Talk the Talk - a podcast about linguistics, the science of language.

Talk the Talk - a podcast about linguistics, the science of language.
Language and linguistics

378: Bugger All (with Isabelle Burke)
Sep 17 • 63 min
Talking with Dr Isabelle Burke about “bugger all”. How did it come to be a negative? News: The latest on the origins of the Indo-European language family. Bird songs show features typically thought to be exclusively human. Indigenous Australian Word of…
377: Mailbag of Uncomfortableness
Sep 11 • 53 min
The mail keeps coming, and we keep answering. Is English really a dialect of Chinese? Why do people say “uncomfortableness”, when we already have “discomfort”? Are “ankh” and “anchor” related? How does learning traditional languages help communities? Is…
376: Language Hotspots (with Xia Hua)
Sep 4 • 58 min
Talking to mathematical biologist Xia Hua about why some places are more linguistically diverse, and how this relates to biological diversity. News: Variation in individual vocal tracts may influence vowels over generations. Indigenous Australian Word of…
375: Community Size Matters (with Limor Raviv)
Aug 27 • 49 min
Community size may have an effect on language systematicity. Researcher Limor Raviv takes us through her work. News: You can’t say “There it’s!” in English, but in Scottish English you can. Indigenous Australian Word of the Week: djeembana (meeting place)…
374: Polari, Britain’s Lost Gay Language (with Paul Baker)
Aug 8 • 70 min
When homosexuality was illegal, a secret language brought people together.
373: Mailbag of Processes
Aug 1 • 67 min
We’re opening up the Mailbag for another episode.
372: Because Internet (with Gretchen McCulloch)
Jul 23 • 62 min
The rules are changing. Here’s the manual.
371: -nado, -holic, -pocalypse: Combining Forms (Live Q&A)
Jul 16 • 45 min
These word parts are coming into their own.
370: Named Wrong (Live Q&A)
Jul 9 • 29 min
Times they named a thing the wrong thing.
369: The Grammarian Is In (with Ellen Jovin)
Jun 25 • 82 min
Meet Ellen Jovin, proprietor of Grammar Table.
368: Poetry
Jun 19 • 70 min
Poetry expresses the soul’s innermost. No wonder it’s kind of terrible.
367: Your Inner Prescriptivist (with Alyssa Severin)
Jun 12 • 65 min
How can we have linguistic discussions with grammar sticklers?
366: Oxbows (Live Q&A)
Jun 5 • 40 min
Some words were less restricted in bygone days of yore. Wait: yore? Bygone?
365: Difficult Words (with Jane Solomon)
May 28 • 57 min
Juxtapose. Obfuscate. And of course, absquatulate.
364: Mailbag of R-R-R-R
May 21 • 54 min
What’s the past tense of yeet? And much more.
363: Talking Race (with Jessi Grieser)
May 14 • 51 min
Looking at African-American English in a gentrifying neighbourhood.
362: Gesture in Mind
May 7 • 53 min
This is your brain on gesture.
361: Helping My Language Live - Language Activism (with Margaret Florey)
Apr 30 • 56 min
Imagine watching your language erode away. How would you help it to stay alive?
360: Familiolects (Live Q&A)
Apr 23 • 42 min
Which words, phrases, and pronunciations are unique to your family?
359: False Friends (Live Q&A)
Apr 19 • 41 min
They feel so right, but sound so wrong.
358: Mailbag of Mallets
Apr 4 • 44 min
Again we tackle the questions that others dast not. Why do all children seem to know the “nyah nyah” song? Why do classic movie stars talk in that strange accent? Do Chinese characters stay readable longer than English words? Who says they feel “less…
357: The F-Word (with Jesse Sheidlower)
Mar 26 • 40 min
Daniel chats with lexicographer Jesse Sheidlower about profanity, power, and his book, “The F-Word”. News: Meet Q, the genderless voice assistant. Words of the Week: charity muggers, omnishambles, snowplow parenting.
