93 episodes

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

Lingthusiasm - A podcast that's enthusiastic about linguistics Gretchen McCulloch and Lauren Gawne

    • Science
    • 4.8 • 594 Ratings

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

    93: How nonbinary and binary people talk - Interview with Jacq Jones

    93: How nonbinary and binary people talk - Interview with Jacq Jones

    There are many ways that people perform gender, from clothing and hairstyle to how we talk or carry ourselves. When doing linguistic analysis of one aspect, such as someone's voice, it's useful to also consider the fuller picture such as what they're wearing and who they're talking with.

    In this episode, your host Gretchen McCulloch gets enthusiastic about how nonbinary people talk with Jacq Jones, who's a lecturer at Te Kunenga ki Pūrehuroa / Massey University in Auckland, New Zealand. We talk about their research on how nonbinary and binary people make choices about how to perform gender using their voices and other variables like clothing, and later collaborating with one of their research participants to reflect on how it feels to have your personal voice and gender expression plotted on a chart. We also talk about linguistic geography, Canadian and New Zealand Englishes, and the secret plurality of R sounds in English and how you can figure out which one you have by poking yourself (gently!) with a toothpick.

    Click here for a link to this episode in your podcast player of choice: episodes.fm/1186056137/episode/dGFnOnNvdW5kY2xvdWQsMjAxMDp0cmFja3MvMTg1MzMwODQxMA==

    Or read the transcript here: lingthusiasm.com/post/753857624894849024/transcript-episode-83

    Announcements:

    In this month’s bonus episode we get enthusiastic about three of our favourite kinds of linguistic mixups: spoonerisms, mondegreens, and eggcorns! We talk about William Spooner, the Oxford prof from the 1800s that many spoonerisms are (falsely) attributed to, Lauren's very Australian 90s picture book of spoonerisms, the Scottish song "The Bonny Earl of Moray" which gave rise to the term mondegreen, why there are so many more mondegreens in older pop songs and folk songs than there are now, and how eggcorn is a double eggcorn (a mis-parsing of acorn, which itself is an eggcorn of oak-corn for akern).

    Join us on Patreon now to get access to this and 80+ other bonus episodes. You’ll also get access to the Lingthusiasm Discord server where you can chat with other language nerds about your favourite linguistic mixups: patreon.com/posts/105461156

    For links to things mentioned in this episode: lingthusiasm.com/post/753857305290915840/episode-93-how-nonbinary-and-binary-people-talk

    • 45 min
    92: Brunch, gonna, and fozzle - The smooshing episode

    92: Brunch, gonna, and fozzle - The smooshing episode

    Sometimes two words are smooshed together in a single act of creativity to fill a lexical gap, like making "brunch" from breakfast+lunch. Other times, words are smooshed together gradually, over a long period of speakers or signers discovering more efficient ways to position their mouth or hands, such as pronouncing "handbag" being pronounced more like "hambag".

    In this episode, your hosts Gretchen McCulloch and Lauren Gawne get enthusiastic about smooshing words together. We talk about the history of portmanteau words like motel and chortle, the poem Jabberwocky, and why some portmanteaus, like Kenergy from Ken + energy, sound really satisfying, while others (wonut??) just don't catch on at all. We also talk about words becoming more efficient to produce over time, like how a path can be gradually created through many people choosing the same route through a field, such as "going to" becoming "gonna" or the historical forms of ASL "remember" and French "aujourd'hui".

    Read the transcript here: lingthusiasm.com/post/750684727053352960/transcript-episode-92-smooshing

    Announcements:
    In this month’s bonus episode we get enthusiastic about secret codes and the word games we create based on them!! We talk about using alternate symbols to encode messages like in semaphore, Morse code, as well as repurposing existing symbols like the Caesar cipher, ROT13, and cryptoquote puzzles. We also talk about cryptic crosswords, which aren't technically a kind of cryptography but were used to recruit codebreakers for Bletchley Park in World War II, as well as Navajo, Choctaw, and other Native American code talkers who used their language skills to transmit messages in both world wars that were much harder to crack than a mere cipher.

    Join us on Patreon now to get access to this and 80+ other bonus episodes. You’ll also get access to the Lingthusiasm Discord server where you can chat with other language nerds. Find us here: www.patreon.com/posts/103457404

    For links to things mentioned in this episode: lingthusiasm.com/post/750684590310555648/lingthusiasm-episode-92-brunch-gonna-and-fozzle

    • 49 min
    91: Scoping out the scope of scope

    91: Scoping out the scope of scope

    When you order a kebab and they ask you if you want everything on it, you might say yes. But you'd probably still be surprised if it came with say, chocolate, let alone a bicycle...even though chocolate and bicycles are technically part of "everything". That's because words like "everything" and "all" really mean something more like "everything typical in this situation". Or in linguistic terms, we say that their scope is ambiguous without context.

    In this episode, your hosts Lauren Gawne and Gretchen McCulloch get enthusiastic about how we can think about ambiguity of meaning in terms of scope. We talk about how humour often relies on scope ambiguity, such as a cake with "Happy Birthday in red text" written on it (quotation scope ambiguity) and the viral bench plaque "In Memory of Nicole Campbell, who never saw a dog and didn't smile" (negation scope ambiguity). We also talk about how linguists collect fun examples of ambiguity going about their everyday lives, how gesture and intonation allow us to disambiguate most of the time, and using several scopes in one sentence for double plus ambiguity fun.

    Read the transcript here: https://lingthusiasm.com/post/748141442230272000/transcript-episode-91-scope

    Announcements:
    In this month’s bonus episode we get enthusiastic about the forms that our thoughts take inside our heads! We talk about an academic paper from 2008 called "The phenomena of inner experience", and how their results differ from the 2023 Lingthusiasm listener survey questions on your mental pictures and inner voices. We also talk about more unnerving methodologies, like temporarily paralyzing people and then scanning their brains to see if the inner voice sections still light up (they do!).

