A podcast that's enthusiastic about linguistics by Gretchen McCulloch and Lauren Gawne. A weird and deep conversation about language delivered right to your ears the third Thursday of every month. "Joyously nerdy" –Buzzfeed.
Listened to all the episodes here and wish there were more? Want to talk with other people who are enthusiastic about linguistics? Get bonus episodes and access to our Discord community at www.patreon.com/lingthusiasm
Shownotes and transcripts: www.lingthusiasm.com
86: Revival, reggaeton, and rejecting unicorns - Basque interview with Itxaso Rodríguez-Ordóñez
Basque is a language of Europe which is unrelated to the Indo-European languages around it or any other recorded language. As a minority language, Basque has faced considerable pressure from Spanish and French, leading to waves of language revitalization movements from the 1960s and 1980s to the present day. Which means that some of the kids who grew up among language revitalization activities are now adults, and the project of Basque language revival has taken on further dimensions.
In this episode, your host Gretchen McCulloch gets enthusiastic about new speakers and multiple generations of language revitalization in the Basque country with Dr. Itxaso Rodríguez-Ordóñez, who's an Assistant Professor at California State University, Long Beach, USA, and a native speaker of Basque and Spanish. We talk about how Itxaso grew up learning Basque at school and from her parents, who'd learned it as adults as part of the Basque language revitalization movement, and how studying linguistics gave her names for her linguistic experiences and made her realize she wasn't alone. We also talk about a paper Itxaso wrote with several other multilingual linguists about how academia needs to stop searching for "unicorn language users", aka users of minoritized languages who perfectly match a monolingual majority control group. Plus: Basque language revitalization through punk rock, reggaeton, and more music recs! (Links to songs in shownotes.)
Read the transcript here: https://lingthusiasm.com/post/734191628928106496/transcript-episode-86-itxaso-interview
Thank you to everyone who helped share Lingthusiasm with a friend or on social media for our seventh anniversary! We appreciate your support so much, and it was great to see what you love about Lingthusiasm and which episodes you chose to share.
If you'd like to share more of your thoughts on Lingthusiasm, take our 2023 Listener Survey! This is our chance to learn about your linguistic interests, and for you to have fun doing a new set of linguistic experiments. If you did the survey last year, the experiment questions are different this year, so feel free to take it again! You can hear about the results of last year’s survey in a bonus episode (https://www.patreon.com/posts/bonus-75-2022-82426500) and we’ll be sharing the results of the new experiments next year. Take the survey here until December 15th 2023: https://bit.ly/lingthusiasmsurvey23
In this month’s bonus episode, Gretchen and Lauren get enthusiastic about giving advice by answering your linguistics questions! Join us on Patreon now to get access to this and 80 other bonus episodes, including our 2022 survey results episode, and an eventual future episode discussing the results of our 2023 survey. Listen to our latest bonus here: https://www.patreon.com/posts/bonus-81-advice-92128507
For links to things mentioned in this episode: https://lingthusiasm.com/post/734191359532122112/episode-86-revival-reggaeton-and-rejecting
85: Ergativity delights us
When you have a sentence like "I visit them", the word order and the shape of the words tell you that it means something different from "they visit me". However, in a sentence like "I laugh", you don't actually need those signals -- since there's only one person in the sentence, the meaning would be just as clear if the sentence read "Me laugh" or "Laugh me". And indeed, there are languages that do just this, where the single entity with an intransitive verb like "laugh" patterns with the object (me) rather than the subject (I) of a transitive verb like "visit". This pattern is known as ergativity.
In this episode, your hosts Lauren Gawne and Gretchen McCulloch get enthusiastic about ergativity! We talk about how ergativity first brought us together as collaborators (true facts: Lingthusiasm might never have existed without it), some classic examples of ergatives from Basque and Arrente, and cool downstream effects that ergativity makes possible, including languages that have ergatives sometimes but not other times (aka split ergativity) and the gloriously-named antipassive (the opposite of the passive). We also introduce a handy mnemonic gesture for remembering what ergativity looks like, as part of our ongoing quest to encourage you to make fun gestures in public!
