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永鈞

Duplication in Chinese

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永鈞

Is there somewhere I can find a list of terms like

空蕩蕩

硬梆梆

冷冰冰 etc. etc

 

also, I have a question about the general use of reduplification in Chinese. It seems it’s often used used to increase intensity, to say something more emphatically like 轟轟烈烈 or the above XYY duplification examples. However, sometimes it’s done for the opposite reason, to soften the tone like saying 臭臭  instead of 臭. In that case I imagine the thing that is 臭臭的 is not quite as smelly as the thing that is 臭, or at least the speaker is less indignant about it.

 

what I want to ask is, can someone give examples of reduplification in Chinese where it could either be used to strengthen or soften the meaning being conveyed, and it is only obvious what is intended when you see the example in original context or hear it spoken out loud and can hear the tone of voice etc.

 

By by the way, It’s possible that such examples don’t really exist or are very rare. I’m not suggesting that this ambiguity is a major issue with Chinese.

 

 

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Publius

Here is the relevant section in Chinese: A Comprehensive Grammar.

My understanding is that there are three types of reduplication: AA and ABB for monosyllabic adjectives, AABB for disyllabic adjectives.

The AA type often has an affectionate tone. 臭臭的 is still smelly but perhaps in a cute sort of way.

The ABB type does not have this function and merely serves to make an adjective (more) descriptive. 臭哄哄的 describes how smelly it is instead of simply pointing out that it does not smell good.

I can't think of an example where the meaning is ambiguous.

The AABB type is a different animal since monosyllabic and disyllabic adjectives behave quite differently in Chinese, for instance, in determining whether a 的 is required.

轟轟烈烈 is not a very good example of reduplicated adjective (轟烈 is not a word), but I think in general it's similar to ABB (except it's more often used adverbially) and it's limited to adjectives of appearance and manner.

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永鈞

@Publius thanks, your response is very sensible. I didn’t really think through the post when writing it. Your right 轟轟烈烈 is not really relevant here. 

 

In addition to 臭臭的 and 壞壞的 can you think of words where duplication has a ‘softening’ effect rather than an intensifying effect?

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永鈞

Or do monosyllabic adjectives always have that sofetning effect? Is 濕濕的 less wet/damp than just 濕?

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Wurstmann

I believe it softens the tone, not the meaning. So 湿湿的 still means wet, it just gives off a different feeling.

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Publius

Hmm, I see no difference in degree of dampness.

Maybe the 'softening' effect is the result of a derogatory/negative sense combined with an affectionate tone?

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Wurstmann

她很漂亮,眼睛大大的 - She's very beautiful, with big eyes. Feels somewhat 'cute' or 'amazed', makes the description more vivid. Hard to describe xD

她的眼睛很大 - Her eyes are big. Feels matter-of-factly to me.

 

The Chinese grammar wiki just says "Reduplication can enhance the descriptive feeling of an adjective."

What do you think?

 

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Publius

@WurstmannYeah, I agree.

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