The triple 'dui'
24 Sep 2006
Today on ChinesePod there was an intermediate lesson called Growing Affections. A commenter named Trevor Morley called attention to a linguistic phenomenon which he aptly dubbed “the triple dui” (that’s “triple 对,” not to be confused with “triple DUI“). This “对对对” is something I’ve noticed myself, and I’ve been observing it for a while.
对 means “right,” and as English speakers, I think it’s pretty easy for us to understand how it could be used in triplicate. We sometimes say, “right, right, right” in conversation when we are agreeing with what another person is saying. 对 is a monosyllabic word, so the triple dui is actually a repitition of a monosyllabic word three times just as “right, right, right” is in English; it’s not like 谢谢, which is a disyllabic word composed of one repeated morpheme.
What makes it interesting (to some of us) is that the triple dui seems to be used in spoken Mandarin much more than you would expect if it were left up to chance. Furthermore, the majority* of Chinese words are bisyllabic, which might lead one to expect an underlying trend of “twos” in Chinese. In this case, however, the triple dui seems to be as popular as the double dui (if not more so).
I don’t have any hard data to back up any of these observations (even search engines put “对对” way ahead of “对对对”), and it might also be a regional phenomenon. Any thoughts and/or reports from other parts of China?
*This fact belongs to the realm of generally accepted linguistic knowledge about the Chinese language, but if you want more info, you might check out Stress and the Development of Disyllabic Words in Chinese (PDF file) by San Duanmu.