, unless you live the language and you pay attention to how people speak.

I mean, I’m lying when I say “you can’t really learn” because I’m going to teach you that today. Or I’m not going to teach you that. I’m just going to put the spotlight on something that happens when people speak and say, “Hey, pay attention!”. So you understand the nuances of speech and you have the power to use it yourself now you know that, okay. And to use it confidently and not just, you know, without knowing exactly what you’re doing.

So, today we’re going to talk about something that happens in the language where people repeat the same word in a certain fashion and put the stress on the first word to indicate that the word has a very specific meaning, and not a broader meaning that sometimes people assign to this word. Are you confused? Well, listen to the full episode and you’ll be just like slightly confused, and not confused-confused. If you know what I mean. So let’s listen to today’s lesson about lexical cloning, or reduplication.

“Wait a minute. You like him or you like-like him?”

“Excuse me. Is this vegan chocolate or is this chocolate-chocolate?”

“Mom, I’m up. I’m just not up-up. Let me get my coffee and I’ll call you back. Okay?”

What is this thing where we take one word and we reduplicate it? Does it change the meaning of the sentence or the meaning of the word? Well, sort of. This thing is called lexical cloning, or reduplication. And it happens when a single word may have a broader meaning than the initial original meaning of the word.

For example, the word “like”: “I like you as my friend”, “I like eating ice cream”, “I hit ‘like’ on Facebook, or on this video”. And that is the meaning of “like”. But “like” can also mean to have a crush on someone or to be slightly in love with someone. Right? So when I say like-like, I indicate that I mean the narrow specific definition of the word.

Another example that I used is “chocolate-chocolate”, right? “Chocolate-chocolate” is the real chocolate as we all know it – milk chocolate, right? Not bittersweet, not almond chocolate, and not vegan chocolate. So I was comparing vegan chocolate versus chocolate-chocolate, which is the real basic definition of the word chocolate.

When I use lexical cloning – or reduplication – I put the stress on the first word and I say it’s significantly higher in pitch. I mean, higher in pitch higher in pitch, not just like slightly higher in pitch. I used it as well with up-up, right. “I’m up. I’m just not up-up”. That means I’m up, I’m physically up, but mentally I’m still asleep. That’s why I need to get my coffee. So I’m up, I’m just not up-up. Okay?

And notice how I go higher in pitch. Let’s try it together. “Up-up”. To say it higher in pitch means to use a higher note than the note that you regularly use. Up-up. Chocolate-chocolate. Like-like. Now, it’s like a lot of fun and you may have it in your native language as well. If you do, let us know in the comments below.

Now, the reason why I want to share this phenomenon with you is because it’s really cool and fun, and it helps you understand the nuances of a conversation better, especially if English is not your native language. But also I want you to see if you have it in your native language, and if you do, do you stress both words as we do stress them in English?

Let’s look at a few more examples. And when I say these examples, try to think what it means when I use this reduplication. Okay? Let’s try it out. “So, are you friends-friends, or are you nice-to-see-you-again kind of friends?” Or I can also say, “Are you friends-friends, or are you Facebook friends?” Which means, not really friends – and close friends. Right? So I can actually ask you if you can ask him to do me a favor.

Let’s look at another example. “Yeah, I talked to her last week. But I didn’t talk-to-her talk to her, so I had no idea what was going on.” So when I say it like that, it means that, yeah, I talked to her, meaning I only exchanged with her a few words. I didn’t talk-to-her talk to her, so I didn’t have the opportunity of going deep in the conversation and to ask her what was really going on. Right?

So to talk to someone has several different meanings. And when I double it up, when I duplicate it, it means that I mean this term in the most specific, enhanced, intense way possible. Okay? “I talked to her, but I didn’t talk-to-her talk to her.”

Another example. “Gosh, I hate her sometimes. I mean, I don’t hate her-hate her. It’s just that she can be so annoying.” I’m using the word “hate” loosely when I say it once in comparison to when I use it twice, which is not what I mean – I don’t hate her-hate her. It’s not like deep despicable feeling. It’s just that, it’s a way to say that I’m unhappy with how she’s behaving.

“I mean, it’s going to be a pretty casual event. I mean, not casual-casual, but let’s just say you don’t have to put on the dress you bought for your brother’s wedding.” So in this case, I compare casual-casual, which probably means shorts and sneakers versus casual – casual in relation to maybe what we had expected first, for it to be a black-tie event, and it’s not. So we can be, we can wear something a little more casual, but not casual-casual, not super casual. Slightly casual, casualer, more casual.

Okay, that’s it. But not that’s it-that’s it, because I want you to write down in the comments below one example using lexical cloning, or reduplication. You can also say the word “reduplication” five times in a row, that’s a great tongue twister.

I can’t wait to read all your comments. And if you like this video, click like, and share it with your friends. And I mean share it-share it with your friends.

Have a beautiful week, and I will see you next week in the next video. Bye.

The InFluency Podcast
The InFluency Podcast
66. Want to be specific in English? No need for new words. Just say something TWICE! ?

Can you think of more examples? Let me know in the comments below.
And if you LIKED-liked this video, share it with your friends 🙂

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16 Responses

  1. Not quite what you talked about but…
    Come and see me. Free drinks for you too. But more often than not not enough appetizers.
    What about a video on this kind of… reduplication ?
    Many thanks,

  2. Thanks a lot Hadar. We use same kind of repetition of words in our Native Language(Bengali),But in this case, the real real meaning change.

  3. Dear Hadar ! I can’t help not to contribute with some further comments what I yesterday wrote. Perhaps not everybody will appreciate that – I’m writing just for fun. If we allow an in infinite multiplication of lexical cloning of the words we shall get a series of infinite sets. If we permit CHOCOLATE-chocolate why we wouldn’t permit CHOCOLATE-chocolate………chocolate-chocolate. There is no pure logical interdiction, Sure, we shall be able to create both RUN-OF-THE-MILL and SELF-SWALLOING SUPERSETS of the CHOCOLATE-chocolate…chocolate elements. (Sorry for these logical terminology) And we have just arrived to the Russell paradox. So, this lexical cloning doesn’t seems to be promising. Sorry, for this. I wrote it just for fun – but I think it is truth

  4. Dear Hadar ! I’m a “classical” humanist. For me any language was created to transfer and bring about thoughts and human emotions. Consequently, any language should be first of all clear. Words are nothing but corresponding notions, ideas. (Sorry, I know all that isn’t as simple.) The mental value of any human being depends so much on haw many notions plus emotions she/he has in her/his mind. Simplified people ‘s vocabulary therefore is low also in their native language. That is the reason why I can’t accept the fluency as an exclusive measure of high mental quality. Using few words someone can be fluent but might have quite simplified mind. Sophisticated, rich, smart mind needs notions, concepts and emotions. I believe, using cloned words should lead confusion. I can’t regard other way than pure playing.

  5. I don’t have the similar way of playing with words in my native language and frankly speaking I’ve never used it for communication in English, but after watching the video I would like to put this trick in my sleeve and use it. I mean not to Use it use it, but apply it carefully and occasionally

  6. Hello Hadar,
    I’ve learnt lots many details on pronounciation with the help of your videos. Receiving such a professional help makes obvious progress in my English. Thank you…

  7. Thank you Hadar. Your lessons your chats, your conversations are so funny and amazing?!!! So interesting and helpful, so congratulations and thumbs up up??

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