Linguistic Redundancy -- Paper by Dr. Wit and Dr. Gillette (2023)

What is Linguistic Redundancy?

Dr. Marie Gillette, The Pennsylvania State University
Dr. Ernst-Jan C. Wit, The University of Chicago
The University of New South Wales

August 13, 1998


Linguistic redundancy is a multi-facet phenomena within language demonstrating that language is in essence successful communication. Redundancy penetrates deeply into a language and we can find many linguistic features in grammar, syntax and other aspects of language. We propose a new classification of linguistic redundancy into what we call `contextual redundancy' and `grammatical redundancy.' This new classification is powerful enough to incorporate and enlighten all forms of linguistic redundancy known to us.
It is good to express a matter in two ways simultaneously so as togive it both a right foot and a left. Truth can stand on one leg, to be sure; but with two it can walk and get about. (Friedrich Nietzsche)


In descriptive as well as prescriptive linguistics redundancy hascommonly been regarded as a negative quality of language. The prescriptive grammarians advise us to eliminate wordiness, pleonasms and repetitions that clutter our writing and our speech. In descriptive linguistics, even though it is acknowledged that natural languages are highly redundant, there is an explicit attempt to formulate descriptions of them in a non-redundant manner. It has even been argued, for example, that the mental lexicon processes language in a non-redundant fashion.1The argument is that a non-redundant mental lexicon preserves a certain economy (either in memory-storage, memory-retrieval, or both) that allows the participants of a conversation speedy access to the words in their mental lexicon. One of the maxims of Grice, i.e., Quantity, postulates that those participating in a language activity should employ as many distinctive features as to convey the message; not more and not less. An economy of expression is thought to be equivalent with clear and distinct communication.2

Although language redundancy had its critics, a place for redundancy has also been recognized in the psycholinguistic and linguistic literature. Some have argued that redundancy production seems to coincide with mental development, others have explicitly set out to prove the value of redundancy.

One disadvantage of the redundancy discussion is the striking absence of a proper definition of the subject in question: What is redundancy? The literature shows a wide interpretative range of definitions, some bearing on psycholinguistics, others purely on linguistics. In this paper, we shall attempt to accomplish two things. First, we shall give a short but comprehensive overview of what counts as redundancy. We distinguish two kinds of redundancy: (i) grammatical redundancy, and (ii) contextual redundancy. Having clarified these forms of redundancy, we shall secondly set out to demonstrate the value of redundancy in several kinds of language-processes. In some cases the redundant features are repeating bits of information to ensure comprehensibility. In other cases, what appears to be redundant, is actually notbecause the redundancy is serving a function other than repetition. It may used to contrast, to emphasize, to intensify, to resolve ambiguity or to serve other, more rhetoric purposes.

2Forms of Redundancy


The subject of linguistic redundancy is not an entirely new issue. In the past several decades linguists and non-linguists have been engaged in a study of redundancy. Also people outside the field of linguistics have dealt with the issue. In the field of statistics, the redundancy of an expression is a concept that appears in Information Theory. In the field of psychology, the level of redundancy used inspeech is sometimes thought of as a measure of the developmental stage of an individual. In linguistics itself, language redundancy has been the subject of several empirical studies.

Out of this variety of disciplines several different definitions of redundancy have emerged. These definitions are basically of three different kinds. First there are the substantial definitions that try to capture what redundancy essentially is. Secondly, there are some operational definitions that attempt to quantify (a certain aspect of) redundancy. Finally, there are some functional definitions of redundancy that focus on what redundancy does, i.e., the function of redundancy. There are flaws in all of these definitions. Moreover, some of them are not at all linguistic.But our major objection is that these definitions are incomplete, too simple and often confuse the essence of redundancy with its function.

Before we attempt our own definition we shall begin by reviewing several substantial definitions of redundancy from the literature. All define linguistic redundancy from the point of view of information communication. Entering the field from a statistical angle, Campbell determines that the ``extra ration of predictability is called redundancy'' (Campbell, 1982, p. 68). Stantland writes that ``redundancy is overdetermination'' (Stantland, p. 56). Overdetermination and increased predictability both suggest that repetition of information is the essence of redundancy. We shall incorporate this idea. Hunnicut hints at a more linguistically substantial definition, when she argues that ```Redundancy' [is] the systematicity in one's language (and speech). This refers to the information in a complete sentence over and above that which is essential.'' (Hunnicut, p. 53) This definition suggests that the rule-governed behavior of language, i.e., the grammar, may be instrumental with respect to linguistic redundancy. We shall return to this idea in the next section when we put forward our own definition of grammatical redundancy. In some experimental studies, one can find certain operational definitions of linguistic redundancy. The qualitative notion of redundancy is replaced by operational quantity. Hunnicut quantifies redundancy as follows:3

[Redundancy is ] the fraction of those people who do correctly guess the omitted word in a spoken Swedish sentence where that particular word has been replaced by an equally long beep. (Hunnicutt, p. 47)

The majority of definitions of redundancy found in the literature are functional in nature. These definitions concentrate on the purpose of redundancy. Nubold and Turner, for instance, link redundancy directly to the insurance of comprehensibility of a communicated message.

Redundancy is a feature of an information source which insures that the communication receiver is able to reconstruct a message that has somehow suffered from transmission interference or deletion, and so interpret it satisfactorily. (Nubold and Turner, pp. 33-4)

Campbell expresses a similar idea, although on a slightly morestatistical-linguistic level, when he argues that ``Redundancy reduces error by making certain letters and groups of letters more probable, increasing predictability.'' (Campbell, p. 72) At the end of her experimental study, Hunnicut concludes that

``Redundancy'' [is] the systematicity in one's language (and speech). This definition refers to the information in a complete sentence over and above that which is essential. ... Other research on redundancy in speech has frequently been concerned with the ability to use this systematicity in language in certain conditions. Accessibility to stimuli from which to make systematic inferences may depend upon environment and manner of speaking. In the presence of noise or a manner of speaking that degrades the speech, one would expect information (and redundancy) to be decreased. In such a situation, a listener would not be able to take advantage of a language's systematicity to the same extent. (Hunnicut, p. 53-4)

Given the idea that redundancy rescues communication in cases of a failure in the communication system, it takes one more argumentative step for concluding, as Campbell does, that ``redundancy makes complexity possible.'' (Campbell, p. 73) According to Campbell, we should think of communication failure not as a marginal annoyance but as an intricate part of any communication system. Therefore, redundancy in practical communication is the only way to transmit a complex message.