356: The The Show (with Nick Wilson)
Mar 19 • 50 min
Talking to Nick Wilson about the biggest small word in the English language: the. News: How the media reports about shooters. Also, how a changing diet changed the range of possible sounds in human language. Words of the Week: big oof, contracept, ha-ha…
355: The Bee Show (with Stephen Mann)
Mar 12 • 64 min
Bees: What is their communication like, and are they losing their groove? Talking with animal communications expert Stephen Mann. News: The outrage machine fires up over the appearance of Aboriginal English words in the New South Wales foreign language…
354: Shiny Crumb (Live Q&A)
Mar 5 • 41 min
Have you ever blanked on a word and said something else? It may not just be you. Some mild forms of anomia happen as we age, but research finds that lexical recall is not straightforward. We’ll be hearing from you on this episode of the thing with the…
353: Mailbag of Highly Intelligent Listeners
Feb 27 • 43 min
Some smart questions from our Mailbag. Will there ever be one global language? What would it take for completely new words in English? What’s happening when people say ‘I have went’? When did buzzwords start? Are there stages in language learning? How…
352: Wait (with Sali Tagliamonte)
Feb 19 • 47 min
Wait — you mean people are doing something new in English? They sure are.
351: A Perfect Alphabet (or, The Royal Tweet)
Feb 13 • 46 min
Some deep thoughts are going on at the Palace. The Royal Family is tweeting about what a perfect alphabet would look like, and how far the English alphabet varies from this ideal. And are there any redundant letters? Hedvig, Ben, and Daniel are here to…
350: Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish (with Zalmen Mlotek and Motl Didner)
Feb 5 • 44 min
Fiddler on the Roof is heading to Broadway — in Yiddish for the first time. What goes into the production? How does translation work? What does this production mean to the cast and to audience members? Daniel speaks with the creative team in charge of the…
349: Words of the Year 2018
Jan 29 • 50 min
What were the words that marked our year? Daniel was there for the serious, the social, and the silly at the American Dialect Society’s annual Word of the Year vote. Hedvig and Daniel discuss all the words on this episode of Talk the Talk.
348: Microcosm (featuring Rachel Hendery)
Dec 10, 2018 • 47 min
Talking with Dr Rachel Hendery about what happens to language on beautiful and remote Palmerston Island. In the News: Gmail has a unique solution to the problem of gender bias and text suggestion. And parasites do not cause language diversity. Bookmarks:…
347: Not Rocket Surgery (featuring Kari Sullivan and William Black)
Nov 26, 2018 • 60 min
Talking to Dr Kari Sullivan about mixed metaphors, and why they’re not all bad. In the news: The pronoun “y’all” seems to be making gains outside the US South. A chat with William Black. Bookmarks: A look back at “Babel-17” by Samuel R. Delaney. Words of…
346: What Works (featuring Dan Dediu)
Nov 19, 2018 • 49 min
Talking with researcher Dan Dediu about non-linguistic motivators for language. In the news: We talk easily about colour and shape, and less so for touch, and smell. But other languages mix it up. Bookmarks: Language Drops, a language learning app with 31…
345: Talk on the Wild Side (featuring Lane Greene)
Nov 12, 2018 • 43 min
Author Lane Greene joins us to discuss his new book “Talk on the Wild Side”. In the news: What makes a satisfying shitgibbon? Plus: how climate affects language diversity. Bookmarks: Make an online translator with LingoJam. Words of the Week: blue wave,…
344: Coincidences and Surprising Connections (featuring Bethwyn Evans)
Nov 5, 2018 • 61 min
We talk to historical linguist Bethwyn Evans about how we know languages are related. In the news: Emoji v11, and the best of the EMNLP conference. Words of the Week: nanobodies, reef-toxic, fair dinkum power, first-daughter effect.
