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Reduplication across boundaries: The case of Mandarin

Chiara Melloni; Bianca Basciano

In this chapter, we shed new light on the reduplicative processes of Mandarin Chinese and
assess the structural and interpretive properties of the input/base and output of these word
formation phenomena. In particular, we focus on the categorial status of the base and ad-
dress the issue of whether reduplication applies to category-free roots or full-fledged lex-
emes. Empirically, the privileged domain of research is increasing reduplication of disyllabic
bases, or, as we dub it in the chapter, the AABB pattern, which is compared with diminishing
reduplication, expressed by the template ABAB. The comparison between the two phenom-
ena allows us to show that increasing and diminishing reduplication differ in the nature of
the input units involved. On the grounds of a wide-ranging class of data, we argue that Man-
darin reduplication takes base units of different ‘size’: word/lexeme-like units provided with
category, namely verbs in the case of diminishing reduplication, and categoryless roots in
the case of increasing reduplication. Throughout the chapter, we explore some category neu-
tral properties of increasing reduplication and propose a unitary semantic operation capable
to derive the various interpretive nuances of this phenomenon across lexical categories.

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