Of course, I was very, very drunk

Language Log is a rather rather cool site, if you like that sort of thing.

On a Turkish woman who said the following of the last pope:

Jampol very, very good.

Geoffrey Pullum observes the following:

…the obvious answer to how the Turkish woman learned to reduplicate the modifier very is that she had heard people who spoke English saying very very, and she knew enough to imitate them in this regard.

Another possibility would be that reduplication of modifiers for emphasis happens to be a property of Turkish, and the woman tacitly knew just enough about English (namely that very was a pre-head modifier in an adjective phrase) that she was able to unthinkingly transfer it from Turkish to English, and by good luck she was right, because it is a feature of English too.

Somewhat less plausible, in my view would be a Chomskyan line on this: that reduplication of modifiers for emphasis is a linguistic universal, held in common by all natural languages and built into human brains at birth or conception, so no one ever has to learn it.)

I know zero Turkish myself, beyond the first page of the phrasebook. It seems possible that reduplication of modifiers for emphasis is a property of Turkish, since this is not the sole preserve of English, being also a property of quite a few European languages (English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, German).

But does anyone know if it exists in Irish? I managed to find a couple of instances of ‘iontach iontach maith’ on Google, though I am too ignorant to be able to determine if this is a ‘naturally occurring’ property, or if it is just evidence of someone acting the lig by stealing from the English.

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November 2006

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