We shall use all of these ideas to develop a comprehensive definitionof redundancy. In our discussion of the literature one can observe twodiverging movements. One stresses that redundancy is a form of spurioususe of language, whereas the other identifies redundancy as acertain forced systematicity within language. In order to becomprehensive these two elements have to be incorporated. In the next two sections we shall propose two new definitions of redundancy. They can briefly be described as follows:

Grammatical redundancy is internal to the language system, systematic and obligatory, whereas contextual redundancy is voluntary. Contextual redundancy involves the judgment of the speaker concerning the receptor's background or it may simply be used to achieve a certain rhetorical effect.

In the later part of the paper we shall focus on the possible functions of redundancy and give examples of how each of the redundancy form accomplishes that function in its own particular way.

(Video) Dr. Susanna Søberg: How to Use Cold & Heat Exposure to Improve Your Health | Huberman Lab Podcast

2.2Grammatical redundancy

Grammatical redundancy is the internal systematicity and rule-governed behavior of a language in which two or more its features serve the same function. Grammatical redundancy is obligatory, i.e., its elements are generated systematically and one of the elements of the redundancy may not arbitrarily be omitted; it is internal to the language in the sense that it is generated from grammatical rules and is independent of situational, contextual and non-linguistic considerations; it is truly redundant because it serves only to repeat information already given by another feature.4

Example 1: The English -s
English requires the morpheme -s to mark third person singular verbs in the present tense. Since English is not a `pro-drop' language,5the presence of an expressed subject makes the -s morpheme redundant. That morpheme, nevertheless, is obligatory. According to the grammatical rules of English, the speaker may not use the -s in some contexts and omit it in others. The -s is truly redundant because it offers no more information than is already expressed by the subject of the sentence.

Example 2: Questions
Redundancy also plays an important role in the formation of English questions. Notice in the examples below that most sentences have at least two features that indicate the interrogative nature of the expression. We give several examples.

Information questions:
a. ``How is your mother?''6
Interrogative markers:

  1. Interrogative word: ``how.''
  2. Subject-predicate inversion.

Questions of this type, called information questions, begin with a wh-interrogative word and seek new information. The interrogative word signals a questions to the listener, and grammar also demands the inversion of subject and predicate. There are also other types of information questions, for instance the following:
b. ``Where did you buy that car?''
Interrogative markers:

  1. Interrogative word.
  2. Introduction of the auxiliary, ``did.''
  3. Subject-auxiliary inversion.

In this example there are three cues that indicate the question. Also the obligatory introduction of the auxiliary in this sentence flags the interrogative nature of the sentence. There are, however, some information questions that have only one characteristic that marks them a question. These are questions that start with ``who'' as the subject of the sentence:
c. ``Who called him last night?''
Only ``who'' signals the question. If there is a person that happen to be called Hu, then phonetically there would be no distinction between the question ``who called him last night?'' and the declarative sentence, ``Hu called him last night.'' Think about the famous ``Who's on First'' routine, immortalized by Abbot and Costello.

Yes/no questions
Yes/no questions are different from information questions in that they already include all of the information. The receptor is expected to either confirm or deny that information. For example,
d. ``Do you like chocolate?''
Introduction of the auxiliary ``do,''7Introduction of a question intonation pattern.8Notice that there is no subject-predicate inversion. The same holdstrue for the following example of a tag-question:
e.``You went to the theater, didn't you?''
Although in this instance the tag ``didn't you,'' its associated intonation pattern and the subject-predicate inversionin the tag itself make the sentence interrogative.However, occasionally, you may hear: ``You went to the theater, did ye.''In this case the tag is slightly less informative. Not only because its intonation is constant, but also because the tag does not conformto standard rules of grammar.

The following examples of yes/no questions are taken from the realm of spoken English. Besides signalling a question they also express a certain amount of surprise.
f. ``She is the teacher??''
g. ``Me marry him??''
In these sentences there are at least two markers of interrogativity:

  1. a rise of intonation,
  2. (double) stress.

It is interesting to note the use of the objective case in sentences that use verbs other than ``to be.'' That is, for example, in the sentence ``Me marry him??'', the use of ``me'' rather than ``I''. Whether this switch marks a questionor whether it serves some other purpose needs to be investigated. For our purposes it is enough to point out the two markers of interrogativity as a sign of redundancy. Sometimes emphatic questions of this type have only one word:
h. ``I went to the theater last night,'' I told him. ``You?'' he answered.
In the sentence ``You?'' there is both a rise of intonation and heavystress.

Thus we can see that English clearly has a backup system for ensuring that certain utterances are understood as questions. Most questions-sentences are equipped with more than one question marker.

Example 3: Concordance of adjectives and articles with noun in gender and number
In many languages there is an agreement of gender and number between adjective/article and noun. This is called concordance. For example, in Italian:
a. ``La donna e bella.''
b. ``Le donne sono belle.''
Notice the redundant coding of number in both these sentences. Each word in the first sentence indicates singularity, whereas all four words in the second sentence mark plurality. In Dutch concordance is less obvious than in, for instance, Italian or Spanish, but it is there. ``Het huis'' becomes ``de huizen'' in the plural. Concordance is a typical example of grammatical redundancy that, in the languages in which it is present, is observed very strictly.

Example 4: Indirect object pronoun redundancy
In Spanish when the sentence contains a personal indirect object, the redundant indirect object pronoun is used in addition to that object, such in the following sentence:
a. ``Le di el libro a Stefano.'' (lit. trans.: To him I gave the book to Stefano.)
b. ``Les di el libro a Stefano y Cristina.'' (lit. trans.: To them I gave the book to Stefano and Cristina.)
There is no additional information transmitted by the redundant ``le'' or ``les.'' The indirect object pronoun is truly redundant.

