Poetics of reduplicative word formation: evidence from a rating and recall experiment

  • Reduplicative words like chiffchaff or helter-skelter are part of ordinary language use yet most often found in substandard registers in which attitudinal and expressive meaning components are iconically foregrounded. In a rating experiment using nonwords that either conform to, or deviate from, conventional reduplicative patterns in German, the present study identified affective meaning dimensions, judgments of familiarity and esthetic evaluations of sound qualities associated with such words. In a subsequent recall test, we examined the respective mnemonic potential of the different types of reduplication. Results suggest that, in the absence of semantic content, reduplicative forms are inherently associated with several affective meaning associations that are generally considered positive. Two types of reduplicative patterns, namely full reduplication and [i-a]-vowel-alternating reduplication, boost these positive effects to a particularly pronounced degree, leading to an increase in perceived euphony, funniness, familiarity, appreciation, and positive belittling (cuteness) and, at the same time, a decrease in arousal. These two types also turn out to be particularly memorable when compared both to other types of reduplication and to non-reduplicative structures. This study demonstrates that reduplicative morphology may in and of itself, that is, irrespective of the phonemic and the semantic content, contribute to the affective meaning and esthetic evaluation of words.

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Author:Gerrit KentnerORCiDGND, Isabelle FranzGND, Winfried MenninghausORCiDGND
Parent Title (English):Language and cognition
Publisher:Cambridge Univ. Press
Place of publication:Cambridge
Document Type:Article
Date of Publication (online):2022/05/20
Date of first Publication:2022/05/20
Publishing Institution:Universit├Ątsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg
Release Date:2022/11/29
Tag:euphony; reduplication; rhyming; vowel alternation; word formation
Page Number:29
First Page:333
Last Page:361
Institutes:Sprach- und Kulturwissenschaften
Dewey Decimal Classification:4 Sprache / 40 Sprache / 400 Sprache
Licence (German):License LogoCreative Commons - CC BY - Namensnennung 4.0 International