A while ago I wrote about reduplicative ideophones in Japanese, such as fula fula for being unable to walk straight while drunk, or giri giri for being just in time. The post is here, if you’re interested.
I don’t know squat about the linguistics of other languages, so I have no idea how many use this device. But I was delighted today to read on Simon Fenton’s blog Travels with my shirt that the Diola (or Jola) language of Senegal has something similar. They’re different in that they don’t describe the sensory experience of a feeling, but instead take a noun or verb and double it to make an adjective or show a current action.
Here’s the extract:
The diola word for hot is “boily boily”. Many adjectives seem to be two repeated words – gileng gileng is cold, libby libby is heavy, leggy leggy is to go (ok, that’s a verb and it’s also Wolof, a different language). Year ago I could speak basic Indonesian after four months strolling around there – it was quite simple grammatically and I always remember if you are actually doing the verb in question, you repeat it. For example Jalan was to walk, so if you’re walking you are “jalan jalan”. I think I’m remembering that correctly, but I know I have readers in the Indonesian Archipelego, so will no doubt find out.
I wonder how many other languages also use them. I think they’re great.