Example 5: Double negatives
Especially in the Romance languages the negation of certain sentences is indicated by obligatory double negatives. For example, in Italian,
a. ``Non voglio mangiare niente.'' (lit. trans.: I don't want to eat nothing.),
or in Spanish,
b. ``No voy a decir nada a nadie nunca jamas.'' (lit. trans.: I am not never going to say nothing to nobody.)
or in French,
c. ``Je ne veux pas pleurer.'' (lit. trans.: I don't want not to cry.)
In these Romance languages the double negation seems to be triggered by the need for a negative particle before the verb. In cases were there is already a negative word before the verb, no double negative is required, as in, for instance: ``Nadie viene a la fiesta.'' (lit. trans.: nobody comes to the party.)

Double negatives introduce a redundancy in the sentence that reduce the possibility of a mistake. Languages that are not equipped with this form of redundancy often cause misunderstanding among speakers, such as the common confusion between ``I can'' and ``I can't.'' In British English this misunderstanding is less prevalent than in American Englishdue to the (i) vowel change in ``can't'' (`kaen' vs. `kant') (ii) the final ``t'' in British English is more articulated than in most dialects of American English. Perhaps not surprisingly, incertain social-cultural dialects of English forms like ``I can't giveyou no money.'' have become perfectly acceptable. Even in more general mainstream socio-linguistic environments of spoken English, redundantsolutions like the tag ``yes'' and ``no'' are common-place to solvethe can-can't confusion. For example: ``I can't give you money - no.'' or ``I can give you money - yes.''

Example 6: Word-order
Although it may be harder to recognize word-order as a form of redundancy,the word-order of a sentence constitutes one of the most important linguistinccoding systems besides the words and expressions themselves. Probablyeveryone, albeit with quite some trouble, understands that ``Her book the he gives.'' stands for the information that a male subject hands over a set of written sheetsof paper to a female subject. However, when the same information is coded as follows:
a. ``He gives her the book.''then it is clear that the word-order in the sentence does not provideextra information. However it does provide the same information (i.e., whatis the subject, what is the indirect object, etc.) in a more accessible manner, simply by conforming to the expectations that the receptor has ofthe sentence.

Example 7: Spelling
In much of the same way that word-order operates as a form of linguistic redundancy in any spoken or written statement, so do the rules ofspelling function typically in written expressions, i.e., by conforming to a pattern of expectation in the reader. A stereo-typical reader would probably understand the sentence:``Xt xs prxbxblx trxx thxt thx xnglxsh wrxttxn lxngxxgx cxn dx wxthxxtvxwxls.'' However, it is much more pleasant to read the same information, when it is redundantly coded as:
a. ``It is probably true that the English written language can do withoutvowels.''
Furthermore, the rules of spelling require that ``Evereewan shoot edhertoo the saim spellin.'' or ``Averea-one shud adhere tu the saam spelling.'' are written as:
b. ``Everyone should adhere to the same spelling.''What this means is that a uniform spelling increases the redundant coding of an expression.

(Video) Dr. Andy Galpin: How to Build Strength, Muscle Size & Endurance | Huberman Lab Podcast #65

Final remarks
In this section the examples have demonstrated the systematic and obligatory nature of grammatical redundancy. To be complete we must point out that there are sporadic cases in which grammatical rules leave alternatives and are not completely obligatory. One example is the future tense. Some Romance and Germanic languages allow an alternative to the redundant future. Besides the redundant form there co-exists a non-redundant option. We shall not pursue this point as it seems to be beyond the scope of this paper.9Another example of the less than obligatory nature of grammaticalredundancy is when there exist spelling alternatives. In American English, for example, both ``thru'' and ``through'' are accepted formsof spelling.

2.3Contextual redundancy

Contextual redundancy is the repetition of information that is, in a grammatical sense, non-obligatory. This repetition consists of the reproduction of identical elements of information or of elements that are only apparently identical. Contextual redundancy is not systematically generated by grammatical rules, although non-grammatical circumstances may suggest or require its use. Such circumstances include socio-linguistic and psycho-linguistic factors.Unlike grammatical redundancy there is not one kind of contextualredundancy and a subcategorization can be made on the basis of thestructure of the redundant expression. We proposefour kinds of contextual redundancy, however the categories do notseem to be completely mutually exclusive.

  1. identical or synonymous repetition
  2. isolating, salient repetition
  3. contrasting repetition
  4. distinguishing, differentiating repetition

Category 1: Identical or synonymous repetition
This kind of redundancy occurs when the expression containstwo (or more) identical or synonymous words or sub-expressions.It is important to point out that we do not argue that an identical meaning - semantically or socio-linguistically - would have been conveyed if the redundant part would have been dropped. Some examples:
a. ``The green, green grass of home.''
b. ``I am completely and entirely crazy about her.''
c. ``I had a blue, blue Christmas.''
d. ``Last year I visited the Eiffel Tower, the tallest steel construction in the center of Paris.''
From the examples it is clear that the redundant expressions oftendo carry a semantic goal. However, we shall postpone a discussion of the purpose of redundancy to next section and concentrate now only on the structure of the redundancy.

Category 2: Isolating, salient repetition
An isolating redundant expression contains at leasttwo subexpressions, of which one implicitly contains one or more featuresor characteristics of the other. In other words, when one word-groupimplicitly repeats what the other word-group explicitly expresses, then weare dealing with the isolating or salient form of contextual redundancy.Some examples:
a. ``I love the salty sea.''
b. ``I live in Chicago, Illinois.''
c. ``Can we postpone this till later?''
d. ``Please, endorse the check on the back.''
Whereas the third and fourth examples clarify the verb - maybe due to the ignorance or supposed ignorance of audience or speaker - the first and secondexamples isolate and stress a specific feature of the sea and Chicago respectively.

Category 3: Contrasting repetition
Contrasting redundancy occurs when two (or more) words or expressions that semantically constitute acontrast are repeated or in some other way redundantly coded. Words that are contrasted in an English sentence can receive additional emphasis - even though the words by themselves are sufficient to express the contrast. Spanish possesses the possibility to contrast such words through actually repeating the contrasted elements. For example, take the followingsentence in English and in Spanish:
a. ``I like coffee and you don't.''
b. ``A mi me gusta el cafe y a ti no te gusta.''
The spoken English sentence receives extra stress on ``I'' and``you.'' The spoken Spanish sentenceexpresses this contrast by actually repeating ``I'' (``a mi'' and``me'') and ``you'' (``a ti'' and ``te''). Another example of the contrasting form of contextual redundancy is:
c. ``Although his parents are Asian, his eyes are blue and not dark.''
In this case the English sentence employs the tag ``and not dark'' to increase the implicit contrast expressed in the sentence.

