By Iem Brown

Reduplication is a process of repeating a word, either wholly or partially. This process is very productive and it shows a number of characteristics. It is used to express various grammatical functions such as verbal aspect and some showing complex models.

A wide use of reduplication is one of the most prominent grammatical features of the Indonesian languages. To some this sounds like a child language (hula-hula, caca).

Reduplication With Affixes

Some words are reduplicated with affixes. Most of reduplication with affixes is verbs and adjectives. Reduplication of nouns with affixes is limited to the suffix -an.


Dia berjalan-jalan ke pasar.
Gedung itu bertingkat-tingkat.
He takes a stroll to the market.
The building has many storeys.


Kalau mandi saya suka menyanyi-nyanyi.
Dia meraba-raba dalam gelap.
While bathing, I like to sing.
He is groping in the dark.

The other type of reduplication with prefix me- is usually a verb but maybe a nominal:

Mereka saling pandang memandang.
Kita harus saling tolong-menolong.
Dia sangat ahli dalam tari-menari.
They looked at each other.
We have to help each other.
She is an expert on dancing.


Mereka tertawa-tawa mendengar berita gebira itu.
Pria itu tergila-gila pada wanita berkulit putih.
They laughed and laughed upon hearing the good news.
That man is crazy about the woman with fair skin.

ber- -an

Murid-murid sedang berkejar-kejaran di halaman sekolah.
Kami bersalam-salaman sebelum berpisah.
The pupils are chasing each other in the school yard.
We shake each other’s hand before we parted.

ke- -an

Usianya sudah dua puluh tapi masih kekanak-kanakan.
Airnya jernih kebiru-biruan.
He is twenty years old but he is still childish.
The water is clear, slightly blue.


Sekonyong-konyong di memukul saya.
Saya akan berusaha sebaik-baiknya.
All of sudden he hits me.
I will try my best.


variety of vegetables
toy cars
pinching each other
hide and seek

Reference: Indonesian Grammar Made Easy by Dr. Liaw Yock Fang, TIMES 1996

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