Gaya-gaya, Hakahaka, Kilikili

Gaya-gaya, Hakahaka, Kilikili

(On Reduplicated Filipino Words)

Many words in the Filipino language are formed using reduplication. In linguistics, reduplication is a process by which the root or stem of a word, or part of it, is repeated. It is used to modify a word, to convey a grammatical function such as plurality and intensification or to create new words; or some words are simply in reduplicated forms, like many Filipino words. Many Filipinos think that reduplication is unique to the Filipino language. This is an erroneous assumption.

Actually reduplication is found in a wide range of languages including English: for example, hokey-pokey, super-duper, bye-bye, chit-chat, criss-cross, pitter-patter, zigzag, and honky-tonk.

Full and Partial Reduplication

In the Filipino language, reduplicated words usually involve either full or partial reduplication. Full reduplication involves a reduplication of the entire word (gabi-gabi, ‘nightly’) or doubling of syllable/s (bobo, ‘dumb’; kilikili, ‘armpit’). Partial reduplication involves a reduplication of only the last syllable of the word (as in hagikgik, ‘giggle’).

Here are some more examples of Filipino words that involve reduplication with their corresponding English translation.

Full Reduplication:

alaala – memory
an-an – tinea versicolor or tinea flava (a fungal skin infection)
babà – chin
babâ – get down
bilbil – abdominal obesity; or colloquially, “love handles” or “pot belly”
kalkal – rummage; poke around
dagdag – add
dikdik – pulverize
gaya-gaya – copycat
hakahaka – conjecture
laglag – drop
pakpak – wing/s
laklak – gulp
ningning – sparkle
namnam – savor
Partial Reduplication:
halakhak – guffaw
kakabakaba – jumpy
palakpak – clap
pamaypay – fan (an implement of feathers, leaves, or paper, often in the shape of a long triangle or of a semicircle, for waving lightly in the hand to create a cooling current of air about a person)

The Last Leaf

Also, many people find reduplicated words funny or laughable, perhaps because these words have the characteristic sound a baby or a toddler makes during the stage of reduplicative babbling, or baby talk. Reduplicative babbling is characterized by repetition of identical or nearly identical consonant vowel combinations, such as “nanana” or “dadada.”