So you know what I don’t get? Why people repeat words. (x)
Grammar time: it’s called “contrastive reduplication,” and it’s a form of intensification that is relatively common. Finnish does a very similar thing, and others use near-reduplication (rhyme-based) to intensify, like Hungarian (pici ‘tiny’, ici-pici ‘very tiny’).
Even the typologically-distant group of Bantu languages utilize reduplication in a strikingly similar fashion with nouns: Kinande oku-gulu ‘leg’, oku-gulu-gulu ‘a REAL leg’ (Downing 2001, includes more with verbal reduplication as well).
I suppose the difficult aspect of English reduplication is not through this particular type, but the fact that it utilizes many other types of reduplication: baby talk (choo-choo, no-no), rhyming (teeny-weeny, super-duper), and the ever-famous “shm” reduplication: fancy-schmancy (a way of denying the claim that something is fancy).
screams my professor was trying to find an example of reduplication so the next class he came back and said “I FOUND REDUPLICATION IN ENGLISH” and then he said “Milk milk” and everyone was just “what?” and he said “you know when you go to a coffee shop and they ask if you want soy milk and you say ‘no i want milk milk’” and everyone just had this collective sigh of understanding.
Another name for this particular construction is contrastive focus reduplication, and there’s a famous linguistics paper about it which is commonly known as the Salad Salad Paper. You know, because if you want to make it clear that you’re not talking about pasta salad or potato salad, you might call it “salad salad”. The repetition indicates that you’re intending the most prototypical meaning of the word, like green salad or cow’s milk, even though other things can be considered types of salad or milk.
Can I make love to this post?… Is that a thing that’s possible?