Read the transcript here: https://lingthusiasm.com/post/731654643533447168/transcript-episode-85
November is Lingthusiasm's anniversary month and it's been 7 years! To help us celebrate we’re asking you to help connect us with people who would be totally into a linguistics podcast, if only they knew it existed. Most people still find podcasts through word of mouth, so we're asking you to share a link to your favourite episode, or just share Lingthusiasm in general. Tag us on on social media so we can thank you, or if you share in private enjoy the warm fuzzies of our gratitude.
We’re doing our second listener survey! Right here: https://bit.ly/lingthusiasmsurvey23 This is our chance to learn about your linguistic interests, and for you to have fun doing a new set of linguistic experiments. If you did the survey last year, the experiment questions are different this year, so feel free to take it again! You can hear about the results of last year's survey in a bonus episode (https://www.patreon.com/posts/bonus-75-2022-82426500) and we’ll be sharing the results of the new experiments next year. Take the survey here: https://bit.ly/lingthusiasmsurvey23
In this month’s bonus episode, Gretchen and Lauren get enthusiastic about linguistic summer camps for grownups aka linguistics institutes! Join us on Patreon now to get access to this and 80 other bonus episodes, including our 2022 survey results episode, and an eventual future episode discussing the results of our 2023 survey. Listen here: https://www.patreon.com/posts/bonus-80-from-87062497
For links to things mentioned in this episode: https://lingthusiasm.com/post/731654340611293184/episode-85-ergativity-delights-us
84: Look, it's deixis, an episode about pointing!
Pointing creates an invisible line between a part of your body and the thing you're pointing at. Humans are really good at producing and understanding pointing, and it seems to be something that helps babies learn to talk, but only a few animals manage it: domestic dogs can follow a point but wolves can't. (Cats? Look, who knows.) There are lots of ways of pointing, and their relative prominence varies across cultures: you can point to something with a finger or two, with your whole hand, with your elbow, your head, your eyes and eyebrows, your lips, and even your words.
In this episode, your hosts Lauren Gawne and Gretchen McCulloch get enthusiastic about pointing, aka deixis. We talk about how pointing varies across cultures and species: English speakers tend to have a taboo against pointing with the middle finger and to some extent at people, but don't have the very common cross-cultural taboo against pointing at rainbows. We also talk about the technical term for pointing in a linguistic context, deixis, and how deictic meanings bring together a whole bunch of categories: pronouns in signed and spoken languages, words like here, this, go, and today, and the eternal confusion about which Tuesday is next Tuesday.
Read the transcript here: https://lingthusiasm.com/post/729129984955990016/transcript-episode-84-pointing
This episode is brought to you by all of the fantastic people who have supported the podcast by becoming patrons or buying merch over the years! We say this a lot but it really is very much the case that we would have had to give up making the show a long time ago without your financial support. If you would like to help keep the show running ad-free into the future, listen to bonus episodes, and connect with other language nerds on our Discord, join us on Patreon.
In this month’s bonus episode, Lauren gets enthusiastic about the process of doing linguistic fieldwork with Dr. Martha Tsutsui Billins, an Adjunct Teaching Fellow at California State University Fresno and creator of the podcast Field Notes (https://fieldnotespod.com/), whose name you may recognize from the credits at the end of the show!
Join us on Patreon now to get access to this and 70+ other bonus episodes. You’ll also get access to the Lingthusiasm Discord server where you can chat with other language nerds.
For links to things mentioned in this episode: https://lingthusiasm.com/post/729129330001805312/episode-84-look-its-deixis-a-word-for
83: How kids learn Q’anjob’al and other Mayan languages - Interview with Pedro Mateo Pedro
Young kids growing up in Guatemala often learn Q’anjob’al, Kaq’chikel, or another Mayan language from their families and communities. But they don’t live next to the kinds of major research universities that do most of the academic studies about how kids learn languages. Figuring out what these kids are doing is part of a bigger push to learn more about language learning in a broader variety of sociocultural settings.
