Note to recruiters

Note to recruiters: We are quite aware that recruiters, interviewers, VCs and other professionals generally perform a Google Search before they interview someone, take a pitch from someone, et cetera. Please keep in mind that not everything put on the Internet must align directly to one's future career and/or one's future product portfolio. Sometimes, people do put things on the Internet just because. Just because. It may be out of their personal interests, which may have nothing to do with their professional interests. Or it may be for some other reason. Recruiters seem to have this wrong-headed notion that if somebody is not signalling their interests in a certain area online, then that means that they are not interested in that area at all. It is worth pointing out that economics pretty much underlies the areas of marketing, strategy, operations and finance. And this blog is about economics. With metta, let us. by all means, be reflective about this whole business of business. Also, see our post on "The Multi-faceted Identity Problem".

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Serendreduplication, a new term in linguistics

I would like to coin a new term in linguistics called 'Serendreduplication'. (I also sometimes refer to it as 'pseudoreduplication' since that seems to be a more natural way to describe what is going on.) Now, reduplication, as the linguists among you will know, is a morphological process in which, as SIL International's site puts it, "a root or stem or part of it is repeated."

Well, 'serendreduplication'/'pseudoreduplication' is the phenomenon in which although it seems like the root or stem of a word (or part of it) is repeated exactly, it is actually two different words with entirely separate origins that are combined serendipitously (or there is some other type of "happy accident") such that it looks like there is reduplication going on.

Two examples of this are 'metamathematics' and 'abracadabra' in English. First, 'metamathematics'. The prefix 'meta' comes from the Greek preposition μετά = "after", "beyond", "adjacent", "self" whereas the word 'mathematics' comes from the Greek word μάθημα máthēm - "knowledge, study, learning".

Note that the prefix 'meta' is always what is used to describe a concept that is an abstraction from another concept. It is just sheer chance that the prefix finds itself added in front of a word that sounds like it. Not my favorite example (and trust me, there is a far better one coming), but it gets us started on the right track.

Okay, onto the word 'abracadabra'. The word 'abracadabra' is a word that is not only fun to say but interesting in its own right. It is known to have origins in Aramaic. As Wikipedia puts it, 'Although at first glance "Abracadabra" appears to be an English rhyming reduplication it in fact is not; instead, it is derived from the Aramaic formula "Abəra kaDavəra" meaning "I would create as I spoke")" Princeton's Allison Chaney has a helpful introduction to the word on her site.

The first known mention of the word ABRACADABRA was in the 2nd century CE in a book called Liber Medicinalis [1] (sometimes known asDe Medicina Praecepta Saluberrima) by Quintus Serenus Sammonicus,physician to the Roman emperor Caracalla, who prescribed thatmalaria[2] sufferers wear an amulet containing the word written in the form of a triangle:[3]

A - B - R - A - C - A - D - A - B - R - A
A - B - R - A - C - A - D - A - B - R
A - B - R - A - C - A - D - A - B
A - B - R - A - C - A - D - A
A - B - R - A - C - A - D
A - B - R - A - C - A
A - B - R - A - C
A - B - R - A
A - B - R
A - B

This, he explained, diminishes the hold over the patient of the spirit of the disease. Other Roman emperors, including Geta and Alexander Severus, were followers of the medical teachings of Serenus Sammonicus and are likely to have used the incantation as well.

I came to think about this idea due to a quiz question by my friend Govind Krishamurthi which went as follows :

QUESTION: In Tamil examples of this linguistic construction are:
Mada-Mada (faster)
<stuff deleted>

In Hindi, 
<stuff deleted>
Examples would be

<stuff deleted>
<stuff deleted>

There are also several examples in Telugu.. but I didn't post all of them.. Some of you can give examples in Telugu, Kannada and other languages too.

So the question is what is this linguistic construction called?


That gives you a good idea of what reduplication is. It also gives you enough examples to play around with so that you can infer what serendreduplication/pseudoreduplication is as well.