343: Moon Moons and Reduplication Reduplication
Oct 29, 2018 • 48 min
Reduplication in the world’s languages. A surprising number of meanings can arise from simply repeating all or part of a word. News: Words are different from sounds in the brains of puppers. Coke tries code-switching, with deadly consequences. Bookmarks:…
342: Mailbag of Vague
Oct 15, 2018 • 48 min
Questions from our Mailbag: A whale is an animal. Whales are animals. What’s the difference? Is the QWERTY keyboard designed to slow you down? Is English a creole? Why does a word keep popping up after you’ve encountered it for the first time? Persian or…
341: What the F (featuring Benjamin Bergen)
Oct 8, 2018 • 55 min
Talking with cognitive scientist Benjamin Bergen about the science of swearing. News: California says bots must self-disclose. British drivers swear 41 times every 100 miles. Bookmarks: The film ‘I Dream in Another Language’. A new font claims to aid…
340: Ethics in Big Data (featuring Hannah Rashkin and Maarten Sap)
Oct 1, 2018 • 54 min
Researchers routinely use tweets, comments, and social media posts as language data. It’s public data, but does that mean it’s okay to use? We talk to researchers Hannah Rashkin and Maarten Sap about the ethical ins and outs. News: Children can learn…
339: How English Could Be Way Cooler
Sep 24, 2018 • 49 min
What cool things about other languages could we bring to English? Our listeners share their ideas. News: Another multilingual cross-species translator that’s short on details. And the FOXP2 gene (often dubbed the “language gene”) shows no evolutionary…
338: Signed Languages (featuring Ulrike Zeshan and Christy Filipich)
Sep 17, 2018 • 42 min
On this International Day of Signed Languages, an interview with researcher Ulrike Zeshan. Auslan interpreter Christy Filipich keeps us on track and shares her views. News: Which takes the effort, starting to speak one language, or repressing the other…
337: Getting the Bias out of Data (featuring Rob Speer and Kai-Wei Chang)
Sep 10, 2018 • 45 min
Turning down the bias in big data with researchers Rob Speer and Kai-Wei Chang. News: Typos can defeat a hate-speech detector. New segment: Bookmarks. Kylie tells us about Vox by Christina Dalcher. Words of the Week: lodestar, gender whisperer, oleaginous.
336: Kinship Terms
Sep 3, 2018 • 44 min
Kinship terms. How do languages handle the vocabulary of family relations? What’s a third cousin, and what’s ‘removed’? In the News: Two Philadelphia students have compiled a glossary of slang for their teachers. Words of the Week: man-child, au pair…
335: One Hundred Things (featuring Emily Bender)
Aug 27, 2018 • 57 min
An interview with Professor Emily Bender of the University of Washington, about 100 things you always wanted to know about semantics and pragmatics. In the News: Mormons don’t want you to call them Mormons anymore. Plus a quiz based on the CLICS database,…
334: Mailbag of Darkness
Aug 20, 2018 • 62 min
Questions from our listeners: Zhooshing Polari. What does it mean to have “the boits”? Of hills and mountains. Why is it Portuguese and not Brazilian? How can you spot an accent? Do our brains lump additional languages together? Revisiting English…
333: When Sapir Met Whorf (featuring Östen Dahl and Mikael Parkvall)
Aug 6, 2018 • 52 min
We revisit the idea that language shapes behaviour with two expert linguists. Is the Sapir Whorf Hypothesis coming in from the cold? In the News: a young woman from New Zealand challenges stereotypes on signage, and the Cha’palaa language of Ecuador has a…
332: Social (featuring Ketan Joshi, live at the Disrupted Festival 2018)
Jul 30, 2018 • 61 min
The Talk the Talk team are live at the Disrupted Festival, and they’re talking data, social media, and internet privacy with science communicator and internet influencer Ketan Joshi. Plus we play Fact or Fiction. Words of the Week: pubes, flop, self-own,…
331: Koko
Jun 25, 2018 • 38 min
We talk about Koko, the celebrity gorilla who was taught to sign, and what we’ve learned about language from her. In the news: horses and babies can read minds. Kind of. Words of the Week: tender-age facility, womp womp, infest, mince.
