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Last updated at 16:39 BST, Thursday, 19 May 2011

Baby Talk

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In this week's The English We Speak, William and Wang Fei discuss baby talk. What does the phrase beddy-byes mean, and why would an adult say it?

A baby

What is baby talk, and who uses it?

The script for this programme

William: Hello! Hi! My name's William. I'm six years old and this is my best friend, Wang Fei.

Wang Fei: Oh… hello everybody.

William: (Yawn) I feel sleepy! It’s almost time for beddy-byes!

Wang Fei: Er… William, why are you speaking so strangely?

William: I'm pretending that I’m six years old.

Wang Fei: Six years old! No wonder you sound more intelligent than normal.

William: Ha ha, very funny. Well, the reason I'm talking like a six-year-old is that last Sunday, 15 May, was International Day of the Family. So I thought it might be nice to look at some language which is used by children and with children.

Wang Fei: So is the language used with children special in some way?

William: Yeah, I think in English, like in any language, you wouldn’t use difficult words when you are talking to young children. And probably, like in any language, there are some special words that we tend to use only with children.

Wang Fei: Special words… such as?

William: Such as the phrase that I used a moment ago, beddy-byes.

Wang Fei: Beddy-byes. What's this?

William: Well, if I say, 'beddy-byes', that means, 'time for bed'. Let’s listen to this clip of a father talking to his little boy. As you listen, see if you can hear some other examples of baby talk.

Example

Father: Come on Alex, beddy-byes! Beddy-byes! Have you got your teddy? Put on your jim-jams. Put on your jim-jams - that’s it! On they go. Jump into bed, then. Sleepy time!

Shall I sing you a song? “Twinkle, Twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are.” Night-night!

Wang Fei: In that clip, I heard the man say 'jim-jams'.

William: Yes, he said 'put on your jim-jams'. Jim-jams is a baby phrase for pyjamas – the clothes that we wear to sleep in. He also made sure that his little boy had his teddy, his soft cuddly toy.

Wang Fei: And then at the end, he didn’t say goodnight to him.

William: No, he said 'nighty-night'. Now, there was a lot of language in that clip, so let’s hear it again.

Example

Father: Come on Alex, beddy-byes! Beddy-byes! Have you got your teddy? Put on your jim-jams. Put on your jim-jams - that’s it! On they go. Jump into bed, then. Sleepy time!

Shall I sing you a song? “Twinkle, Twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are.” Night-night!


William: (as a six-year-old) Wang Fei, do you want to see my teddy?

Wang Fei: Er… not really.

William: Here he is! He’s called Badger.

Wang Fei: A badger?! Oh, wow, he looks so old and… tired. Why? Where are his eyes?

William: Well, he's been cuddled a lot. And, Wang Fei, do you want to see my jim-jams?

Wang Fei: No, I think we should end today's programme here, because I can tell that William is getting ready for beddy-byes.

William: Look, Wang Fei, they’re blue and they've got racing cars on!

Wang Fei: I don’t want to see! I don’t want to see! Goodbye!

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