Repetition | Emphasized reiteration of a word, phrase, or even syllable. Repetition involves a slowing down, a stopping, or a stand-still of speech, but it also arouses the listener’s interest and produces numerous poetic and rhetorical effects.

There are different ways of using repetition as a tool in speech, depending on which utterances are available to a speaker in a given situation and the ways they can find to vary them. There are two main forms of repetition: suspension, which takes place when an element temporarily loops itself within a larger utterance, and refrains, where the utterance’s entire structure is looped.

Let us begin with an announcement made on Radio London during World War II. Here, the message is reduced to a repeated phrase: it is precisely the act of repeating the utterance (stressed by “twice we say”) that lets us know it is a coded message.


On a radio show, one can hear researcher Bruno Karsenti’s diction stumble on certain utterances, producing the stuttering repetition of a residual “uh.” This bouncing around creates light pauses in the flow of his speech. Another temporality takes shape, changing the listener’s focus.

Indeed, the repetition of a word, syllable, or phrase can lead to a different form of understanding that becomes increasingly complex over the course of each repetition: thus, as Charles Bukowski repeats the utterance “green trees,” it progressively loses its color: “OK, what you gonna do with it?”

Whether used as a poetic device or an insistent example, repetition also functions as an argument for maintaining a speaker’s authority in a given situation. This can be heard in a repetition made by Igor Stravinsky, or in this interview that feels something like an interrogation.

Contrary to the special case of the Radio London announcement cited above, a repetition’s existence is often linked to the variations a speaker imprints upon it. Whether with Senator Robert Byrd condemning dog fighting or filmmaker Jean-Marie Straub in discussion after a projection, emotion—real or faked—is concentrated into a limited group of words that speakers give resonance to by varying tone, intensity, and address. Spacing and overemphasis are combined when Nicolaz Ceauşescu’s speech, interrupted by a surging crowd, is reduced to an “Alo!” (“Calm down!”), first repeated as an order then as a plea to his angry people. In a hypnosis recording for insomniacs, the repetition of an utterance also implies the repetition of a form of silence with various characteristics.

Speech is often suspended because it is indexed to an external activity. But although repetition gives this auction its momentum back, suspension is more often a means of continuing or accentuating the course of things, as it does in this birth or in this majorette training session, or as shown by this pornographic actress. Repetition varies according to the demands of the activity it is indexed to.


This part of the collection contains cases that lie somewhere between suspension and refrains: through lexical exhaustion, repetition no longer functions as a temporary pause in the flux of speech, but makes up the very structure of its discourse. It is no longer a deviation but a situation builder within a given discourse’s routine.

Learning situations function this way by repeating an utterance’s successive elements, as with the teacher himself in this dictation, or the teacher and student in this method for learning Russian. In these speech situations, vocabulary is limited to a finite whole. It can take the form of information directed at users; it can be the name of the protagonists in a love story; or it can be instructions given during gym class, where utterances are combined randomly, just like the calls of this Turkish grinder.


In this example, the repetition of single utterances is combined with a number of variations and modifications, as in this excerpt from the film The Pink Panther.

Whether in this recording of tongue twisters or this score by Georges Aperghis, the pattern that emerges from repetition highlights the formal properties of speech. An ordinary poetic gesture can lead to exhausting a phrase and its meaning, as in this Joseph Beuys performance, to accepting one’s sexual orientation, as in this scene from André Téchiné’s Wild Reeds, to accompanying a parturient woman’s work, or even to underscoring a political message, as in this speech by an activist during a radio show about the Gruss circus.

Repetition is also a particularly effective tool for group-building: the repetition of a slogan allows a choir of prisoners to take shape in this scene from Jim Jarmusch’s Down by Law. Other types of chorality built through repetition can be heard in this praise to Allah, or in this protest-like artistic performance.

As we saw in Nicolaz Ceauşescu’s address and in the Pink Panther excerpt, repeating an utterance allows one to clarify, or even modify, its meaning over the course of its repetition. Thus, in this clip from The Wire and in this recording of a woman speaking to a donkey, only the words “fuck” and “sta” stand for the description of a murder and the driving of an animal, respectively.

This collection also provides several excerpts of repetitions that modify or corrupt the repeated utterance that structures them. In this excerpt of an improvised Joaõ Fiadeiro performance, the initial utterance is augmented by temporary additions, though this augmentation can also take place through accumulation, as it does in this Christophe Fiat reading, or add itself to a series, as it does with this man reading a newspaper’s obituary notices. In this example, the poet Jaap Blonk repeats an utterance, increasingly compressing it until it is crushed into a succession of purely percussive consonants.

