Total reduplication in Japanese ideophones: An exercise in Localized Canonical Typology


Cross-linguistically, reduplication associated with iconic readings, such as plurality, iteration, and continuation, is prevalent in ideophones. However, not all reduplicative processes in ideophones are clearly iconic. Notably, both less and more iconic uses of reduplication are encountered in ordinary vocabulary resulting in the overlapping semantic functions of reduplication between ideophonic and non-ideophonic (i.e., prosaic) lexical categories. Given this, the aim of this paper is not to establish one clear-cut point to distinguish ideophonic reduplication from prosaic reduplication that may be impossible, but to specify dimensions of possibilities along which several instances of ideophonic and prosaic reduplication can be calibrated, using Canonical Typology (Corbett 2003; 2005; 2006; 2007; 2012; 2015). The current paper adopts the canonical approach of typology in an innovative way – not to compare a reduplicative phenomenon across languages (classic “typology”), but within a language by drawing ideophonic and prosaic data from Japanese, which is rich in reduplication and ideophones. Measuring the canonicity values of the various occurring types of ideophonic and prosaic reduplication against six criteria for canonical ideophonic reduplication, this paper shows how many and what criteria can differentiate the two sets of phenomena. Consequently, it reveals how ideophonic and prosaic reduplication are alike or different from each other. It also demonstrates the utility of Localized Canonical Typology, for the precise description and analysis of complex categories in a single language.


reduplication, Canonical Typology, ideophones, Japanese, derivational morphology

How to Cite

Kwon, N., (2017) “Total reduplication in Japanese ideophones: An exercise in Localized Canonical Typology”, Glossa: a journal of general linguistics 2(1): 40. doi:









Nahyun Kwon (Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS); and Nagoya University, Furo-cho, Chikusa-ku, Nagoya-shi)



Publication details



Creative Commons Attribution 4.0


Peer Review

This article has been peer reviewed.

File Checksums (MD5)

  • PDF: 912c46546cd103ea2b5525e5eea5fa2c