Math math

This week I discovered that you can emphasize adjectives in Scottish Gaelic by repeating them. For example:
- bha e math math air faclan a chur ri chèile ann am bàrdachd (he was very good at putting words togther in poetry).

Emphasis can also be indicated with glé (very) – bha e glé mhath – with uabhasach (terribly) – bha e uabhasach math – or with fiadhaich (wild) – bha e fiadhaich math. Another example, which is mentioned in Leabher nan Litrichean by Ruairidh MacIlleathain, concerns an overheard conversation between two boys. One says “An robh an t-isag mòr?” (Was the fish big?), and the other replies, “Bha! Bha e mòr mòr mòr mòr mòr!”. (Yes! It was very very very very big!).

This doubling isn’t very common in English, though some people might use it. Alternatively you can elongate the adjective, it was biiiiig!. Do you double or enlongate adjectives at all, in English or other languages?

This entry was posted in Chinese, English, Language, Scottish Gaelic, Words and phrases.

7 Responses to Math math

  1. Olof says:

    In Swedish you can double adjectives with a few lexicalised, but it’s not productive. E.g. ”finfin” means ”very fine”. You can also double them sometime to give them a more specialised meaning, for example ”hemhem” (home-home) amongst students means going home to their parents, rather than home to their usual place.

  2. Jim M. says:

    Indonesian is curious—you use a double adjective for a plural subject, although the subject itself remains singular in this construction.

  3. Chris Waugh says:

    In Chinese you can double adjectives for emphasis – 红红/hónghóng “redred” = bright red, and you can double verbs or use the verb-一-verb structure to make a diminutive – 看看/kànkàn or 看一看/kànyīkàn = have a (little) look.

  4. Syntax says:

    I once heard on Irish radio:

    Tá’n sé beagáinín beag…..

    tá’n sé = it is
    beag = small
    -án = diminutive affix (mostly suffix)
    -ín = diminutive suffix

    so: It is small.dem.dem small


    English: teen(s)y-ween(s)y, itsy-bitsy, teeny-tiny

    Estonian: pisipisikene (pisi = tiny; -kene = diminutive suffix)

  5. Absent Martian says:

    French has it standard for “very many”: beaucoup beaucoup, since *très beaucoup is ungrammatical. Arabic dialects also have regular reduplication, e.g. in Palestinian: ba9iid ba9iid min hoon “very far from here”.

  6. dominiko says:

    Breton also frequently doubles adjectives to emphasize them. In rare cases, they are even tripled. Example:

    skuizh = tired
    skuizh-skuizh = very tired
    skuizh-skuizh-skuizh = extremely tired

  7. Andrew says:

    Taiwanese has some excellent reduplication with adjectives. The adjectives themselves aren’t doubled, but specific doubled or rhyming suffixes are added when emphasis is desired. Actually, this might be called “triplication”? Hm… it’s hard to explain; let me try to give a few examples:

    am (‘dark’) –> am mo mo (‘very dark’)
    sui (‘pretty’) –> sui dang dang (‘very pretty’)
    bui (‘fat’) –> bui chi chi (‘very fat’)
    shio (‘hot’) –> shio tng tng (‘very hot’; in this case ‘tng’ means ‘to burn’)
    tieng (‘firm’) –> tieng khok khok (‘very firm’)

    As in Mandarin Chinese, all of these adjectives can be normally reduplicated for emphasis, as well.