I would like somebody to explain this colloquial structure to me:

Contrastive focus reduplication (also lexical cloning, the double construction) is a type of syntactic reduplication found in some languages that indicates the prototypical meaning of the repeated word or phrase, a form of retronymy. The term word word was coined by U.S. writer Paul Dickson in 1982 to describe this.

The first part of the reduplicant bears contrastive intonational stress.

The authors of the original article note that a number of examples was collected in a "reduplication corpus" they have gathered:

  1. SALAD-salad (refers to the original meaning of green salad.)

  2. AUCKLAND-Auckland (refers to the New Zealand city, of all cities with this name.)

  3. "I’m up, I’m just not UP–up" — (Language Log noticed that this example from the "Contrastive focus reduplication" paper was pinched by Zits.)


1 Answer 1


The definition you provide is overwrought and full of linguistic jargon, but your examples help show what "contrastive focus reduplication" means. This structure is used in situations where there can be more than one "interpretation" of a particular word or phrase. The repetition of the word is to make clear that it is (or is not) the most common or obvious interpretation of the word, sometimes for comic effect.

For example:

Ok, today I'm going to have a salad. I mean a salad-salad -- like with actual green stuff in it.

There are various other dishes that can be called "salad" -- potato salad, macaroni salad, etc. -- but the most common definition of a "salad" is a dish with green vegetables (usually lettuce) as the base. Here I mean to make clear I'm going to have one of those, and not some other kind of (less healthy) salad choice.

I'm up, but I'm not up-up.

This is a slightly humorous response to someone asking if I am "up". The intent is to imply that while I am technically awake, I still feel like I'm half-asleep. If I was "up-up" I would be fully awake and ready for whatever you want me to do.

I'm going to Paris-Paris. Not Paris-Texas.

Auckland is, I think, a poor example since the only other place in the world named that is in the middle of California, and I've never heard of it. However there is a Paris, Texas that has moderate fame as the name of a 1980s movie. It would be odd for someone outside of that specific area to be confused about where I am going -- but just in case, I can repeat "Paris" to make it clear I mean the one in France.

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