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Archive | The surprising systematicity behind ‘bad’ language

Wanna cartoon 2

wanna

The ‘Wanna’ Puzzle In casual speech, English speakers commonly contract want to into wanna. This seems like it should be easy to explain: want+to=wanna, right? But in fact—as linguists often find when they study so-called ‘lazy’ or ‘sub-standard’ language—we actually use wanna in subtly complicated ways. Compare: (a)  Contraction good: Who do you  dance with? […]

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illustration of 'confirm that you know' eh

Talk like a Canadian 1: how to use ‘eh’

Canadians are famous for using the tag eh. But why? Other dialects—for example New Zealand English—also use forms of eh. And all dialects (including Canadian) use similar tags, like huh, right, or innit. So what makes Canadian eh so distinctive? Partly, it is because Canadians—or at least ‘hard-core’ Canadians—use eh in a particularly complex way: […]

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