  • 4 balles 10 francs 10 ans

    Scène from the funfair 'Foire du Trône', recording by Daniel Deshays, date unknown.

  • À feu et à sang

    Phone conversation between a manager and an employee, excerpt from the TV show, Cash Investigation, France Télévisions, 2017.

  • Ah-Hooooh

    Victoria Azarenka and Caroline Wozniacki, excerpt of a tennis semi-final, 2010.

  • Alo !

    Excerpt of Nicolaz Ceauşescu’s final speech, Televiziunea Românã, 1989.

  • Anderson !

    Michelle Bachmann, excerpt from a TV debate hosted by Anderson Cooper for the Republican primary, 2011.

  • Arabesque

    Marie-Thérèse Allier, Sabine Macher, recording by Sabine Macher, 2012.

  • Are you guys in trouble ?

    Scene from a family, excerpt of a YouTube video, 2014.

  • Attention à la mousse !

    Arrival of a skating race at the Strasbourg Europe Races, YouTube video, 2008.

  • Au tribunal muet des songes recueillis

    Tiago Rodrigues and volunteers, excerpt from the show L’atelier de la fiction, France culture, 2015.

  • Azione!

    Director's instructions on the shooting of a porn movie, 2000s.

  • Barbaric !

    Senator Robert Byrd, excerpt of a speech to the United States Senate, 2007.

  • Basket of biscuits

    Radio test, excerpt of a recording for the film Tongue Twisters by Érik Bullot, 2007.

  • Bear stop that

    Scene from a hike, excerpt of a video posted on YouTube, 2015.

  • Bienfacture

    Excerpt from an interview with an apprentice in luxury clock-making, 2019.

  • Boire un coup

    Parrot training session, video posted on YouTube, 2007.

  • Bona nit

    Joan Porras, message of support for political prisoners, 2018.

  • Bouilloire

    Geoffrey Carey, Frédéric Danos, excerpt of the recording of predictions, 2019.

  • Bra Vera

    Conversation between a woman and her dog, personal recording, 2017

  • Buyrun

    Scene from an unloading of merchandise, personal recording by Claude Vittiglio, 2003.

  • C'est pas la peine

    Excerpt of a report by Vincent Lapierre, Le média pour tous, 2019.

  • C'est qui les porcs ?

    Marc-Olivier Fogiel, Hamé, Ekoué, Danièle Evenou, excerpt of the show On ne peut pas plaire à tout le monde, France 3, 2005.

  • Ça smoke Heaven ?

    Excerpt from a game of Counter strike global offensive, personal recording, 2018.

  • Che belle patate

    Market scene, 2019

  • Cherche chèves

    Noëlle Obscarskas, YouTube video, 2012.

  • Connais pas

    Man reading an obituary, recording by Gauthier Tassart, 2007.

  • Consonne, voyelle

    Excerpt of the television game show Des chiffres et des lettres, Antenne 2, 1972.

  • Continuez toujours

    Pierre Velay, excerpt of the recording Accouchement sans douleur, 1960s.

  • C’est bien mon poussin

    Scene at the dentist's, excerpt from a YouTube video, 2010s.

  • C’est pas mademoiselle, c’est madame

    Jacqueline, Six fois deux / Sur et sous la communication (episode 6b) from Jean-Luc Godard and Anne-Marie Miéville, 1976.

  • Dans la file d'attente

    Message d’attente du centre des impôts, 2019

  • De tous ces immondices

    Bailiff's report, from the show Les pieds sur terre, France Culture, 2015.

  • Débranchez le sèche-cheveux

    Monsieur Fraize, excerpt of the comedy sketch “Coiffeur de stars à Cannes,” On n'demande qu'à en rire, France 2, 2011.

  • Deeper to sleep

    Excerpt of a hypnosis recording, unknown date.

  • Demandez le programme

    Ouvreur de l’Opéra Bastille, enregistrement d’Olivier Normand, 2013

  • Der Minister

    Jaap Blonk, excerpt of the recording Flux de Bouche, 1993.

  • Deux euros de plus

    Commentator of the running of the bulls in Camargue, personal recording, 2019.

  • Enkríthike apó tin pleiopsifía

    Zoé Konstantopoulou and Stelios Virvidakis, vote session at the Greek parliament, 2013.

  • Éveeuu

    Elissa Knight, Ben Burtt, excerpt from the film WALL-E by Andrew Stanton, 2008.

