The Study of Reduplication and Retriplication in the Yoruba Language

Joseph Omoniyi Friday-Otun


The Yoruba language, a regional lingua franca in Nigeria, which belongs to the Kwa sub-family of Kordofanian phylum of the larger African language family, is spoken in Nigeria, Togo, Ghana, Liberia, Brazil, Cuba, etc. The language attests a very productive feature of reduplication which has attracted the attention of many scholars. But its extended form, tagged, “retriplication” in this paper, remains largely unexplored. This study examines the form and functions of reduplication and retriplication which are two morphological processes where the former serves as a pedestal to the latter. While applying the participant observation method to elicit data from main Yoruba cities in Nigeria, the Pulleyblank (2009) model, as well as the descriptive and context usage approaches are employed to analyse and discuss the data. The study reveals that while reduplication process actualises intensification, nominalisation, emphasis and comparative qualifying, retriplication serves for more intensification, wider nominalisation, more emphasis and superlative qualifying. The research further reveals that, while all cases of verb and adjective reduplicates can be retriplicated without generating unacceptable utterances in Yoruba, the gerundive reduplicates cannot culminate in retriplication. However, kinship reduplicate allows retriplication when stretched to the third generation.  The paper concludes by calling for more study on retriplication in other languages of the world, particularly, African and Asian languages that massively exhibit the two phenomena.


Morphological process; Reduplication; Retriplication; the Yoruba language

Full Text:



Abakar, E. (2015). On Tone and Morphology of the Akan Reduplication Construction. Journal of Universal Languagge. 16(1), 1-47

Awobuluyi, O. (2000). Mofoloji ede Yoruba. In Bade A. (ed.), Ekó Ìjìnlẹ Yoruba: Eda Ede, Litiresọ ati Asa (pp. 47-70). Ijebu-Ode: Shebiotimo Press.

Awoyale, Y. (1989). Reduplication and the status of ideophones in Yoruba. Journal of West African Linguistics 2(3), 15-34.

Collins English Dictionary Online (2009). Retrieved from https://

Gomesh, J. Jakendoff, R, Rosen,N.&Russell, K. (2004). Contrastive focus: Reduplication in

Haspelmath, M. & Sims, A. (2010). Understanding Morphology. London: Hodder Education

Ikeokwu, V. (2002). The Aspects of Bokyi Mophology (Undergraduate Thesis) University of Ilorin, Ilorin, Nigeria.

Inkelas, S. (2013). Handbook on Derivation. Published online. Retrieved from

Inkelas, S. & Downing L. (2015). What is reduplication? Typology and analysis part 1/2: Typology of reduplication. Language and Linguistics Compass 9(12) 502-515.

Kiyomi, S. (1995). A new approach to reduplication: a semantic study of noun and verb reduplication in Malayo-Polynessian languages. Linguistics (33) 1145-1167.

Moravcsik, E. (1978). Reduplicative Constructions. In J, Greenberg (ed.) Universals of Human Language: Word Structure. (pp. 297-354). Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Nadarajan, S. (2006).A crosslinguistic study of reduplication. (Uploaded paper) Retrieved from

Ola, O. (1995). Vowel deletion in Yoruba verb-noun collocation revisited. Research in African Languages and Literatures (1), pp. 95-98.

Pulleybalnk, D. (2009). Patterns of Reduplication in Yoruba. In K. Hanson & S. Inkelas (eds.) The Nature of the Word: Essays in Honour of Paul Kiparsky, (pp 311-357). Cambridge, MA:MIT Press.

Rubino, C. (2013). In Dryer, M. S. & Haapelmath, M (eds.) The World Atlass of Language Structures. Published Online. Leipzig Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. Retrieved from http://

Taiwo, E. (2017). Prosodic reduplication in Yoruba. Journal of Universal Language. 18(2) 39-59 Retrieved from Https//

Taiwo, O. (2011). Mofoloji Ibadan: Unversal Akada Books Nigerian Limited.

Taiwo, O. (2014). The morphosyntactic interaction and the derivation of nominal compounds in Yoruba. International Journal of Language Studies, 18(2) 39-59.

Tinuoye, M. (1991). A Comparative Analysis of English and Yoruba Morphology. Ibadan: Tafak Publication

Urbancyk, S. (2017). Phonological and Morphological Aspects of Reduplication. (Uploaded Paper) Retrieved from

Xu, D .(2016). Reduplication in languages: A case study of languages in China. Hal Archives-Ouvertes 42-63. Retrieved from

Zeitoun, E. (2007) La reduplication en rukaimantuaran. Faits de langues: Reduplication(2).



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Journal of Language and Literature (JOLL) is published by  Prodi Sastra Inggris, Fakultas Sastra, Universitas Sanata Dharma.

JOLL is indexed in:


This journal is is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License 

View My Stats