330: Making Words for Miriwoong (featuring Knut Olawsky)
Jun 18, 2018 • 42 min
Talking with Knut Olawsky of the Mirima Language Centre. Knut helps to make new words for the Miriwoong language. What goes into lexical creation for a living language? The Australian government is having another go at adding a language test to become a…
329: Pokémonikers (featuring Stephanie Shih)
Jun 11, 2018 • 46 min
Talking to Stephanie Shih about the 1st Conference of Pokémonastics. What do the names of Pokémon reveal about human language? In the news: Researchers train a bot on captions from violent and gory images on Reddit. Do gendered languages correlate with…
328: She Writes Dictionaries (featuring Jane Solomon)
Jun 4, 2018 • 45 min
What goes into writing a (not the) dictionary? We talk to lexicographer Jane Solomon of Are more people learning Korean, and is it because of K-pop? Why do people take longer pauses before nouns? Words of the Week: nipaluna, koinonia,…
327: How We Talk (featuring Nick Enfield and Simeon Floyd)
May 28, 2018 • 50 min
We talk to Nick Enfield about conversation patterns, and his book ‘How We Talk’. Simeon Floyd tells us about new research on the act of thanking. Words of the Week: nano-, yesn’t
326: Language, Sign, and Transmission (live with Pint of Science, featuring Amy Budrikis and Troy Reynolds)
May 21, 2018 • 41 min
A live show with Pint of Science! Amy Budrikis talks to the team about her study of Aboriginal language transmission in families. Troy Reynolds busts some myths about signed languages and Australian Aboriginal languages, and finds some surprising…
325: Mailbag of Moisture
May 14, 2018 • 44 min
What if your trilingual child rejects your language? What’s the hardest language to lip read? Why do some English adjectives come after the noun? Are ‘flat adverbs’ new? Why do Australians say ‘but’ at the end of a sentence? What do people call a…
324: Translanguaging (featuring Rhonda Oliver)
May 7, 2018 • 42 min
We talk to applied linguist Rhonda Oliver about translanguaging, a method of teaching language that encourages students to use their existing knowledge. Is there a connection between genes and phonemes? Words of the Week: delicious, time with family,…
323: Flip Yeah Taboo Avoidance
Apr 30, 2018 • 39 min
English-Only makes a move as Strathfield Council in Sydney cracks down on foreign language shop signs. Listeners send us their favourite minced oaths, both from English and from other languages. Sometimes taboo avoidance changes language. Words of the…
322: Sense of Direction (featuring Alice Gaby)
Apr 23, 2018 • 41 min
Interview with Alice Gaby about how speakers of Marshallese change the way they talk about direction. Also, apprehensives: the particle… OF FEAR. In the news, research teases bias out of big data — and may be able to reverse it in natural language…
321: Language Face to Face (featuring Rachel Romeo)
Apr 16, 2018 • 43 min
We check out recent news in child language acquisition research. An interview with Rachel Romeo of MIT, who has found that number of conversation turns is a better predictor of language development than the number of words heard by the child. But why? Our…
320: Love Your Larynx (featuring Thila Raja)
Apr 9, 2018 • 43 min
Are you looking after your larynx? Your voice is your ability to speak, and for a lot of people, it’s how we earn a living. So it’s important to look after your vocal health. And with World Voice Day coming up, it’s a great time to show your larynx some…
319: The Prodigal Tongue (featuring Lynne Murphy)
Apr 2, 2018 • 47 min
British and American English have always had a love-hate relationship. British people (and Australians) often blame Americans for somehow tarnishing the language, and they fret about creeping Americanism. But people are terrible at identifying what the…
318: Mailbag of Awesome
Mar 19, 2018 • 36 min
We get mail. From you. And today, we’re answering your questions. How has jazz influenced our language? And what if you like language diversity, but you’re not too keen on how it’s used? Daniel and Kylie answer them all on this episode of Talk the Talk.
