Japanese language have a special group of words which repeat mostly two syllable word like pera pera, para para, jito jito, suku suku, aka aka, zuki zuki – you can name it, that are used adverbially.

They look like onomatopoeias, but they are not. They don’t reflect any sound, and they are all used adverbially, not as interjection.

I am curious to know what is a grammatical terminology in both Japanese and English to call such a group of words. Would you please teach me?

  • 2
    Many onomatopoeias in Japanese are used adverbially: 猫がニャーニャー鳴く. Commented Jan 11, 2016 at 8:41
  • Of course, ニャーニャー、ワンワン、ピーピー、モーモー are all onomatopoeias that represent sound. I'm not asking the onomatopoeiatic redeplications, I'm asking JAPANESE version of ideophones that represent IDEA, EMOTION and FEELING, not sound.. See my examples in the question. All of them are not onomatopoeias. Why don't you take a look at the question I posted in EL&U this moening.-"Is there an English word to describe a group of refrain words composed of two syllable e.g. pera-pera, meaning fluently, iki-iki meaning vividly?" Commented Jan 11, 2016 at 10:34
  • 2
    I do not know why your reply is relevant to my comment. I wrote the previous comment because you stated in the question that the words such as ぺらぺら are not onomatopoeias because (a) they do not reflect any sound and (b) they are used adverbially, and I thought that (b) was unrelated to the reason they are not onomatopoeias. Commented Jan 11, 2016 at 14:34
  • @Tsuyoshi Ito. Again. Onomatopoeia is not an issue with regard to the examples in my question. In the above mentioned question asking English description of the group of the refrains of “apparently” nonsensical two-syllable (sometimes single syllable) words such as don-don, iki-iki, pera-pera, muka-muka in EL&U which earned 14 up-votes and 1300 views, 3 answers and 27 comments, no one suggested and talked about onomatopoeia as an appropriate linguistic description to this case. So to me it’s not my concern from the beginning. It’s irrelevant to my question. Let’s me finish the case with this. Commented Jan 11, 2016 at 23:14
  • 3
    私は質問中に書かれた「ぺらぺら等の単語が擬音語でない理由」のうち一つが理由として不適切だと指摘しているだけで、「だから擬音語だ」と主張するつもりはないのですが……。これ以上は繰り返しません。 Commented Jan 11, 2016 at 23:36

2 Answers 2


擬声語{ぎせいご}・擬音語{ぎおんご} and 擬態語{ぎたいご}・擬情語{ぎじょうご}
In general: Onomatopoeia (Ideophone).
Specifically, in order, words that mimic: voices, sounds, states, and feelings.

See the wiki article.

  • 1
    Brandon. As I mentioned in my question first hand, they are not by nature onomatopoeia that mostly mimics voices and sounds. Several native English speaking users in English Language & Usage site taught me in accord that they call them 'reduplication,' which is translated in Readers Plus English Dictionary as [言、文法] 重複形、加重音節, though I'm not still certain whether it really applies or not. Commented Jan 10, 2016 at 23:11
  • I think only 赤々 and 活き活き would be cases of pure reduplication; the other examples all fall under the 擬〇語 umbrella, no?
    – Brandon
    Commented Jan 11, 2016 at 0:52
  • 2
    Brandon. My colleague at EL&U wrote me: 'In terms of function, these Japanese words are often called ideophones (see also the Wikipedia article - ideophone.org); this refers to words that act a bit like onomatopoeia, but that represent ideas rather than sounds.' Readers English Japanese dictionary puts '表意語' (in contrast to 擬音)to 'ideophones' which fits to my understanding of the words I quoted. I think the Wikipedia's take of this particular group of words will help in dealing with this question. Commented Jan 11, 2016 at 1:17

So-called 擬{ぎ}態{たい}語{ご} like ギラギラ, クルクル are often referred to in English as mimetic words, mimesis, or mimetics. These identifiers seem to be more popular than ideophones on this site. See the search results: "mimetic" vs "ideophone".

Strictly speaking, these words have a broader sense, and seem to include onomatopoeic words like ニャア, ピーポー. The Wikipedia article seems to be written from this standpoint.

But practically, they seem to be used as the opposing terms to onomatopoeia. You can easily find articles titled "Japanese onomatopoeia and mimetic words" and so on. So I think we can safely assume that when we see mimetics in Japanese language contexts, it mainly refers to 擬態語 which are not mimic sounds/voices.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .