Expressive forms

Miguel Carrasquer Vidal mcv at
Mon Nov 11 09:59:43 UTC 1996

An excellent overview of what constitute "expressive forms"
in Basque, but no doubt applicable to any other language as
well, "mutatis mutandis" of course.
As further examples of expressive formations in Basque,
involving mainly reduplication and m- (criterion 8),
the following list was compiled by my University Basque
teacher in Leiden, Rudolf P.G. de Rijk (the Basque is
Gipuzkoan dialect, any English translation errors are mine):
duda "doubt"               duda-mudak "doubts"
ixilka "quietly"           ixilka-mixilka "whispering, secretly"
zearka "sideways"          zearka-mearka "round-about"
tarteka "with intervals"   tarteka-marteka "in spare moments, now & then"
zeatz "precisely"          zeatz-meatz "with all detail"
esan "to say"              esamesak "chit-chat, gossip"
zoro "crazy"               zoro-moro "like crazy"
kako "hook"                kako-makoak "clevernesses, sophisms"
zalantza "doubt"           zalantza-malantzean "in case of doubt"
asi "to start"             asi-masiak "first principles"
zirika "stinging"          zirika-mirika "giving little pushes"
iritzi "opinion"           iritzi-miritzi (ari) "to criticize"
txiri "curl"               txiri-miri "bagatelle"
autu "conversation, fable" autu-mautuak "tales, stories"
inguratu "to walk around"  ingura-mingura "beating about the bush"
ondar "dregs, deposit"     ondar-mondarrak "rests, remains"
cases where there is no simplex form (some already given by Larry):
zirimiri    "drizzle"
zurrumurru  "rumour"
txutxumutxu "whispering"
txirrimirri "odd job; busybody"
zirkimirki  "slightly angry"
izkimizki   "gossip, slander"
urkumurku   "having bad intent"
>Basque has one particularly interesting class of expressive forms with
>especially distinctive properties.  This is the class of adjectives
>denoting physical or moral defects.  They all begin with the
>expressive consonant /m/, and they are usually two syllables long
>(sometimes three).  Here are just a few examples of what is a rather
>large group: MOTEL `weak, insipid', [etc.]
What about MUTIL, MOTEL `boy, young man'?  Is it the same word?
Miguel Carrasquer Vidal
mcv at

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