Reduplication (a natural language feature) which changes meaning, pluralize, emphasize etc. is basically doubling of the word, partially doubling it or doubling it with phonetic constraints.

Grice's maxim of manner, when one tries to be as clear, as brief, and as orderly as one can in what one says, and where one avoids obscurity and ambiguity.

The maxim of quantity, where one tries to be as informative as one possibly can, and gives as much information as is needed, and no more.

Does this doubling , oppose Grice's Maxim of Manner or Quantity?

Or if Grice's Maxims are not to be compared with one particular linguistic feature, does it follow all others?

1 Answer 1


I don't understand the alternative question. But, Gricean maxims are not absolute rules about human language, they are defeasible assumptions about human social behavior which aid a person in getting from a grammar-based meaning to a probable actual communicative intention. The maxim of brevity does not say that the word "elephant" is somehow amiss because it's too long, nor does it criticize Sanskrit verb inflection because it is too obscure (not like Turkish). Grammatical features of a language are above reproach.

There is a way in which Gricean analysis might be useful in thinking about reduplication, in the realm of the linguistic function of reduplication. It is reasonably common in productive and optional reduplications that the meaning is hard to pin down, so that 'cut-cut' might be used to talk about disorganized cutting, or multiple cuttings, or extended periods of cutting. Gricean analysis can help you discern the difference between cut-cutting an onion vs. cut-cutting a forest. At some point, the vague meaning conveyed by reduplication may be grammaticalized into "habitual action", "repeated action", or "insistent action". At an early stage in the development of reduplication, a hearer might be presented with an anomalous form "cut-cut", and have to wonder "what the heck does that mean". A communicative intent might be inferred from context, where reduplication becomes a meme, and eventually a hard grammatical property.

  • The alternative question is meant to ask whether I should be comparing a real linguistic feature to an ideal rule. But the maxim of brevity might be defied when there is a minimal use of reduplication to convey collective nouns like rain , but must be still used. About cut-cut , since it's artificially introduced and lacks semantic rules / nature, binding it, it is much vaguer than a natural reduplicated form and thus making reduplication appear like a meme, right? Oct 3, 2017 at 17:32

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