Category 4: Distinguishing, differentiating repetition
Finally, the distinguishing or differentiating form of contextualredundancy is a form of repetition of information in a context ofdifferentiating one object from another.Many words or expressions that are not ambiguous in one context, may be ambiguous in another. For example, for an inhabitant of Scranton in North-East Pennsylvania the word Carbondale can mean only one thing: a town 16 miles to the North, whereas for someone in Florida mentioning Carbondale could cause confusion.Was Carbondale, Pennsylvania, Carbondale, Illinois or some other Carbondale intended? For the Scrantonian the use of ``Pennsylvania'' would be repetitive, whereas for the Floridian it would provide necessary information. It is the conjunction of the city name and the word, that in the unambiguous context would be considered repetitive, i.e.,``Pennsylvania,'' that creates a distinguishing repetition.This form of contextual redundancy is probably the most contextual of all. In order for it to occur it requires a context with possiblealternatives besides the one being singled out in the expression.In order to give more examples of differentiating repetition a briefdescription of the context seems necessary:
a. [You are asked to point out the bank-robber in a line-up of short man with glasses and a tall man without glasses. You say:] ``It isthe short one with glasses.''
b. [Sonnenschein experiment: twenty-four different pictures divided in six equally sized groups; the groups are given colored boundaries.You say:] ``I am looking at the monkey in the group with the red boundary.''
Another way of describing the structure of differentiating redundancy isas the disambiguation of a word or expression in an unambiguous context with another word or expression that is considered non-repetitive in the ambiguous context of that first word.10

Final remarks
We believe that this categorization is a comprehensive one, even thoughthe boundaries between some of the categories may be fuzzy. For instance, consider the example that gave under contrasting repetition:
c. ``Although his parents are Asian, his eyes are blue and not dark.''
It could be argued that the tag ``and not dark'' isolates a salient feature of blue-ness and that, thereby, the example should be categorizedunder salient repetition. This does not necessarily indicate thearbitrary nature of the categorization, but rather that the categorization of each expression depends heavily on the context within which it is uttered. In this instance, if the previous discussion had been aboutthe brightness of the color blue and this sentence was uttered as aliving example how bright blue is, categorizing it as a salient repetition would be correct. The more natural classification, given that the previous discussion was about this person, would be the one that we proposed. This example goes to show that the linguistic as well as thenon-linguistic contexts are essential to identify and classify contextual redundancy.

3Purpose of Redundancy

Until now we have concentrated on what linguistic redundancy is and what meaningful distinctions we can make within this concept. In this section we shall show what the functions of linguistic redundancy are. From the examples that we have given thus-far it is clear thatthe purpose of linguistic redundancy is not limited to enhancing comprehensibility, even though that is one major aim. In total we identify six different uses of redundancy. These are:

  1. enhancing comprehensibility
  2. resolving ambiguity
  3. isolating a feature
  4. contrasting elements
  5. emphasizing or intensifying
  6. creating `poetic' effect

We do not want to claim that this classification is comprehensive, although we do believe that these categories provide good coverage of all examples provided. Sensible subcategorizations are however likely to be possible. For usit is more important to point out how the two forms of redundancy,grammatical and contextual redundancy, fall into these categories.We claim that due to its obligatory nature grammatical redundancy can only serve to enhance the comprehensibility of a statement and cannotbe used for any of the five more intentional functions. Contextual redundancy can be applied to serve any of the six before mentionedgoals.

Function 1: Comprehensibility
Language, in a very general sense, is a communication process. It serves to communicate a message or a feeling to a potential audience, maybe ourselves or even no-one in particular. The attempt to communicatecould be thwarted due to four major kinds of imperfections:

  1. imperfections of the sender (lisping, dialectal and idolectal variation)
  2. imperfections of the receptor (foreign origin)
  3. imperfections of the medium (static on the phone, smudgy ink)
  4. outside interruptions (noise, other people talking)

Each of these imperfections happen continuously and should thereforebe considered an integral part of a communication process. To counterthese failures, language must have a continuously functioning back-upsystem in order to sustain communication. That is what redundancy does.

Redundancy makes complexity possible... Failure, von Neumann said, must not be thought of as an aberration, but as an essential, independent part of the logic of complex systems. The more complex the system, the more likely it is that one of its parts will malfunction. Redundancy is a means of keeping the system running in the presence of malfunction. (Campbell, p.73)

Most empirical studies on redundancy have dealt with the issue ofcomprehensibility. Several studies, for instance, have shown that growing up is accompanied by more extensive use of redundancy. Thechild increasingly starts using redundancies to ensure that his message is understood.11Ways to do that can be very diverse. One, almost passive, way is by adhering to grammatical rules that apply to one's utterance. By adheringto mutually accepted rules the receptor is able to classify a statementby more that one cue, increasing thereby the chance that the utterance isunderstood. This is, of course, a description of what we have called grammatical redundancy. But also contextual redundancy is able to enhance understandability. Examples range from simply repeating information tobuilding in redundant clues:
a. ``Last year I visited the Dar es Salaam, the capital of Tanzania.''
b. ``I like that marine-colored, blue dress, that hangs over there.''
c. ``I can't give you money - no.''
These examples include statements that clarify what was already expressed. This is closely related to, although distinct from the next function, i.e., clarifying something that was not yet completelyexpressed.

Function 2: Resolving ambiguity
In many official occasions precision of expression is needed. Whereasin daily life it would suffice to say ``I tell the truth,'' in the caseof a legal trial the witness is asked to swear to tell
a. ``the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.''
Certainly the witness should tell true things (``the truth''), but also he should not exclude anything that is true (``the whole truth''), nor shouldhe, besides true things, tell a couple of lies (``nothing but the truth'').The redundant expression is therefore only superficially redundant. Another example is:
b. ``I live in Carbondale, Pennsylvania.''
Again, whether or not the expression is truly redundant, depends on the context. In the case that it is not, it distinguishes between all otherpossible Carbondales.

