Hi everybody. I’ve been searching my library of English books to find more interesting concepts in English and I found something I had never heard about before.
Why does a clock make the sound “tick-tock” and not “tock-tick”? And when we have an informal conversation we have a “chit-chat” and not a “chat-chit”? And why do we listen to “hip-hop” and not “hop-hip”? And when the British play table tennis they play “Ping-pong” and not “Pong-ping”?
This is called “Ablaut Reduplication” (don’t worry, this was new to me, too) and is a rule which regulates which vowel comes before another vowel in certain structures. In English, the vowel “I” must come before “A” or “O”.
It appears that it just sounds better this way for some reason. “I” is a high vowel which is made at the top of the mouth, and “A” and “O” are low vowels which are made nearer the back. This gives the sound from high to low a descending feel which is pleasing to the ear. We can hear this in the sound of a traditional British doorbell’s ding-dong.
For another tip-top post please check back next week or come to the Académie for a chit-chat. Please remember not to dilly-dally with booking your next Conversation Club, too!