Clitic doubling

Clitic doubling

In linguistics, clitic doubling, or pronominal reduplication is a phenomenon by which clitic pronouns appear in verb phrases together with the full noun phrases that they refer to (as opposed to the cases where such pronouns and full noun phrases are in complementary distribution).

Clitic doubling is found in many languages, including Albanian, Arumanian, Macedonian, Bulgarian, Degema, Greek, Persian, Romanian, Somali, and Spanish.

The conditions on clitic doubling vary from language to language, generally depending on well-known properties of the objects along the Animacy Hierarchy (allowing, requiring, or forbidding clitic-doubling for different kinds of objects). In this regard, clitic doubling for objects can be viewed as a species of Differential Object Marking.



Spanish is one well-known example of clitic-doubling language. Because standard Spanish grammatical structure does not draw a clear distinction between an indirect object and a direct object referring to a person or another animate entity (see Spanish prepositions), it is common but not compulsory to use clitic doubling to clarify. Compare:

Conocí a Juan. "I met Juan." (Direct object: a Juan)
Di un regalo a Juan. "I gave a gift to Juan." (Direct object: un regalo; indirect object: a Juan)

In such constructions, the indirect object can be expressed both as a full noun phrase and as a clitic in order to note that the noun phrase beginning with a (to) should be understood as an indirect object:

Le di un regalo a mi madre. "I gave my mother a gift."
A mis invitados siempre les ofrezco café. "I always offer coffee to my guests."
No les des comida a los animales. "Do not give food to the animals."

The above, if literally translated into English, would be redundant:

Le di un regalo a mi madre
To her I gave a gift to my mother


A mis invitados siempre les ofrezco café
to my guests always to them I offer coffee


No les des comida a los animales
not to them give food to the animals

This usage is not compulsory, and it would also be valid to say: "Siempre ofrezco café a mis invitados", without clitic doubling.

Similarly, the direct object may also be doubled, with both the direct object pronoun and the full noun phrase, but this is not as common as indirect clitic doubling and is usually a matter of style.

(Lo) vi a tu papá en la tienda. "I saw your dad at the store."
El otro día (la) conocí a su esposa. "The other day I met his wife."

One particular use is to clarify emphatic structures:

Ese regalo se lo di a él. "I gave him that gift."


Clitic doubling is used as colloquial pleonasm, although it is considered incorrect by some[1].

Example: a me mi pare di sì ("I [personally, for what I am concerned] think so")


In Lombard, clitics are widely used with both nouns and pronouns.

Te gh'el diset ti a la Rina che l'è staa luu? Will you tell OR Would you mind telling Rina it was him [who did it]?

Te gh' el diset ti a la Rina che l' è staa luu?
You to her it (you) tell you to Rina that it has been he?


In Veneto Usually clitics double second singular person subject and third singular and plural subject.

The above, if literally translated into English, would be redundant:

I mii i vien doman
The (parents) mine they come tomorrow

'My parents come tomorrow' 

Marco el Vien doman
Marco he comes tomorrow

'Marco comes tomorrow'

Ti te/ti/tu vien doman
You you come tomorrow

'You come tomorrow'

Interrogative subjects clitics double also other subjects. They attach to the verb:

Cantè-o anca voaltri/e ?
Sing-you also you (pl.m/f)

'Do you (pl.) sing as well?'

Accusative clitics double first and second singular/plural direct object

Te go visto ti
you (I) have seen you

In some varieties of the language, also dative clitics may double and indirect object, even of third person:

Marco el ghe ga un libro a Toni
Mark he to him has given a book to Tony

Macedonian and Bulgarian

In the standard Macedonian language, clitic doubling is obligatory with definite direct and indirect objects, which contrasts with standard Bulgarian where clitic doubling is optional. Non-standard dialects of Macedonian and Bulgarian have differing rules regarding clitic doubling. [1]


Clitic doubling occurs in Degema, as it does in Romance and Slavic languages. However, clitic doubling in Degema is not associated with the presence of a preposition as in Romance languages like Spanish nor is it associated with topicality or specificity as in Slavic languages like Bulgarian. Rather, what make clitic doubling in Degema possible are syntactic (movement and anaphoricity) and discourse (emphasis and/or familiarity) factors (Kari 2003)[2] Consider (1) below:

(1) Eni      mo=sire     elephant cl=run    'An elephant is running'

In (1) the subject noun phrase (NP) 'Eni' is doubled by the clitic 'mo='. The clitic agrees in person, number and case with the doubled subject NP.

Example (2) shows that specific and non-specific subjects in Degema can be doubled by a clitic:

(2) Eni      mo=rere                  (non-specific)     elephant cl=walk    'An elephant is walking'

    Eni      mee mo=rere              (specific)     elephant my  cl=walk    'My elephant is walking'

Example (3) shows that both topicalized and non-topicalized NPs in Degema can be doubled by a clitic:

(3) Okper o=kun              esen                (non-topicalized)     Otter cl=catch.factative fish    'An Otter caught a fish'

    Okper nu           o=kun              esen   (topicalized)     Otter Focus marker cl=catch.factative fish    'It was an Otter that caught a fish'

In Degema, the preposition does not feature in clitic doubling constructions in particular and in cliticization in general. Although there are object NPs such as indirect object NPs that can cooccur with a preposition, there are no corresponding object clitics to double them, unlike subject NPs.

Kari (2003: 135f) adds that "syntactic factors are stronger than discourse factors in the licensing of clitic doubling in Degema.  Discourse factors only ensure the expression or suppression of the doubled NP after syntactic operations have taken place".

See also



  1. ^ Friedman, V. (1994) "Variation and Grammaticalization in the Development of Balkanisms" in CLS 30 Papers from the 30th Regional Meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society, Volume 2. (Chicago: Chicago Linguistic Society)
  2. ^ Kari, Ethelbert Emmanuel. 2003. Clitics in Degema: A meeting point of phonology, morphology, and syntax. Tokyo: Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa (ILCAA). ISBN 4-87297-850-1.

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