Function 3. Isolating a feature
In our speech or writing we frequently want to focus on a salient characteristic of a certain object. Let's take for instance the followingsentence:
a. ``I love the salty sea.''
The saltiness of the water does not add anything the concept of sea which is salty by definition. However, the phrase ``salty sea''focuses the attention of the receptor on one quality, viz. saltiness, of the sea rather than others. The sea is wet, deep, wavy, but the receptor's attention is drawn to the fact that it is salty.

(Video) Dr. Andy Galpin: Optimal Nutrition & Supplementation for Fitness | Huberman Lab Guest Series

Function 4. Contrasting elements
Sometimes, what seems redundant actually contrasts two elements in the expression. We have already indicated how English sometimes uses additional stress to achieve this juxtaposition, whereas Spanish repeats the indirect object, like in:
a. ``I like coffee and you don't.''
b. ``A mi me gusta el cafe y a ti no te gusta.''
This form of pronoun-redundancy is quite common in Romance languages. It is not only used to contrast two opposing elements. Sometimes itis also used to emphasize or intensify a singe element.

Function 5. Emphasizing or intensifying
There seems to be some evidence that pronoun-redundancy was common and accepted in seventeenth century Italian. In the grammar, written by Antonio Fabro in 1626, pronoun-redundancy appears alongside with the unemphasized pronouns. It seems to be the casethat then, as well as now (even though now it is considered to be sub-grammatical12), the major purpose of this redundant use of the pronoun was and is to stress the pronoun, as for instance in:
a. ``Li diceva al mio padre, mi ha lasciato la casa a me.''

Fuer Cortelazzo erklaert sich die Koexistenz von mi piace un a me mi piace mit der grundsaetzlichen Trennung von emphatischen und nichtemphatischen Formen, die einen unterschiedlichen Spontaneitaetsgrad realisieren. (Radtke, p. 371. My translation: ``According to Cortelazzo, the fundamental distinction between emphatic and non-emphatic forms of expression explains the coexistence of mi piace and a me mi piace, each of which realize a distinct level of spontaneity.'')

Pronoun-redundancy is not the only kind of redundancy that intensifiesor emphasizes a certain aspect of the sentence. Other examples are:
b. ``The green, green grass of home.''
c. ``I am completely and entirely crazy about her.''
d. ``I had a blue, blue Christmas.''
In each of these examples the redundant feature intensifies the meaningof the expression: the grass is really green at home, I am really in lovewith her, and my past Christmas was really sad. Although we classified theselast three examples here, they could also fall into the next category.

Function 6. Creating `poetic' effect
This last function seems, in some sense, to be a rest-category. It encapsulatesall uses of redundancy with no clear semantic purpose, but with an intention to shock, to please, to horrify, to move, etc. Examplesof such expressions can often be classified as intensifying or emphasizing as well, such as for instance:
a. ``The green, green grass of home.''
Other groups of expressions such as warnings and insults have a tendency to be redundantly coded with the main purpose to scare andto insult respectively. Examples of these groups of expressions are abundant:
b. [a sign having the following words:] ``Warning. Danger. Stay out.''
c. ``You are a goofy dork!''
d. ``You are a stupid asshole!''
e. ``Goddamn, what the hell are you doing!''
Although one may be in doubt about their poetic nature, in a traditionalsense of the word ``poetic'',these redundancies seem to have a primary emotive charge and therefore fall under what we have termed as ``poetic''. We would also like to provide an example that shows that this, as well as any other form of redundancy can operate on the level of a paragraph, rather than on the level of a sentence. The quote comes from Virginia Woolf,describing a vivid image of a wealthy academic institution:

Every Saturday somebody must have poured gold and silver out of a leathern purse into their ancient fists, for they had their beer and skittles presumably of an evening. An unending stream of gold and silver, I thought, must have flowed into this court perpetually to keep the stones coming and the masons working; to level, to ditch, to dig, and to drain. But it was then the age of faith, and money was poured liberally to set these stones on a deep foundation, and when the stones were raised, still more money was poured in from the coffers of kings and queens and great nobles to ensure that hymns should be sung here and scholars taught. (Virginia Woolf, p.11)

The author uses repetition (gold, silver, money) to sketches a lively, linguistic picture of wealthy times for this academic institution in Oxbridge. This form of redundancy is poetic in a more traditional sense.


Although we have only provided anecdotal evidence, we do believe thatour account of redundancy shows that this phenomena reaches the very core of language. Particularly the fact that languages are often strictly rule-governed, introduces by itself a whole category of linguistic redundancy - what we have called grammatical redundancy. Rather than an aiming for an economy of expression, we believe that the mental lexicon is a balance between economy and ``superfluous'' extra cues. Certainly languages themselves employ redundancy continuously. Besides containing grammatical redundancy languages also provide the possibility and freedom to the sender of a linguistic message to employ contextual redundancy, i.e., words orexpressions that explicate, isolate, contrast, emphasize or even dramatize what was already contained in the message.


Berg, T., ``Redundant-feature coding in the mental lexicon,'' in Linguistics, Vol. 29-5, 1991, pp. 903-25.

Campbell, J., Grammatical Man, Information, Entropy, Language, and Life, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1982.

Hunnicutt, S., ``Intelligibility versus Redundancy - conditions of dependency,'' in Language and Speech, Vol. 28 (1), 1985, pp. 47-56.

Nicolaci-da-Costa, A., Harris, M., ``Redundancy of syntactic information: an aid to young children's comprehension of sentential number,'' in British Journal of Psychology, Vol. 74 (3), 1983, pp. 343-52.

Patterson, C. J., and Kister, M. D., ``The development of listener skills for referential communication,'' in W. P. Dickson (Ed.), Children's oral communication skills, New York: Academic Press.

Pinker, S.,The language instinct, New York: HarperCollinsPublishers Inc., 1995

Radtke, E., ``A me mi piace als Standardform im Seicento?,'' in Zeitschrift fuer Romanische Philologie, Bd. 103 (1), 1987, pp. 370-9.

