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Ideophones and Reduplication: Depiction, Description, and the Interpretation of Repeated Talk in Discourse

Dingemanse, M. (2015). Ideophones and Reduplication: Depiction, Description, and the Interpretation of Repeated Talk in Discourse. Studies in Language, 39(4), 946-970. doi:10.1075/sl.39.4.05din.
Repetition is one of the most basic operations on talk, often discussed for its iconic meanings. Ideophones are marked words that depict sensory imagery, often identified by their reduplicated forms. Yet not all reduplication is iconic, and not all ideophones are reduplicated. This paper discusses the semantics and pragmatics of repeated talk (repetition as well as reduplication), with special focus on the intersection of reduplicative processes and ideophonic words. Various formal features of ideophones suggest that it is fruitful to distinguish two modes of representation in language —description and depiction— along with cues like prosodic foregrounding that can steer listeners’ interpretation from one to the other. What is special about reduplication is that it can naturally partake in both of these modes of representation, which is why it is so common in ideophones as well as in other areas of grammar. Using evidence from Siwu, Korean, Semai and a range of other languages, this paper shows how the study of ideophones sheds light on the interpretation of repeated talk and can lead to a more holistic understanding of reduplicative phenomena in language.
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