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Is there a way/word to describe three letter color adjectives in Chinese? For example, I know that 绿油油 is one that is used often - is there a way to describe these? Are they a certain type of adjective?

3 Answers 3

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They are called 叠词(Reduplication). Many 叠词 work as adjectives or adverbs, but you may well see them in other places. There are many forms of 叠词, yours is just one of them:

ABB: 绿油油, 红彤彤, 美滋滋(Not a color)

AAB: 飘飘然, 呱呱叫

ABA: 越来越, 看一看

AABB: 白白净净, 欢欢喜喜

AABC: 鼎鼎大名, 苦苦相逼

ABAB: 考虑考虑, 研究研究

ABAC: 美轮美奂, 载歌载舞

There may be other forms but I can't think of them by now.

So for ABB and color only, there are no specific terms, but you can describe it as ABB结构的描述颜色的叠词.

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    searching web using "ABB的形容词" or something similar will provide information
    – user6065
    Nov 17, 2014 at 5:15
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Chinese A Comprehensive Grammar on p。156 mentions 3 examples, 亮铮铮,胖乎乎,醉醺醺

while discussing adjective + disyllabic phonoaesthemes + 的 among complements of manner and consequential state:

他把杯子擦得亮铮铮的。

孩子长得胖乎乎的。

那个老头子喝得醉醺醺的。

This kind of characterization in terms of phonoaestheme (联觉音组) does not seem to be universal。

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  • By 'not universal' do you mean 'it is not common in other languages' or 'those are fixed usages instead of free-form creation'?
    – NS.X.
    Nov 17, 2014 at 6:36
  • not universally accepted, that is this user has not seen any other texts using the term phonoaestheme (phonoestheme) in the context of Chinese grammar, also could not find Chinese language websites using the term or its Chinese version 联觉音组
    – user6065
    Nov 17, 2014 at 8:01
  • @S.Rhee 叠词 is the common term. 联觉音组 seems to indicate something different. Nov 17, 2014 at 8:10
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    @ Wang Dingwei 叠词 (reduplication, iterative compound) denotes the whole word (noun,verb or adjective), the authors, Yip Po-Ching and Don Rimmington apparently refer to the part BB as disyllabic phonoaestheme (as copied in answer #2).
    – user6065
    Nov 17, 2014 at 13:21
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I donot think there is a formal way, but here are more ABB examples if you like.

红灿灿(的太阳)
红朴朴(的脸蛋)
黄澄澄(的稻穗)
黑漆漆(的夜晚)
白花花(的银子)
粉嘟嘟(的小手)
银闪闪(的耳环)
灰朴朴(的衣裳)
灰蒙蒙(的天)

Actually there is another kind of words of the form BBA, for example:

煞煞白
墨墨黑
晶晶亮
喷喷香

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