Gatho, lippy, rego — why Australians love hypocoristics

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Australian English includes alternate, informal forms of words and expressions, for example barbie from barbecue, sunnies from sunglasses and arvo from afternoon. These are called hypocoristics, and they express particular feelings and attitudes, and have a range of functions in Australian English. Long noted as a feature of this variety of English, they have been documented in popular Australian slang books and wider Australian English dictionaries, including the Australian National Dictionary. Over the years, linguists and lexicographers have looked at what techniques Australians use to create these forms of words, and why speakers may choose to use a hypocoristic, like mozzies, instead of an original form, like mosquitoes.

Many languages, including English, have alternate forms of …

Can sounds have meaning? The peculiar case of West-Flemish tj and dj

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As linguists, we investigate all sorts of building bocks of language, such as sentences, predicates, prefixes and suffixes, and even individual sounds like p and z. Most of these building blocks have some kind of meaning. For example, a sentence like The cat sat on the mat means something, a predicate like is crazy in John is crazy means something, and even prefixes and suffixes mean something, such as pre- in pre-heated, which means something like ‘done in advance’, so that pre-heated means ‘heated in advance’. But, you may ask, do sounds like p and z also have meaning?

We know that sounds may distinguish meaning, but it is not so obvious that they have meaning. For example, …