(Video) Dr. Oded Rechavi: Genes & the Inheritance of Memories Across Generations | Huberman Lab Podcast

Ross, S. M., A First Course in Probability, New York: MacMillan, 1994

Sonnenschein, S., ``The Development of Referential Communication Skills: Some Situations in Which Speakers Give Redundant Messages,'' in Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, Vol. 14, No. 5, 1985, pp. 489-507.

Sullivan, J., Levitt, A.G., ``Prosodic features of foreigner talk register in the speech of 10- to 11- and 6- to 7-year-old American children,'' in Proceedings of ASA 128th Meeting, Austin, Texas, 1994 Nov. 28 - Dec. 2.

Woolf, V., A Room of One's Own, London: Penguin Books, 1945 (1928)


1 Halle, M., The Sound Pattern of Russian, The Hague: Mouton, 1971.Halle, M., Clements, G. N., Problem Book in Phonology, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1983.

2 Grice's maxims are the elaboration of Grice's Cooperation principle: ``Make your conversational contribution such as is required, at the stage at which it occurs, by the accepted purpose or direction of the talk exchange in which you are engaged.''

3 Hunnicutt makes a distinction between what she calls ``redundancy''and ``probability.'' The distinction lies in the criterion for whatcounts as correct. Her ``redundancy'' has a weaker criterion ofcorrectness than ``probability:'' in the case of redundancy a word iscorrectly guessed if the semantic meaning of that word roughlycorresponds with the omitted word, whereas in the case correctness ofprobability, the guessed word should be the actual word.

4 However, note that the fact that it is truly redundant does not diminish the fact that it is obligatory.

5 `pro-drop' language: language that allows omitting personal pronouns in the subject position, such as Spanish or Italian.

6 Notice that the intonation patternof this type of question is the same as that of a statement, for instance: ``She is my mother.'' [/2 3 1 ¯/]. So intonation is not a question marker in information questions in English. Other languages sometimes do employ the rising intonation to mark informationquestions. For instance, in Dutch: ``Wat ben je aan het doen?'' [intonation pattern: /2 1 3 ­/]

7 The interrogative marker in yes/no questions can be either the auxiliary ``do'' or ``be.'' For instance, ``Are you eating chocolate?''

8 The intonation pattern is /2 2 3 ­/.

9 Future tense in several Romance and Germanic languages is less redundantly coded. Markers of future tenses are regularly omitted when adverbs of time are present. For example, future is indicated by ``I will'' or ``I am going to.''The sentence:``She will get married when she graduates''often becomes``She's getting married when she graduates''even though this event may be four years from now. Note that the present progressive is substituted for the future tense. The present progressive can also substitute for ``to be going to,''as, for instance, in: ``She's going to work this weekend'' which becomes ``She is working this weekend.'' Again, the present progressive indicates the future here. However, there seem to be some limits to the exchangeability of future tense and present progressive. It would, for instance, be ungrammatical to say: ``I am studying in Chicago in 2010,''supposedly meaning ``I am going to study in Chicago in 2010.''The reason may be that the continuous aspect of the action prevents the exchange. Sentences with a non-durational aspect often allow the exchange of future tense and present progressive. ``I am flying toChicago in 2010.'' is a perfectly fine sentence where the presentprogressive replaces the future tense.

10 It would be possible to extend the definition of differentiating redundancy slightly to encapsulate also cases in which two (or more) words or expressions in conjunction single out a semantic unit, as for instance in:
c. [Again, in a line-up, confronted this time with three suspects:a short one with glasses, a short one without glasses and a tall onewith glasses. You say:] ``It is the short one with glasses.''
Although both aspects of the information provided are essential to identify the criminal, each piece of information can be thought ofas redundant in a more statistical sense. We do not pursue this point.(cf. Ross, chapter 10).

11 We refer to two studies:(1) Sonnenschein's experiment consisted of showing first-graders and fifth-graders six sets of four pictures. All the pictures were different, and 3 colors were used to color the boundaries of the six sets. The children had to explain to an imaginary listener which set they had chosen. It turned out that the fifth graders used more redundancy, particularly by indicating salient features (i.e., the color of the boundary). An assumption that Sonnenschein makes is that the use of redundancy is a sign of skilled communication. ``With development, communicators become more skilled at taking their listener's needs into account, at least in the sense that the production of redundant messages become more and more congruent with its effects on listeners.'' (Sonnenschein, p. 499) (2) Sullivan and Levitt conducted an experimentin which they let two groups of subjects, one of 6-7 year olds, the other of 10-11 year olds, teach two children, one a native speaker of English and another with limited Englishproficiency, to recite the pledge of allegiance and two children's poems. When speaking to the non-native child, the older group of children produced shorter utterances,repeated often, and spoke significantly more slowly than when speaking to the native speaker.Repetitions were generally spoken with a lower F0, and the older children also used a significantlyreduced F0 range when addressing the non-native speaker.

(Video) Dr. David Sinclair: The Biology of Slowing & Reversing Aging | Huberman Lab Podcast #52

12 ``Das Gesprochene kennt bis heute beide Formen mit mehr oder weniger gleichartigem Vitalitaetsniveau, die Schriftsprache zielt hingegen auf die 'natuerlichere', emphatisch unbelastbarere Form ab, so dass der Gebrauch zunaechst zur faktischen Norm wurde, die im spaeteren Ablauf die Pronomenredundanz zum schriftsprachlichen Substandard degradierte.'' (Radtke, p. 375. My translation: ``Spoken language knows bothforms, each of which has more or less stress variants. Writtenlanguage moved in the direction of the natural, emphatically neutralform, which consequently became the actual norm. Thepronoun-redundancy had become second rank in written language.'')


What is the redundancy rule in linguistics? ›

Redundancy happens when the repetition of a word or idea does not add anything to the previous usage; it just restates what has already been said, takes up space, and gets in the way without adding meaning.

What is an example of redundancy in language? ›

Redundancy is when we use two or more words together that mean the same thing, for example, 'adequate enough'. We also say something is redundant when a modifier's meaning is contained in the word it modifies, for example, 'merge together'. When we write, we should try to be as clear and concise as we can be.