In this episode, your host Gretchen McCulloch gets enthusiastic about how kids learn Q’anjob’al and other Mayan languages with Dr. Pedro Mateo Pedro, who’s an assistant professor at the University of Toronto, Canada, a native speaker of Q'anjob'al and a learner of Kaq'chikel. We talk about Pedro’s background teaching school in Q’anjob’al and Spanish, which sounds kids acquire later in Q’anjob’al (hint: it’s the ejectives like q’ and b’), and gender differences in how kids speak Q’anjob’al. We also talk more broadly about why this work is important, both in terms of understanding how language acquisition works as a whole and in terms of using the knowledge of how children acquire Indigenous languages to create teaching materials specific to those languages. Finally, we talk about Pedro’s newer revitalization work with a community of Itza’ speakers and the process of building a relationship with a community that you’re not already part of.
Read the transcript here: https://lingthusiasm.com/post/725990865999462400/transcript-episode-83-how-kids-learn-qanjobal
We love reading up on an interesting etymology, but the history of a word doesn’t have to define how it’s used now - and to celebrate that we have new merch with the motto ‘Etymology isn’t Destiny’. Our artist, Lucy Maddox has brought these words to life in a beautiful design in black, white, and rainbow gradient. The etymology isn't destiny design is available on lots of different colours and styles of shirts, hoodies, tank tops, t-shirts: classic fit, relaxed fit, curved fit. Plus mugs, notebooks, stickers, water bottles, zippered pouches, and more. Get yours here! https://www.redbubble.com/people/lingthusiasm/shop?artistUserName=Lingthusiasm&collections=3651094&iaCode=all-departments&sortOrder=relevant
We also have tons of other Lingthusiastic merch available, it makes a great gift to give to a linguistics enthusiast in your life or to request as a gift from someone. Special shoutout to our aesthetic IPA chart redesign, which now comes in rectangle (looks great as a poster if you have an office or corridor that needs to be jazzed up), and with a transparent background for t-shirt purposes! Or get it on a tote bag or notebook so you can bring it to conferences! https://www.redbubble.com/people/lingthusiasm/shop?artistUserName=lingthusiasm&collections=3154890&iaCode=all-departments&sortOrder=relevant
In this month’s behind the scenes bonus episode, Gretchen gets enthusiastic about the linguistic process of transcribing podcast episodes with Sarah Dopierala, whose name you may recognize from the credits at the end of the show! We talk about how Sarah's background in linguistics helps her with the technical words and phonetic transcriptions in Lingthusiasm episodes, her own research into converbs, and the linguistic tendencies that she's noticed from years of transcribing Lauren and Gretchen (guess which of us uses more quotative speech!)
Join us on Patreon now to get access to this and 70+ other bonus episodes, including our upcoming linguistics advice episode where we answer your questions! You’ll also get access to the Lingthusiasm Discord server where you can chat with other language nerds. www.patreon.com/lingthusiasm
For links to things mentioned in this episode: https://lingthusiasm.com/post/725956192085671936/lingthusiasm-83-how-kids-learn-qanjobal-and
82: Frogs, pears, and more staples from linguistics example sentences
Linguists are often interested in comparing several languages or dialects. To make this easier, it’s useful to have data that’s relatively similar across varieties, so that the differences really pop out. But what exactly needs to be similar or different varies depending on what we’re investigating. For example, to compare varieties of English, we might have everyone read the same passage that contains all of the sounds of English, whereas to compare the way people gesture when telling a story, we might have them all watch the same silent film and re-tell it back.
In this episode, your hosts Lauren Gawne and Gretchen McCulloch get enthusiastic about linguistics examples that have been re-used in lots of studies to get large groups of people to produce comparable language data. These sentences are supposed to be pretty unremarkable so we can focus on doing linguistics on them, but they end up having a sort of charmingly banal vibe that makes them much beloved by people who have spent tons of time poring over recorded files. We talk about The North Wind and the Sun, the Stella passage, the Rainbow passage, the Harvard Sentences, the Frog story, the Pear story, and the Tweety Bird video. We also talk about what goes into creating different genres of reusable example sentences, from phonetic balancing to what makes a concept culturally specific, as well as our experience learning about and coming up with various examples.
