Monday, June 11, 2012

Mandarin Mondays:等一等 (Wait a Little)

One of the things I was told repeatedly on Friday during my visit to the Chinese hospital, for my prenatal visit and some extra tests, was to wait. I was told this in a few different ways, but perhaps most commonly was 等一等(děng yī děng).

This made me think of how this reduplication of words is extremely common in Chinese. They often use the same word twice to add emphasis or feeling to a statement.

In the case of a verb like wait, reduplication usually means that it is something done for a short time or that is or should be easy to do. Adjectives are commonly reduplicated to emphasize this certain quality like good (hǎo hǎo, 好好) or small (xiǎo xiǎo, 小小). There are many other uses as well.

At first reduplication can sound funny to English speakers, because we don't commonly do this. It can sound almost like baby talk. But it is used so ubiquitously in Mandarin that you soon become quite comfortable throwing in reduplicated words into everyday phrases.

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