từ láy

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See also: tulay and Tülay



run cầm cập (to shiver chattering one's teeth, onset /k/; pseudo-rhymes /ə̆m/ and /ə̆p/)
đôm đốp (with an insolent tone, onset /ɗ/; pseudo-rhymes /om/ and /op/)
phành phạch (with loud flapping sound, onset /f/; pseudo-rhymes /ăi̯ŋ/ and /ăi̯k/)
thum thủm (kind of smelly like a fart, onset /tʰ/; rhyme /um/)
gật gù (to continually nod, onset /ɣ/)
gật gà gật gù (to struggle to stay awake, onset /ɣ/)
ì ạch (inertial, onset /ʔ/)
hay ho, hay hớm (exciting and stuff, onset /h/)
thở hổn hển (to pant, onset /h/)
khù kh (too socially inept, onset /x/)
dập dềnh (in a wavy, oscillating way, onset /z/)
êm đềm (continuously calm or uneventful, rhyme /em/)
bàng bạc (silvery, onset /ɓ/; pseudo-rhymes /aŋ/ and /ak/)
bờm xờm (shaggy, rhyme /əm/)
Đẹp điếc/Đẹp đẽ gì? (How the heck is that beautiful?, onset /ɗ/)
Qkiếc/Qcáp gì? (Nah, don't bother yourself with presents!, onset /k/)


From từ (word) +‎ láy (to be a từ láy; to make repetitive sound).



từ láy

  1. (linguistics) a "phonemic reduplicative," a multisyllabic word (typically onomatopoeic or ideophonic) whose syllables share either an onset consonant, a rhyme, and/or a "pseudo-rhyme" featuring homorganic consonants; all or some (in which case, the one meaningful syllable tend to sound more concrete or certain than its từ láy counterpart) of such syllables are often meaningless on their own; such a word typically expresses a sense of pattern, repetitiveness, continuity, downplaying, dismissal, softening or uncertainty; compare English chit-chat, hocus-pocus, etc.

Usage notes[edit]

  • Any monosyllabic word can derive a từ láy formation by appending the rhyme iếc to the onset of that word for a second syllable. However, some words may preferably not be láy-ed, but rather, derive compounds based on homonyms to denote a sense of downplaying or dismissal that iếc does. For example, when replying to sao (what), one may use Sao trăng gì? (The hell do ya mean "what"?) which consists of sao (star), the homonym in question, and trăng (moon), a coordinated concept, to reinforce the same effect that *sao siếc would. Others, such as hay, would be replied to with set từ láy of their own, such as hay ho or hay hớm, rather than *hay hiếc.
  • Some words, especially those for colors, can derive a từ láy formation, a softened or uncertain version of themselves, by putting the ngang tone on the first syllable if they carry a trắc tone (i.e. neither the ngang or huyền tones) (e.g. trăng trắng (whitish); đo đỏ (reddish); tim tím (purplish); đăng đắng (a bit bitter)). Those with a bằng tone simply do so by reduplicating themselves (e.g. đen đen (blackish); xanh xanh (gruish); hay hay (kind of interesting); sơ sơ (barely)). Words with the nặng tone (a trắc tone), on the other hand, typically use the huyền tone instead, e.g. ngồ ngộ (kind of funny); là lạ (kind of weird); ngờ ngợ (to feel kind of familiar).
  • In teaching, từ láy is frequently stressed as being different from từ ghép (compound word) in that the syllables of từ láy tend to lack lexical meaning.
  • Not to be confused with:
    • "Semantic reduplicatives" whose syllables are meaningful (because they are repeated wholly, rather just phonemic parts of them like từ láy) and intended to convey genericity or plurality, such as đời đời (for generations), người người (people; men, women and children), nhà nhà (families; communities), etc.
    • Compounds of synonymous elements such as rừng rú (forests) which, of course, consist of meaningful syllables.
    • Compounds of "pseudo-/quasi-synonymous" elements that just happen to share sounds such as mặt mày (expression; look, literally face and brows), mặt mũi (face, literally face and nose), lí lẽ (sensibility, literally sensibility and reasoning), lời lẽ (reasoning, literally words and reasoning).

See also[edit]