Reduplication - noun - A word formed by or containing a reduplicated element. An act or instance of reduplicating as a grammatical pattern. http://www.thefreedictionary.com/reduplication

Is there a term for the kind of reduplication where the two words are exactly the same but the first one narrows a category that could otherwise be interpreted more broadly?


  • Do you mean Indian Indian or American Indian?
  • It is common both in Irish English and English English.
  • Do you mean cable television? No, I mean television television.

To be clear, I'm not looking for a term to describe reduplication for the purpose of intensification, as in: "They have been together for a couple of weeks now". "You mean "together together"? That kind of reduplication has already been covered.

  • I strongly urge user463240 to check out the first link in choster's comment above. It has two very good answers to the specific question being asked. Also, Lynn might consider moving the pleonasm answer to that question—although it seems to me that the replication of the words in the OP's examples here are not superfluous.
    – Sven Yargs
    Oct 11, 2014 at 1:00
  • 2
    I see the distinction you're making, but I still think that the answers "contrastive focus reduplication" and "antanaclasis" in response to the earlier question answer your question as well. I believe that the site is designed to retain duplicate questions so that if someone searches on the terms your question uses, they will come to this page even if the question is closed as a duplicate. I hope so, anyway, because I agree that keeping this question (with its redirect to the other question in place) would strengthen the overall database.
    – Sven Yargs
    Oct 11, 2014 at 1:30
  • 1
    The poster's most recent edit now specifically asks what term (if any) describes contiguous word duplication in a way that differentiates it from the type of duplication discussed in the previous question. I don't know whether such a term exists, but I do think that this revision by the poster differentiates the current question from the earlier one, so I've retracted my vote to close.
    – Sven Yargs
    Oct 11, 2014 at 1:41
  • 1
    The old question still answers the new question. This is still contrastive reduplication. Feb 11, 2015 at 10:12

2 Answers 2


It's called contrastive focus reduplication in a paper on the exact construction by Ghomeshi et al (2004). Natural Language & Linguistic Theory 22: 307–357, 2004.

The paper is 52 pages long, the following are extracts taken from the first 8 pages.


ABSTRACT. This paper presents a phenomenon of colloquial English that we call Contrastive Reduplication (CR), involving the copying of words and sometimes phrases as in It’s tuna salad, not SALAD-salad, or Do you LIKE-HIM-like him? Drawing on a corpus of examples gathered from natural speech, written texts, and television scripts, we show that CR restricts the interpretation of the copied element to a ‘real’ or prototypical reading. (...)

Examples of this construction are

(1)a. I’ll make the tuna salad, and you make the SALAD–salad. ©
b. LIKE-’EM-like-’em? Or, I’d-like-to-get-store-credit-for-that amount like-’em?2 ©
c. Is he French or FRENCH–French?
d. I’m up, I’m just not UP–up. ©
e. That’s not AUCKLAND–Auckland, is it? ©
f. My car isn’t MINE–mine; it’s my parents’.
g. Oh, we’re not LIVING-TOGETHER–living-together.


The semantic effect of this construction is to focus the denotation of the reduplicated element on a more sharply delimited, more specialized, range. For instance, SALAD–salad in (1a) denotes specifically green salad as opposed to salads in general, and, in the context in which (1e) was used, AUCKLAND–Auckland denotes the city in New Zealand as opposed to other cities that may happen to have this name.
(...) The use of a word or phrase often leaves open some vagueness, lack of precision, or ambiguity. CR is used as one way to clarify such situations, by specifying a prototypical denotation of the lexical item in contrast to a potentially looser or more specialized reading. This is clearest when CR is applied to simple nouns: [(e.g.)]

(3) c. She wasn’t a fancy cow, a Hereford or Black Angus or something, just a COW–cow. ©


This characterization is precisely the informal one given by Horn (1993). He briefly discusses CR (which he labels, following Dray (1987), the ‘double construction’) stating: “As a rough approximation, we can say that the reduplicated modifier singles out a member or subset of the extension of the noun [or verb, or adjective, or preposition – JG et al.] that represents a true, real, default, or prototype instance” (p. 48). As already seen in (1), CR can apply to not only to nouns, but to a range of lexical categories. Regardless of the lexical category, however, reduplication signals that the “real” or prototypical meaning of the lexical item is intended:

(4)a. Are you LEAVING–leaving? [i.e., are you “really” leaving (for good), or are you just stepping out for a minute]
b. A: Are you nervous?
B: Yeah, but, you know, not NERVOUS–nervous. [i.e., not “really” nervous] ©
(...) Lawrence Horn (p.c.), in more recent work on CR (which he now calls ‘lexical cloning’), categorizes the semantics of this construction into four types: (a) prototype meaning (which we have already discussed), (b) literal meaning, (c) intensified meaning, and (d) ‘value-added’ meaning. An example of literal meaning appears in (12), where reduplication signals that a literal rather than euphemistic interpretation of coming in for coffee is intended:

(12) [Dialogue between a married couple, recently separated and now living apart.]
A: Maybe you’d like to come in and have some coffee?
B: Yeah, I’d like that.
A: Just COFFEE-coffee, no double meanings. ©

  • It would be interesting if you could expand your answer.
    – Centaurus
    Oct 11, 2014 at 1:46
  • 2
    This is the correct answer. I took the opportunity of editing your post and adding a few relevant extracts. Hope you don't mind. EDIT: I was unaware that this is a duplicate question.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Oct 11, 2014 at 3:04
  • I fear I may have breached copyright issues; however, the author and the title of the paper is clearly stated, so I'll leave it up to the mods to decide.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Oct 11, 2014 at 3:16
  • 1
    @Mari-LouA thanks for enlarging my answer. your quotations are within DMCA exemptions on fair use.
    – user31341
    Oct 11, 2014 at 4:07
  • 1
    @JoeBlow that's just what it's called. The term is used in Sapir's (1921) linguistics textbook Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech. I'm guessing the term is in familiar use by 1921 since Sapir does not pause to explain it's derivation.
    – user31341
    Oct 11, 2014 at 14:24

Perhaps the term you're looking for is pleonasm, though the specific examples you've cited may be a particular sub-category of pleonasm.

Pleonasm is the use of more words or parts of words than is necessary for clear expression: examples are black darkness, or burning fire.

Source wikipedia.

They can also be generically termed as intensifiers. All intensifiers are, to some extent, redundant, but they add clarity. I don't know if there's a particular term for an intensifier that is specifically the same word used twice.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.