  • Extase

    Georges Bégué, excerpt of the show Les Français parlent aux Français, Radio Londres, 1940-1944.

  • Fabienne Tabard

    Jean-Pierre Léaud, excerpt of the film Baisers volés by François Truffaut, 1968.

  • Faut toucher Mogded

    Excerpt from a boxing training for children, YouTube, 2013.

  • Fils de pisse

    Voicemail message, 2019

  • Flèche bras

    Majorette rehearsal, unknown source, 2000s.

  • Fortissimo

    Igor Stravinsky, excerpt of a rehearsal of Vorona.

  • Forty three with Amy now

    Auction at Christie's, excerpt of a YouTube video, 2008.

  • Fuck me

    Excerpt of the video Young Girls Share Cock, posted on YouPorn, 2010.

  • Fucking fuck fuck

    Dominic West and Wendell Pierce, excerpt of the show The Wire by David Simon and Ed Burns, 2002.

  • Gare de Lyon

    Announcement in the Paris Metro, line 14, 2010.

  • Get it Maggie

    Conversation with a piglet, YouTube video, 2009.

  • Gourmand comme une vieille chatte

    André Tubeuf, excerpt from the radio show André Tubeuf Mémoire, France Musique, 2021.

  • Green trees

    Charles Bukowski, excerpt of an interview, unknown date.

  • Help me shoot me

    Scene from a panicked airplane, YouTube video, 2009.

  • Hop hop

    Excerpt of the recording Les Techniques de sommeil, unknown date.

  • I hear a sound of victory

    Paula White, extrait d’un prêche en soutien au dépouillement lors de l’élection présidentielle étasunienne, 2020. 

  • I live for this

    Kristina Rose and Manuel Ferrara, excerpt of the film Kristina Rose Is Slutwoman, 2011.

  • I love being a girl

    Eve Ensler, excerpt of the TED Talk “Embrace Your Inner Girl,” 2009.

  • I scream for ice cream

    Roberto Benigni, Tom Waits, John Lurie, excerpt of the film Down by Law by Jim Jarmusch, 1986.

  • I would like to buy a hamburger

    Steve Martin et Charlotte Maier, excerpt of the film The Pink Panther by Shawn Levy, 2006.

  • I'm not a threat

    Man protesting as he is threatened by police, YouTube, 2014.

  • Incarceration mutilation

    Lawrence Wiener, excerpt of the sound art piece Having Rolled Before Incarceration..., 1973.

  • J'espère vraiment qu'ça va s'arrêter

    Jérôme, excerpt from the show Radio Tisto, l’émission des jeunes de l’hôpital de jour d’Antony, Radio Libertaire, 2020.

  • J'suis vert

    Party conversation, recording by Olivier Nourisson, 2000s.

  • Ja ja ja ja ja

    Joseph Beuys, excerpt of the performance Ja Ja Ja Ja Ja Nee Nee Nee Nee Nee, Staatliche Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, 1968.

  • Ja sam magnet za novac

    Video session of Emotional Freedom Technique, YouTube, 2013

  • Je crois que c'est arrivé

    Patrice Chéreau, excerpt of an interview during the news, Antenne 2, 1983.

  • Je passe

    Excerpt of the show Questions pour un champion, unknown date.

  • Je suis un pédé

    Gaël Morel, excerpt of the film Les Roseaux sauvages by André Téchiné, 1994.

  • Je vais chez ce cher Serge

    Scene from dinner, personal recording by Valérie Louys, 2013.

  • Kot resilta ankèt la?

    Jean-Claude Bajeux, speech at Yves Volel's funeral, 1987.

  • La ronde des mots

    Bernard Pivot, excerpt of La Dictée d'Amiens, 2005.

  • Libérez les animaux

    Stéphane Bern, Alexis Grüss, an activist, excerpt of the show Le Fou du roi, France Inter, 2008.

  • Louanges d'Allah

    Prayer in Kenya, excerpt of Les Voix du monde : une anthologie des expressions vocales, year unknown.

  • Messi, Messi, Messi

    Josep Maria Puyal, excerpt from a soccer commentary, Catalunya Ràdio, 2007.

  • Mil euros

    Drawing of the Sorteo de Navidad, Christmas lottery, 2014.

  • Million Staline

    Excerpt of the ASSIMIL method for learning Russian, unknown date.

  • Miss Honey

    Moi Renee, excerpt of the performance Miss Honey, 1992.