Have a favourite recurring example that we didn’t have space for here? Let us know!
Read the transcript here: https://lingthusiasm.com/post/723543648527122432/transcript-episode-82-frogs-pears-and-more
In this month’s bonus episode we present: LingthusiASMR, a very special bonus episode, in which your hosts Gretchen and Lauren get enthusiastic about linguistics in a very relaxed manner by reading one very large classic set of charmingly banal linguistics example sentences. Several people have told us that this has helped put them to sleep, which isn’t usually our goal but it sure is for this episode!
Join us on Patreon now to get access to this and 70+ other bonus episodes, including our upcoming linguistics advice episode where we answer your questions, which you can ask here: https://forms.gle/s6MeeVAGWD3oaDoM6 (until September 1st 2023). You’ll also get access to the Lingthusiasm Discord server where you can chat with other language nerds. www.patreon.com/lingthusiasm
For links to things mentioned in this episode: https://lingthusiasm.com/post/723422789301829632/episode-82-frogs-pears-and-more-staples-from
81: The verbs had been being helped by auxiliaries
In the sentence “the horse has eaten an apple”, what is the word “has” doing? It’s not expressing ownership of something, like in “the horse has an apple”. (After all, the horse could have very sneakily eaten the apple.) Rather, it’s helping out the main verb, eat. Many languages use some of their verbs to help other verbs express grammatical information, and the technical name for these helping verbs is auxiliary verbs.
In this episode, your hosts Lauren Gawne and Gretchen McCulloch get enthusiastic about auxiliaries! We talk about what we can learn about auxiliaries across 2000+ languages using a new linguistic mapping website called GramBank, why auxiliaries get pronounced subtly differently from the words they’re derived from, and how “be” and “have” are the major players of the auxiliary world (but there are other options too, like “do”, “let”, and “go”). We also put a whole bunch of farm animals in our example sentences this episode just so we have an excuse to make a very good wordplay at the end of the episode.
Read the transcript here: https://lingthusiasm.com/post/720244703378964480/transcript-episode-81-the-verbs-had-been-being
Are there linguistics things you want advice about? Both serious or somewhat silly? We’re going to doing a linguistics advice bonus episode for our 7th anniversary in November 2023, where we’ll answer your linguistics questions! Go here (https://forms.gle/s6MeeVAGWD3oaDoM6) to ask us your questions by September 1st 2023, and join us on Patreon to hear the answers!
In this month’s bonus episode we get enthusiastic about the jobs that people go on to do after a linguistics degree! We talk about Lauren's new academic article in a fancy linguistics journal about a blog post series she's been running for 8 years, interviewing 80 people who studied linguistics, from a minor to a doctorate level, and their experience and advice for non-academic jobs.
Join us on Patreon now to get access to this and 70+ other bonus episodes, including our upcoming linguistics advice episode where we answer your questions! You’ll also get access to the Lingthusiasm Discord server where you can chat with other language nerds.
For links to things mentioned in this episode: https://lingthusiasm.com/post/720244621612138496/lingthusiasm-81-the-verbs-had-been-being-helped
Fun and informative
The hosts are knowledgeable and funny. They cover interesting topics and have great chemistry. It’s also nice to get the perspective of non Americans/Brits
I love linguistics, and this is a great podcast. I recently discovered it and started from the beginning. I’m on episode 53 and what I find most annoying is a) gretchen talks way too fast (and this is coming from a fellow Canadian), and b) the amount of air time that is taken up by them asking for my money just to access more content, when having ads would solve both problems is slightly annoying
This is such a great podcast for either linguists or anyone interested in linguistics as a hobby, the episodes are interesting, engaging, and enthusiastic!!