317: With Big Data Comes Big Responsibility (featuring Sean Roberts)
Mar 12, 2018 • 46 min
That study about language looks interesting. Can you trust the results? Lots of researchers are using big data to discover amazing things about language. But big data can bring big trouble if researchers don’t look out for some common traps. What should…
316: Numbers and the Making of Us (featuring Caleb Everett)
Mar 5, 2018 • 48 min
When we got numbers, things really started to happen. How do other languages handle numbers? How do pre-linguistic children conceptualise them? And how did the development of numbers influence our development as humans? We’re talking to anthropological…
315: Grammar Day
Feb 26, 2018 • 44 min
Grammar Day is coming soon. Which rules can you safely ignore? Is it okay for nouns to become verbs and vice versa? What’s wrong with passive voice? And how can you have a healthy grammar outlook? Daniel, Ben, and Kylie are going back to the books on this…
314: International Mother Language Day (featuring Ingrid Piller)
Feb 19, 2018 • 43 min
How do we keep mother languages alive? Governments, organisations, and the public are starting to recognise the importance of maintaining home languages as a way of preserving language diversity. But how do we do this? Where are we falling short? We’ll…
313: That’s Cool. That’s Hot. (featuring Maria Koptjevskaja Tamm)
Feb 12, 2018 • 42 min
Boiling with rage. A warm embrace. A cool time in a hot town. How do we think about heat and cold, and how does this work its way into language? And does this have anything to do with what the local climate is like? Things are hotting up on this episode…
312: Words of the Year 2017 (featuring Grant Barrett)
Feb 5, 2018 • 49 min
It’s Word of the Year season again, and Daniel was repping Talk the Talk at the year’s biggest vote. But controversy surrounds the WotY. Is it too white, too old, and too male? How can this be helped? Daniel regales Ben with all the highlights on this…
311: Quick Shots 2: The Quickening
Nov 27, 2017 • 41 min
This week, we’re looking back at the year that was. What were our favourite shows? What does it mean if someone ‘deserves a pineapple’? And what will be the Word of the Week of the Year? Daniel and Kylie are live in the studio for this episode of Talk the…
310: Sign Language Gloves (featuring Adam Schembri and William Bowe)
Nov 20, 2017 • 46 min
The sign language glove is an idea whose time has come! Or has it? Could this tech tool be helpful for Deaf people? Or it is just so much hand-waving? Not everyone in the world of signed language is wild about this invention. But why not? We’ll find out…
309: How Linguistic Is Neuro-linguistic Programming?
Nov 13, 2017 • 42 min
How linguistic is neuro-linguistic programming, or NLP? Some people think it can help you win friends and influence people. And a lot of people are making a lot of money from it. But what about its language claims? Daniel and Kylie are taking a skeptical…
308: Pet Translator
Nov 6, 2017 • 47 min
Just how feasible is a pet translator? A report from a futurologist is claiming that we’re only ten years away from having deep and meaningfuls with our puppers and kittehs. But there might be some technical hurdles — including the possibility that…
307: Sexy Neural Net (featuring Janelle Shane)
Oct 30, 2017 • 43 min
Are you stuck for what to go as for Halloween? AI to the rescue! A computer scientist is using neural networks to invent Halloween costumes. Do you think you could pull off Punk Tree? Or perhaps Lady Garbage is more your style. So what are neural nets,…
306: Deception Detection (featuring Victoria Rubin, Sarah Cornwell, and Sophie Richard)
Oct 23, 2017 • 44 min
Sometimes it can be hard to tell the real news from the fake news. But language researchers are building tools that can detect deception online. And they’re working on detecting satire. Can their system spot the fakes better than you can? Daniel, Ben, and…
305: Updating Shakespeare (featuring the artists of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival)
Oct 16, 2017 • 42 min
Time to check in on Shakespeare. Away from the glare of the footlights, the Play On! project is underway to translate all the Bard’s works into Present-Day English. How is it progressing? What’s staying, and what’s going? We’re talking to Amelia Roper,…
304: Genericide (live at Camp Doogs)
Oct 9, 2017 • 45 min
Some big corporations are paying big money to make sure you don’t use their names. Usually they love it if their trademark name is well-known. But if it becomes so well-known that the name becomes generic, the company can lose the right to its own…