  • Moi, président de la République

    François Hollande, excerpt of the presidential debate held between the two rounds of France’s presidential elections, France 2, 2012.

  • Monsieur Hollande

    Dominique de Villepin, excerpt of a speech at the French National Assembly, 2006.

  • Niemand meer ?

    Excerpt of a bull auction, 2011.

  • No, you didn't

    The Monty Python, excerpt of The Monty Python's Flying Circus, 1972.

  • On a fait une belle run

    Excerpt from a stream of Dead Cells par At0miumVOD, vidéo Youtube, 2018.

  • On ne tire pas musculairement

    Exercice de respiration dans un cours de chant, enregistrement personnel, 2012.

  • Perja kupujem

    Call of a rag-picker, Serbia, 2007. 

  • Pour personne au monde

    Jean-Marie Straub, excerpt of a debate held in a movie theater, 2000s.

  • Probleme sind Geschenke

    Excerpt of a self-development seminar, Germany, 2014.

  • Profond sommeil

    Excerpt of the recording Les Techniques de sommeil, unknown date.

  • Quelle déchéance!

    Edwy Plenel, Robert Ménard, excerpt of the show Mots croisés, France 2, 2011.

  • Qui a fait ça ?

    Réprimandes, vidéo postée sur YouTube, 2016

  • Recital. Recital.

    Excerpt from an ASMR video, YouTube, 2019.

  • Rémouleur turc

    Excerpt of La Belle Istanbul by Jeanne Robet, Arte Radio, 2006.

  • Resa ej parfois

    Martine Viard, Récitation 10 (partie gauche : 1ère version) by Georges Aperghis, 1978.

  • Robert Peugeot c'est

    Excerpt of the film Avec le sang des autres by Bruno Muel (Groupe Medvedkine), 1974.

  • Saloperie ta camionnette !

    Street scene, excerpt from a video posted on YouTube, 2014

  • Satan est un clochard

    Soliloque sur un quai métro, enregistrement personnel, 2016.

  • Sehr geehrte

    Steffen Königer, speech to the German parliament, 2016. 

  • Siplaît monsieur

    Litany of a beggar, personal recording, 2019.

  • Sta !

    Woman speaking to a donkey, recording by Tiago Pereira, Portugal, 2000s.

  • Statistica !

    Scene from a classroom in Bulgaria, 2013.

  • Tak vot

    Andreï Lado, extrait d'un cours de gymnastique articulatoire, YouTube, 2012.

  • Thank you

    Barack Obama, beginning of his speech accepting the democratic nomination, 2008.

  • They wanted the vote for all women

    Excerpt of a demonstration of the “Tadoma speechreading” method for the hearing and visually impaired, Sensory Communication Group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2011.

  • This is not about everything

    Daniel Linehan, excerpt of the performance Not about Everything, 2007.

  • To pathos

    Chant during a protest in Athens, personal recording, 2012.

  • Trois ans c'est trop

    Gouy Gui, excerpt of a YouTube video, 2012.

  • Un euro pour manger

    Scene from the subway, personal recording, 2016.

  • Un, deux, trois, soufflez

    Pierre Velay, excerpt of the recording Accouchement sans douleur, 1960s.

  • Une seule solution

    Protest, excerpt of the website Révoltes FM by Bruno Guiganti.

  • Vips drömmar

    Child learning to read, personal recording, Sweden, 2017. 

  • Vous avez un miroir

    Cláudia Dias, excerpt of the performance Composition en temps réel by Joāo Fiadeiro, Centre national de la Danse, 2004.

  • Wǎng Hòu Tuì

    Scene of panic in Shanghai, 2015.

  • Y'en a marre

    Feminist chant, 1970s.

  • Y’a pas de toit chez moi

    Intervention during a protest in Marseille, vidéo posted on Facebook, 2019.

  • Y’a un y’a euh

    Excerpt of an interview between Belinda Annaloro and some children, 2014.

  • Želim si

    Teaser for a personal development seminar in Slovenia, YouTube, 2016

  • Zhiva ona ili net ?

    Phone call, personal recording, 2018

Ils sont morts

Soccer coach at halftime, personal recording, year unkown.

Mil euros

Drawing of the Sorteo de Navidad, Christmas lottery, 2014.

Boire un coup

Parrot training session, video posted on YouTube, 2007.


Elissa Knight, Ben Burtt, excerpt from the film WALL-E by Andrew Stanton, 2008.

Bona nit

Joan Porras, message of support for political prisoners, 2018.