Donnerstag, 8. Oktober 2009

Contrastive Focus Reduplication in German

I've long been intrigued by a phenomenon in colloquial English referred to by linguists as Contrastive Focus Reduplication, in which a potentially ambiguous word or phrase is repeated in order to pick out a more prototypical meaning. For example, "Oh, that's a potato salad, not a SALAD-salad" (i.e., a green salad) or "I'm up, I'm just not UP-up" (i.e, I'm awake, but not out of bed and dressed and so forth). The canonical article on this is the "Salad-Salad Paper" by Jackendoff et. al.

As far as I know, this phenomenon has not been widely observed in languages other than English, although there seems to be no particular reason why it should necessarily be restricted to English.

Therefore, I was fascinated to hear the following in Deutsche Welle's program "Bücherwelt" during a discussion of a new Krimireihe by the literary publisher Suhrkamp:
Was mir fehlt ist so, sagen wir mal, das Herausragende und Neue, das man insgeheim doch ein Bisschen von Suhrkamp und der Suhrkampliteratur erwartet hätte. Aber vielleicht ist genau das auch das Schlaue, das die Macher dieser Krimireihe an Suhrkampverlag geschafft haben. Sie machen nicht Kriminal-Literatur, sondern sie machen Krimi-Krimi. Man sagt ja immer Suhrkamp würde Literatur-Literatur machen, und im jeden Fall machen sie Krimi-Krimi, also Kriminalliteratur, die wie ein Lektor mir sagte, in der Bahnhofsbuchhandlung auch ihren Platz findet neben ganz anderen Verlagen. Also man unterläuft die Erwartungen, die im Grunde genommen da waren.
(The audio file is available here, with the relevant section starting at about 10:00.)

Here we have contrastive focus reduplication not once, but three times, and a similar contrastive intonation in the first usage of Kriminalliteratur to mean"literary mysteries" (Paul Auster's New York Trilogy, perhaps?) rather than "mystery fiction" which would be the usual meaning of the term.

Edit 8.11.09: "Literaturliteratur" seems to be a (fairly recent?) coinage for what I am accustomed to hearing referred to as 'Belletristik' - that is, 'literary fiction' - with perhaps an extra connotation of metafictional play and literary references. Or, as one writer puts it: "Literatur, die weltvergessen um den eigenen Bauchnabel kreist." (An English equivalent might be something like 'literature with a capital L,' an expression which for obvious reasons wouldn't make much sense German, or perhaps the term 'writers' writer' for the creator of such works.)
So 'Krimikrimi' would be formed in imitation of this expression, and there also seem to be the terms 'Kunstkunst' and 'Filmfilm' (discussion) which makes me less certain that this is quite the same phenomenon as the English contrastive focus reduplication, in that it's apparently restricted to a fairly small semantic field (i.e., the realm of 'high culture' vs. 'popular culture' or some such).

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