303: Creoles 2 (featuring John McWhorter, Knut Olawsky, & Ji-Soo Kweon)
Oct 2, 2017 • 44 min
We’re continuing our discussion of a controversial paper about how new languages get started. When you start talking about creole languages, the linguistic becomes the political very quickly. So what are linguists saying about this work? And is there…
302: Creoles 1 (featuring Damian Blasi)
Sep 25, 2017 • 45 min
How do creole languages arise? A controversial new paper is rocking the linguistic world. Are creole languages different from other languages? How do they start? And what does this all mean about the human language ability? Daniel Midgley speaks with…
301: Mailbag of Wonder
Sep 18, 2017 • 47 min
We’re taking your questions on this episode. What’s happening with tildes and Facebook? Can you have a big huge balloon, or could it also be huge big? And if you move a meeting forward, is it later or earlier? The answers may surprise you on this episode…
300: Is Grammar Elitist?
Sep 11, 2017 • 40 min
Does grammar matter? On one side: the language sticklers, who hold that good grammar is a necessity for communication, and even a matter of upholding standards and courtesy. But there’s another side: that grammar rules are often just made up, designed to…
299: Men Splain Things to Me (featuring Lara B. Sharp)
Sep 4, 2017 • 44 min
Do you get mansplained? Many women will know the pain of the ‘splain, but few have documented an extended mansplain so comically or in such detail as our guest for this episode, writer Lara B. Sharp. Her narrative with Johnny by the Pool is one for the…
298: West African Pidgin English
Aug 28, 2017 • 41 min
We’re listening to West African Pidgin English. Millions of people speak it, but now it’s getting a big boost from the BBC World Service. What’s this language like? And will it change, now that it’s hit the world stage? Daniel, Ben, and Kylie talk it over…
297: Let’s Hear It for the Speechies (featuring Jamaica Grantis)
Aug 21, 2017 • 42 min
Happy Speech Pathology Week! When we think of speech pathology, we might think of speaking exercises or correcting impediments. But it’s just as much about access, training, and representation for people with vocal difficulties. So what’s happening in the…
296: Geophonetics, Round 3 (featuring Caleb Everett)
Aug 7, 2017 • 42 min
What’s the relationship between climate and sound? A linguist has released a trio of papers showing that the sounds we use may be influenced by the air we breathe. Is there anything to it? How have other scientists reacted? And how does an idea change…
295: Yawuru (featuring Dalisa Pigram) [live at the Disrupted Festival]
Jul 31, 2017 • 44 min
The Talk the Talk team takes the stage in a special live episode. The Yawuru language of Western Australia has been going dormant, but many courageous teachers are bringing it back for a new generation. Is it working? What is it to learn and teach one’s…
294: Trademarks and Slurs (featuring Simon Tam)
Jul 24, 2017 • 43 min
Freedom of expression is again in the news. Simon Tam has won his case before the US Supreme Court, allowing him to trademark the name of his all-Asian rock band, the Slants. But this ruling opens the door to people who want to trademark other offensive…
293: A Computer Walks into a Bar
Jun 19, 2017 • 47 min
What kind of jokes would computers write? Humour is a very human thing to do, but can computers learn to do it? They will, if the new generation of computational linguists has their way. But what would a computer find funny? And are computer scientists…
292: Mailbag of Destiny
Jun 12, 2017 • 48 min
We love taking questions, and for this episode, we’ve got a lot of them. What’s behind the things we say, and why is language the way it is? Is calling someone a drop-kick secretly obscene? Why does Germany have so many names? And why are there italics?…
291: Covfefe
Jun 5, 2017 • 41 min
It’s not just about the covfefe. This week, we are buried under an avalanche of words, and we’re trying to dig ourselves out. Yes, covfefe happened, but Wonder Woman has also given rise to an ascendant gynocracy. And what about that spelling bee? Daniel,…
290: Language Does Not Determine Your Thoughts (Whorfianism 1)
May 29, 2017 • 45 min
Does language influence the way we think? Many people have thought so. And this thought has worked its way into an enormously popular idea called the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis. Yet linguists often dismiss this idea as unfounded. So what’s the story? Daniel,…
289: What Helps Babies Learn Language?
