Ablaut Reduplication

Until recently I’d never heard of “ablaut reduplication”, but I have unknowingly been applying it my whole life…and so have you!

Ablaut reduplication is when you repeat a word that has a similar sound or spelling. The following examples are from ProEdit:

  • ChitchatImage result for ablaut reduplication
  • Crisscross
  • Dillydally
  • Ding-dong
  • Kitty cat
  • Knickknack
  • Mishmash
  • Ping-pong
  • Pitter-patter
  • Riffraff
  • Singsong
  • Splish-splash
  • Ticktock
  • Tittle-tattle
  • Wishy-washy
  • Zigzag

Can you see the pattern?

The first word always has an I vowel and the second either an A or O. If you have three words (eg ding dang dong) the order of words is always the I first, then the second either A or O. It may not seem important but the order of vowel is very important. You would never say the clock goes tock-tick, you’d never eat a Kat Kit bar or worry about the bad big wolf.

Isn’t that fascinating?


9 comments on “Ablaut Reduplication

  1. I’ve been hearing about this a lot lately! Like it was even on the radio. Was it a new term that’s been added to academia? I think it’s cool that something like that has a name and rule to follow

    • Hey GF, I think it has always been around, just not in the public arena before. A writer friend mentioned it a few months back and it fascinated me. I’m planning on posting on another of these weird and fun quirks of the english language soon (based on one that went viral a few years back).

  2. Mary says “heejee-beejees”…

    • I haven’t heard that one before (I’ve heard of heebee-jeebees which is almost the same – means being scared).

      That one’s a reduplication but not an ablaut reduplication, it’s a rhyming reduplication (there are 5 other reduplications besides the ablaut).

      Rhyming reduplication refers to simple word pairs that rhyme: Boogie-woogie, easy-peasy, hoity-toity, hokey-pokey, ragtag, razzle-dazzle, super-duper, teenie-weenie, walkie-talkie.

  3. This really IS fascinating! I never knew the term for it, and wouldn’t have realized the I-A-O pattern if you hadn’t outlined it. Super cool new fact for today.

  4. Wow, that is.

    Have you heard of the adjective order rule? (opinion, size, age, shape, colour, origin, material, purpose)

    (I tried to comment yesterday, but I couldn’t get the blog to come up. Something about maintenance. Ah well.)

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