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In what follows we shall describe some combinations that may be called compounds by right of pattern, as they very markedly consist of two parts, but otherwise in most cases fail to satisfy our definition of a compound word. Some of them contain only one free form, the other constituents being a variation of this, while there are also cases where both constituents are jocular pseudo-morphemes, meaningless and fanciful sound clusters which never occur elsewhere. Their motivation is mostly based upon sound-symbolism and it is their phonetic make-up that plays the most important role in their functioning They are all stylistically coloured (either colloquial, slang or nursery words) and markedly expressive and emotional: the emotion is not expressed in the constituents but suggested by the whole pattern (reduplication rhyme).

The group consists of reduplicative compounds that fall into three main subgroups: reduplicative compounds proper, ablaut combinations and rhyme combinations.

Reduplicative compounds proper are not restricted to the repetition of onomatopoeic stems with intensifying effect, as it is sometimes suggested. Actually it is a very mixed group containing usual free forms, onomatopoeic stems and pseudo-morphemes. Onomatopoeic repetition exists but it is not very extensive: hush-hush ‘secret’, murmur (a borrowing from French) pooh-pooh (to express contempt). In blah-blah ‘nonsense’, ‘idle talk’ the constituents are pseudo-morphemes which do not occur elsewhere. The usage may be illustrated by the following example: Should he give them half a minute of blah-blah or tell them what had been passing through his mind? (Priestley) Nursery words such as quack-quack ‘duck’, Pops-Pops ‘father’ and many other words belong to the same type.

Non-imitative words may be also used in reduplication and possess then an ironical ring: pretty-pretty ‘affectedly pretty’, goody-goody ‘sentimentally and affectedly good’. The instances are not numerous and occur only in colloquial speech. An interesting example is the expressive and ironical never-never, an ellipsis of the phrase never-never system ‘a hire-purchase system in which the consumer may never be able to become the owner of the thing purchased’. The situation may be clear from the following: “They’ve got a smashing telly, a fridge and another set of bedroom furniture in silver-grey.” “All on the never-never, what’ll happen if he loses his job?” (Lindsay)


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