B

B The second letter of the alphabet. The IPA pronunciation of the individual letter is /biː/, a consonant, and also BRAVO in the NATO alphabet. For the easy way to remember how to say the letter, think of the letter in BBC.

BACKCHANNEL In the wonderful world of corpus linguistics, backchannelling is the process of using a minimal response (which may be just one short word) to show that the listener is paying attention to what is being said, in that they are showing interest and keeping the conversation going. Examples of backchannels are underlined: A: It's her birthday tomorrow. B: Really? A: Yes, so we need to get a present. B: Uh-huh. A: I thought about a bunch of flowers. B: Sounds good. See also dysfluency.

BACKSLASH This is the mark (\), a small line that slopes to the left and became popular with the introduction of computer keyboards. (For Americans, this is on the third row of the keyboard, far right before 'enter', and on british keyborads, it's on the fourth row, far left after the 'shift' key. Goodness knows where it is on the French keyboard. For contrast, see (forward) slash.

BAD LANGUAGE But it's just simply going to say... see taboo word.

BARE INFINITIVE This is the verb without 'to', often used to follow a modal verb. So for example, we would write this sentence with the bare infinitive: He can play tennis. (NOT: He can to play tennis). See also full infinitive or just infinitive (also known, more formally and therefore more academically, as the infinitive clause).

BASE This is any part of a word that you can add inflections (play/played/playing; fish/fished/fishes) or by adding affixes (that's prefixes [displease) and suffixes [pleasing]). These usually change the meaning or part of speech. So using 'play' as our base, it can be inflected (plays, played, playing) or changed to different words (player, wordplay, playground). So although root words are bases - as they stay the same even when extra letters are added - any new words created from the root can take extra letters and be changed into new words - and so a new base - such as playground, from which  playgrounds and its different meanings can be created. Stems are just bases with changes that are either inflectional or grammatical.

BINOMIAL This is perhaps thought of more of a mathematical term, so it might not be your bread and butter. Also known as a binomial pair, these are expressions that contain two words and which are joined by 'and' or 'or' (known as conjunctions). The word order of these binomials is usually fixed, so for example, we say 'knife and fork' rather than 'fork and knife'. Other examples: husband and wife, up and down, by and large (made more famous by Wall-E), more or less. Sometimes other words used as linkers may also be used in binomials: side by side, back to front, cheek by jowl (meaning very close to each other).

BORROWING A gerund that is a synonym of loanword, the small difference is that while loanwords are words taken from another language and added to another with little or no translation, borrowings may (but not always) see a change in the spelling and sometimes the meaning.  The English language has been borrowing words from the very beginning, borrowing words from Latin (thanks to the Romans) and Norman French (thanks to William the Conquerer) to add to the language. It is believed that up to 80 per cent of the English language is made up of borrowed words. See also calque.

BRACKET In punctuation, these are the marks (  ) - known as round brackets or in American English, parenthesis, and [  ] - known as square brackets. There are also curly brackets or braces {  }  and angle brackets or chevrons ⟨  ⟩ . They have many other names (and many other different kinds of bracket) but you can go to Wikipedia to find all that out. Anyway, the main job of brackets is to be placed around a wordexpression, or sentence so you show that you want to give extra information: This job requires completion by next week (but not tomorrow as I am away). The different marks are often used in various ways, but avoid a full page of explanation, I also suggest that free online dictionary

BRITISH ENGLISH A form of the English language as spoken and written by the people of Great Britain, but mainly in England. It includes vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation that may have some differences to other forms of English. See also American English.

BROADCAST This word has many meanings, but as we're focusing on the language, then we are talking about a programme, performance or speech that is made on the radio or on television. As a more colloquial definition, native speakers often use it as a form of criticism when someone talks too loudly, to the point that more than just their immediate listeners might, or would be able to hear what has been said. Gosh, don't shout! You want to broadcast it to everybody?

BULLET In typography, this is the symbol  ( • ) and is often used in lists, technical writing, reference works, notes, and presentations. These points can also be presented by other symbols. See also bullet point, dot. 

BULLET POINT These are bullets but often used for short phrases or single sentences.

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