May 22, 2017 • 51 min
Is there anything you can do to help babies learn language? Babies do a great job of learning language, but it’s still a pretty complex undertaking. Who wouldn’t like to help the little tackers figure it out? But does anything help? Baby signs? Special…
288: Letters Lost
May 15, 2017 • 44 min
English used to look a lot different. We used to use a lot of letters that no longer exist. They had names like eth, wynn, thorn, and ash. Ben, Kylie, and Daniel talk about what they looked like, how they sounded… and ampersand‘s secret past. It’s all…
287: What Is a Sandwich?
May 8, 2017 • 51 min
What exactly is a sandwich? The question is tearing the internet apart. Is a hot dog a sandwich? What about a burrito? But how do we even know what a sandwich is? Or anything else? We have an answer, but it’s going to take us through some weird semantic…
286: Lexical Appropriation (featuring Nicole Holliday)
May 1, 2017 • 43 min
Are some words off-limits? Many of us are aware of cultural appropriation: using symbols and clothing that pertain to another culture without attribution. But how does this relate to language? Is it okay to use the slang that originates from other…
285: Quick Shots
Apr 24, 2017 • 37 min
For this episode, we put out the call to listeners, and they responded. Daniel’s taking questions and giving answers. Should we be ‘fustrated’ or listen to ‘vinyls’? Is a movie ‘based on’ or ‘based off’ a true story? How do you recognise ‘gaslighting’?…
284: Feral Children
Apr 17, 2017 • 41 min
What can we learn about language from children who grew up without it? People are fascinated by stories of “feral children”, raised apart from human contact. Can these children ever learn language, once they’re found? And what does this tell us about the…
283: Pun Intended (featuring Janani Krishnan-Jha and Hedvig Skirgård)
Apr 10, 2017 • 46 min
Puns. Some people love them, some people hate them. But why do some people find puns so exasperating? And why do we make them anyway? What’s it like to be on the receiving end of a rapid-fire pun off? Daniel and Kylie are going against the groan on this…
282: Why Subject First? (featuring Hedvig Skirgård)
Apr 3, 2017 • 40 min
This episode going to love you are! Here’s a linguistic puzzle: Why does “I like you” sound okay, but “Like you I” sounds weird and Yoda-ish? Well, that’s just how English rolls: subjects come first. But surprisingly, most other human languages put their…
281: The Emoji Code (featuring Vyvyan Evans)
Mar 27, 2017 • 44 min
Why does everyone ❤️ and 😡 emoji? Emoji have been received enthusiastically in our electronic communication, and yet complaints about them continue. Is there anything wrong with using them? Are they really the equivalent of modern-day hieroglyphics? Do…
280: Contractions
Mar 20, 2017 • 44 min
They’ll, we’ve, you’re, and even ain’t. This week, we’re having contractions, but not the muscular kind — the word kind! We squash words together all the time, but why? And how well can you recognise them? Daniel, Kylie, and Ben are gonna find out on this…
279: Mailbag - Competitive Edition
Mar 13, 2017 • 43 min
We’re taking your questions on a Mailbag episode! Along the way, we’re going to find out some pretty strange things about how words and phrases got to be how they are. Do you say zero or oh? What is begging the question? And has the French /r/ always been…