What is an example of a redundant feature in phonology? ›

What it entails is that a phoneme may be redundant in the articulation of a given word, but the same sound/phoneme may be well or fully articulated in another word. For example, in the word "psychology" /p/ is a redundant feature, but the same /p/ is not redundant in a word like "part".

Why is semantic redundancy important? ›

The importance of clarity and correctness in communication cannot be over emphasized. Therefore, this work on semantic redundancy is desirable because it provides some insights into the prevalence of redundancy in the verbal interaction of the students selected as the subject of the project.

What are the 3 types of redundancy? ›

In N Modular Redundancy, there are three main typologies: Dual Modular Redundancy, Triple Modular Redundancy, and Quadruple Redundancy.

What are the 5 types of redundancy? ›

What is redundancy, you might ask. Well, the act of using a word, phrase, etc., that repeats something else and is therefore unnecessary. The five most common types of redundancy are: the pleonasm, redundant abbreviations, intensifiers, plague words, and platitudes and cliches.

What is an example of a redundancy paragraph? ›

For example, you may have read a sentence that had something along the lines of, “The heat's coming from the hot stove.” The sentence is already stating that there is heat coming from the stove so there is no reason for the person to restate that the stove is hot.

What are real world examples of redundancy? ›

Your GPS system is an example of an active redundancy system, so if you get lost, your GPS already has a route home. Another example might be a backup generator in a hospital, where life-saving equipment is kept on and functioning during power outages or natural disasters.

What are some examples of redundant in a sentence? ›

Is there anything else you can do with a redundant farm building? My husband was made redundant last year. Some people who are made redundant get another job or become economically inactive. It seems this man is the one who has become redundant and extraneous to your needs.

What are features of redundancy? ›

Duplicated features or information, that adds as a precaution against failure or error.

What are 5 examples of phonology? ›

Phonological awareness is made up of a group of skills. Examples include being able to identify words that rhyme, counting the number of syllables in a name, recognizing alliteration, segmenting a sentence into words, and identifying the syllables in a word.

What is redundancy in a structure example? ›

Structural redundancy is a natural result of the way sound is created in human situations. The same sounds, or sounds which are very similar, occur over and over again. For example, a performance of a work for solo piano consists of many piano notes.

How does redundancy affect communication? ›

communications failure

version of the communication process, redundancy—the repetition of elements within a message that prevents the failure of communication of information—is the greatest antidote to entropy. Most written and spoken languages, for example, are roughly half-redundant.

What is the role of redundancy in communication? ›

Redundant communication refers to having multiple back-up communication modalities and is imperative in emergency preparedness planning. Past experience demonstrates that hospitals cannot depend on just one or two means for communication. Some examples of redundant communication include: Basic telephone systems.

What is the significance of redundancy? ›

Data redundancy is a common approach to improve the reliability and availability of a system. Adding redundancy increases the cost and complexity of designing a system. However, the rule to follow is that if the cost of failure is high enough, redundancy is an attractive option.

What is the 321 rule of redundancy? ›

The 3-2-1 rule is the guiding principle of data backup and disaster recovery. The rule states that in order to have a reliable, redundant backup and an effective disaster recovery solution, you must have: three copies of your data, on two forms of media, with one copy located offsite.

How do you avoid redundancy in writing? ›

Tips on avoiding redundancy
  1. Emphasize with care. ...
  2. Don't say the same thing twice, e.g. 'completely eliminate', 'end result', 'basic essentials'.
  3. Avoid double negatives, e.g. 'not unlikely', 'not insignificant'.
  4. Be precise, not vague, e.g. use specific numbers instead of 'many', 'a number of', 'several', etc.
Nov 12, 2021

How do you determine redundancy? ›

The amount of redundancy pay the employee gets is based on their continuous service with their employer. Continuous service is the length of time they're employed by the business and doesn't include periods of unpaid leave.

What are the stages of redundancy? ›

Basically, there are five main stages to consider during the redundancy process:
  • Stage 1: Preparation. ...
  • Stage 2: Selection. ...
  • Stage 3: Individual Consultation. ...
  • Stage 4: Notice of Redundancy and Appeals. ...
  • Stage 5: The Termination Process.

What are redundancy strategies? ›

Redundancy strategies use multiple instances of a component to provide a single service. Redundancy is used to satisfy quality of service requirements.

What is passive redundancy? ›

Passive redundancy is a system where the Backup device isn't doing anything. It is probably on and ready, but its not performing any jobs until started when its needed. An example of that could be two independent playout devices in a control room.

What is the main form of redundancy in writing? ›

Global redundancy occurs when a writer repeats him or herself throughout the paper. For example, a writer may continuously bring up the same point over and over. While repetition can be effective in some cases, this “beating a dead horse” will quickly annoy readers and cause them to lose interest.

How do you structure a redundancy conversation? ›

When you have the meeting to notify someone of their redundancy, don't drag out the conversation. Tell them in the first sentence what you have decided, and then go into the business reasons for your decision. I want to be honest with you.

What's a redundant question? ›

Redundancy questions involve removing unnecessary words. On the SAT, you'll encounter two types of redundancy: Words that essentially repeat or unnecessarily define previous words (Examples 1 and 2) Inflated and useless phrases that could be omitted or condensed into fewer words (Example 3 and 4)

What are four types of redundancy? ›

They are,
  • vertical redundancy check (VRC)
  • longitudinal r edundancy check (LRC)
  • cyclic redund ancy check (CRC)
  • checksum.
Feb 17, 2017

What are the two types of redundancy? ›

And these are:
  • Compulsory redundancy: It has two forms—staff reductions or a business shutting down entirely. Either way, it's an essential requirement to keep your business operating and must go ahead.
  • Voluntary redundancy: Where you offer employees the chance to volunteer for dismissal.

Are there different types of redundancy? ›

If you're being made redundant, you might be entitled to redundancy pay. You'll only get redundancy pay if it is a genuine redundancy - check if your redundancy is genuine. There are 2 types of redundancy pay you could get: 'statutory' redundancy pay - what the law says you're entitled to.

What are the dangers of redundancy? ›

What is the biggest risk when it comes to making an employee redundant? The biggest risk is an unfair dismissal claim against the business if the employee feels like the redundancy was not genuine. Keep in mind, only certain employees have access to make an unfair dismissal claim.

