Contrastive focus reduplication in tv series North Sea Connection
plus a few thoughts on intensive reduplication, stammering, linguistic prejudice
This has become a bit of a ramble but here goes...
North Sea Connection is a drama currently showing in UK on BBC4. It is set in Ireland. West Coast. Do all west coasts look the same (beautiful). Certainly it looks very similar to Scottish west coast. The show so far is an engaging enough drama with sufficient energy in the stereotyped characters and unbelievable plot to keep me watching.
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But what I am really enjoying is a plethora of contrastive focus reduplications.
Contrastive focus reduplication (CR) is where a word or phrase is repeated to emphasise a strong or narrow, original, or prototypical meaning.
So someone might tell a suitor before an evening out together, "you can tell people this is a date, as long as you understand it is not a date date".
As above, the strong repeated form often follows a single use of the word.
For linguists, there are interesting differences between CR and other occasions when a word is repeated — and in the flexibilty of how the terms are repeated. For example, "I barely talked to him. Not talk talked." (Example taken from the salad-salad paper listed below.)
OK, back to the CRs in North Sea Connection.
"Smart smart. Not Ciara smart." (Episode 1. North Sea Connection. BBC4.)
Mother to fisherwoman daughter who has been summoned with the rest of family to Sunday lunch. Ciara looked fine to me, but clearly was not up mammy's ideas of how you should dress for for Sunday lunch.
Second. In episode 2.
There are lots of men who should know better in this drama. I'll call the two in this exchange Chancer 1 and Chancer 2. Chancer 1 is supposedly respectable but is the cause of most of what goes wrong. Chancer 2 is young untrustworthy layabout who causes the little cracks of trouble that Chancer 1 forgot about. For some reason, Chancer 1 trusts (he is not a good judge of character) Chancer 2 to "get rid" of a hot, expensive 4x4. If the wrong people see this car, there will be even more trouble.
Chancer 2 does not see the point of obliterating all trace of a 60K car.
"You mean get rid get rid?" ( Episode 2. North Sea Connection. BBC4. )
You just know that Chancer 2 will only "get rid" of the car, not "get rid get rid", and will keep it somewhere not as safe as he thinks. Sometime soon, the wrong people will see it and everyone will wish he had in fact "got rid got rid".
Good to see a verbal example of a contrastive focus reduplication. There are many other forms, but I think I hear noun noun or adjective adjective most often.
I am not sure why I so love contrastive focus reduplications. (And I do. I collect them. Obsess over them.) Is it because I stammer?
The repetition is almost a deliberate stammer to create extra, more precise, meaning. Stammered speech is often heavy with meaning. When stammering, there is neither time nor spare energy to chatter. (Perhaps covert stammerers sometimes waffle because they are trying to hide the obvious signs of stammering? If so, that is one of the many disadvantages of covert stammering.)
CR is also a joyful, playful repetition. Repetition is not usually liked by fluentish speakers but we all seem to use and understand CR effortlessly and naturally.
Ironically, CR is harder for someone overtly stammering to do successfully.
CR is not the only type of language repetition. Some common repetitions indicate intensity. This is IR or intensive reduplication in linguistic-speak.
For example, “hot hot hot”, “burny-burny”, or "she’s a clever clever girl". A man on the Scottish island of Harris once told me that violinist Duncan Chisholm made "a sweet sweet sound". (And he was right.)
IR is used in English despite what my English teacher told me. He said that English would never repeat a word to make it stronger. English was more like Latin and Greek and had forms such as
IR (although he did not use that term) was, he implied, only used by some other, less sophisticated languages. It is so strange in what nooks and crannies you can find bias and prejudice.
Yes, linguistic and language prejudices and bias are very common. People who stammer, people with accents, people who use language differently from those in positions of power: these people and many more know this. But a bias against IR seems odd to me.
Perhaps some contrastive focus reduplications could indicate bias?
For example, if you heard someone say, "you say you stammer, but you don't stammer stammer", that would probably be intended as a compliment, suggesting you are in their view acceptably fluent. Which in turn suggests that stammering is something to be ashamed of and hidden.
But that would probably be an unconscious bias not a bias bias.
More about contrastive focus reduplication. (CR)
The original salad-salad paper which introduced CR to a grateful world.
I first learnt about CR at Language Log
JSTOR blog overview including references to languages other than English.
Linguist Arnold Zwicky is always good value.
Introduction to CR at Haggard Hawks blog by writer and linguist Paul Anthony Jones.
And there is always a quick overview and some more links at Wikipedia.
More about the tv series:
And the sweet sweet sound of Duncan Chisholm
See Duncan Chisholm link just here ^