What are the pros and cons of redundancy? ›

There are many benefits to your company of offering voluntary redundancy:
  • Cost savings. ...
  • Avoiding compulsory redundancies. ...
  • More positive for morale. ...
  • You risk losing the best employees. ...
  • Higher costs. ...
  • Risk of discrimination claims. ...
  • Negative effect on those not selected.
Feb 15, 2021

What are the positive effects of redundancy? ›

Looking on the bright side: the positive aspects of redundancy
  • A new opportunity. Careers, much like anything that is regular and familiar, can quickly become as comfortable as a worn pair of jeans. ...
  • A chance to enhance your skillset. ...
  • Time for a change. ...
  • Lending a helping hand.
Jul 28, 2013

What are the most common phonological sounds? ›

Based on the 2186 languages in PHOIBLE, /m/ is found in 96% of languages, /k/ in 90%, /p/ in 86%, /n/ in 78% and /t/ in 68% [9]. Despite such prevalent sounds, though, note that none are universal.

What is redundancy simple? ›

noun, plural re·dun·dan·cies. the state of being redundant. superfluous repetition or overlapping, especially of words. a redundant thing, part, or amount; superfluity. the provision of additional or duplicate systems, equipment, etc., that function in case an operating part or system fails, as in a spacecraft.

What is critical redundancy? ›

In engineering, redundancy is the intentional duplication of critical components or functions of a system with the goal of increasing reliability of the system, usually in the form of a backup or fail-safe, or to improve actual system performance, such as in the case of GNSS receivers, or multi-threaded computer ...

What is a synonym for the word redundancy? ›

synonyms for redundancy

On this page you'll find 43 synonyms, antonyms, and words related to redundancy, such as: repetition, excess, overabundance, prolixity, superfluity, and tautology.

Why redundancy should be avoided? ›

Redundancy is the enemy of clear and concise writing. It results in poor flow and impedes understanding, and it might be keeping you from writing effective technical reports. Utilize these three simple tips to eliminate redundancy from your writing: leave out unnecessary words, avoid repetition, and be direct.

What are the 5 fair reasons for redundancy? ›

What Are Fair Reasons for Redundancy?
  • The Work is No Longer Needed. ...
  • New Processes Have Been Introduced. ...
  • Other Employees Are Completing the Work. ...
  • The Business is Closing. ...
  • The Business is Relocating. ...
  • Automatically Unfair Reasons for Redundancy.

What is the rule of redundancy in structures? ›

A component is considered structurally redundant if its boundary conditions or supports are such that failure of the component merely changes the boundary or support conditions but does not result in the collapse of the superstructure.

What is the redundancy of a sentence? ›

Redundancy is when you use more words than necessary to express something, especially words and/or phrases in the same sentence that mean the same thing.

What does redundant mean in phonology? ›

Answer and Explanation: Redundancy in phonology means a repetitive expression of sound units. It involves the myriad of features that differentiate phonemes. The word phoneme relates to the tiniest sound unit. Each phoneme in a language has a unique sound.

What is a real life example of data redundancy? ›

A common example of data redundancy is when a name and address are both present in different columns within a table. If the link between these data points is defined in every single new database entry it would lead to unnecessary duplication across the entire table.

What are the elements of redundancy? ›

The key elements of redundancy are consultation, selection, confirmation in writing and payment. Consultation needs to happen when you are aware that there will be changes to the business and that some people may be made redundant.

What determines redundancy? ›

Redundancy happens when an employer either: doesn't need an employee's job to be done by anyone, or. becomes insolvent or bankrupt.

What are the conditions of redundancy? ›

You must be selected for redundancy in a fair way, for example because of your level of experience or capability to do the job. You cannot be selected because of age, gender, or if you're disabled or pregnant. If you are, this could be classed as an unfair dismissal.

How do you fix a redundant sentence? ›

The easiest way to fix redundancy is to prioritize concise writing. Take out details that are unnecessary, and look out for synonyms in the same sentence.

What part of speech is made redundant? ›

REDUNDANT (adjective) definition and synonyms | Macmillan Dictionary.

Is redundancy a grammatical error? ›

Redundancy means that the same data has been repeated twice, but just by using different words. The sentences which have redundant data don't necessarily mean are grammatically incorrect, but they have unnecessary words, which need to be avoided at all costs.

What is it called when two words are redundant? ›

Pleonasm (/ˈpliː. əˌnæzəm/; from Ancient Greek πλεονασμός (pleonasmós), from πλέον (pléon) 'to be in excess') is redundancy in linguistic expression, such as "black darkness" or "burning fire". It is a manifestation of tautology by traditional rhetorical criteria and might be considered a fault of style.


1. Dr. Andy Galpin: Maximize Recovery to Achieve Fitness & Performance Goals | Huberman Lab
(Andrew Huberman)
2. Dr. Satchin Panda: Intermittent Fasting to Improve Health, Cognition & Longevity | Huberman Lab
(Andrew Huberman)
3. Dr. Chris Palmer: Diet & Nutrition for Mental Health | Huberman Lab Podcast #99
(Andrew Huberman)
4. Dr. Kyle Gillett: Tools for Hormone Optimization in Males | Huberman Lab Podcast 102
(Andrew Huberman)
5. Dr Lex Fridman: Navigating Conflict, Finding Purpose & Maintaining Drive | Huberman Lab Podcast #100
(Andrew Huberman)
6. May 24, 2023 - Land Use Meeting - 2023-05-24 09:00:00
(Manatee County Commissioner Meetings)


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Geoffrey Lueilwitz

Last Updated: 10/20/2023

Views: 5639

Rating: 5 / 5 (80 voted)

Reviews: 95% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Geoffrey Lueilwitz

Birthday: 1997-03-23

Address: 74183 Thomas Course, Port Micheal, OK 55446-1529

Phone: +13408645881558

Job: Global Representative

Hobby: Sailing, Vehicle restoration, Rowing, Ghost hunting, Scrapbooking, Rugby, Board sports

Introduction: My name is Geoffrey Lueilwitz, I am a zealous, encouraging, sparkling, enchanting, graceful, faithful, nice person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.