    Join us on Patreon now to get access to this and 80+ other bonus episodes. You’ll also get access to the Lingthusiasm Discord server where you can chat with other language nerds. You can find us at patreon.com/lingthusiasm

    Also: Join at the Ling-phabet tier and you'll get an exclusive “Lingthusiast – a person who’s enthusiastic about linguistics,” sticker! You can stick it on your laptop or your water bottle to encourage people to talk about linguistics with you. Members at the Ling-phabet tier also get their very own, hand-selected character of the International Phonetic Alphabet – or if you love another symbol from somewhere in Unicode, you can request that instead – and we put that with your name or username on our supporter Wall of Fame! Check out our Supporter Wall of Fame and become a Ling-phabet patron here: patreon.com/lingthusiasm

    For links to things mentioned in this episode: https://lingthusiasm.com/post/748139974576275456/lingthusiasm-episode-91-scoping-out-the-scope-of

    • 30 min
    90: What visualizing our vowels tells us about who we are

    90: What visualizing our vowels tells us about who we are

    On Lingthusiasm, we've sometimes compared the human vocal tract to a giant meat clarinet, like the vocal folds are the reed and the rest of the throat and mouth is the body of the instrument that shapes the sound in various ways. However, when it comes to talking more precisely about vowels, we need an instrument with a greater degree of flexibility, one that can produce several sounds at the same time which combine into what we perceive as a vowel. Behold, our latest, greatest metaphor (we're so sorry)... the meat bagpipe!

    In this episode, your hosts Gretchen McCulloch and Lauren Gawne get enthusiastic about what visualizing our vowels tells us about who we are. We commissioned Dr. Bethany Gardner to make custom vowel plots for us (which you can see below!) based on how we say certain words during Lingthusiasm episodes, and we talk about how our personal vowel plots let us easily see differences between our Canadian and Australian accents and between when we're carefully reading a wordlist versus more casually talking on the show. We also talk about where the two numbers per vowel that we graph come from (hint: that's where the bagpipe comes in), the delightfully wacky keywords used to compare vowels across English varieties (leading us to silly names for real phenomena, like "goose fronting"), and how vowel spaces are linked to other aspects of our identities including regional variation as well as gender and sexuality.

    Read the transcript here: https://lingthusiasm.com/post/745605876867629056/transcript-episode-90-vowel-plots

    Announcements:

    We’ve created a new and Highly Scientific™ ’Which Lingthusiasm episode are you?’ quiz! Answer some very fun and fanciful questions and find out which Lingthusiasm episode most closely corresponds with your personality. If you’re not sure where to start with our back catalogue, or you want to get a friend started on Lingthusiasm, this is the perfect place to start. Take the quiz here: bit.ly/lingthusiasmquiz

    In this month’s bonus episode we get enthusiastic about the process of making visual maps of our own vowel spaces with Dr. Bethany Gardner. We talk about Bethany’s PhD research on how people learn how to produce and comprehend singular “they”, how putting pronouns in bios or nametags makes it easier for people to use them consistently, and how the massive amounts of data they were wrangling as a result of this led them to make nifty vowel plots for us! If you think you might want to map your own vowels or you just like deep dives into the making-of process, this is the bonus episode for you.

    Join us on Patreon now to get access to this and 80+ other bonus episodes. You’ll also get access to the Lingthusiasm Discord server where you can chat with other language nerds. Find us here: patreon.com/lingthusiasm

    For links to things mentioned in this episode:https://lingthusiasm.com/post/745605428371701760/lingthusiasm-episode-90-what-visualizing-our

    • 47 min
    89: Connecting with oral culture

    89: Connecting with oral culture

    For tens of thousands of years, humans have transmitted long and intricate stories to each other, which we learned directly from witnessing other people telling them. Many of these collaboratively composed stories were among the earliest things written down when a culture encountered writing, such as the Iliad and the Odyssey, the Mwindo Epic, and Beowulf.

    In this episode, your hosts Gretchen McCulloch and Lauren Gawne get enthusiastic about how writing things down changes how we feel about them. We talk about a Ted Chiang short story comparing the spread of literacy to the spread of video recording, how oral cultures around the world have preserved astronomical information about the Seven Sisters constellation for over 10,000 years, and how the field of nuclear semiotics looks to the past to try and communicate with the far future. We also talk about how "oral" vs " written" culture should perhaps be referred to as "embodied" vs "recorded" culture because signed languages are very much part of this conversation, where areas of residual orality have remained in our own lives, from proverbs to gossip to guided tours, and why memes are an extreme example of literate culture rather than extreme oral culture.

    Read the transcript here: https://lingthusiasm.com/post/742445104511500288/transcript-episode-89-connecting-with-oral

    Announcements:

    We've created a new and Highly Scientific™ 'Which Lingthusiasm episode are you?' quiz! Answer some very fun and fanciful questions and find out which Lingthusiasm episode most closely corresponds with your personality. If you're not sure where to start with our back catalogue, or you want to get a friend started on Lingthusiasm, this is the perfect place to start. Take the quiz here: https://bit.ly/lingthusiasmquiz

    For links to things mentioned in this episode: https://lingthusiasm.com/post/742444321413939200/lingthusiasm-episode-89-connecting-with-oral

    • 55 min
    88: No such thing as the oldest language

    88: No such thing as the oldest language

    It's easy to find claims that certain languages are old or even the oldest, but which one is actually true? Fortunately, there's an easy (though unsatisfying) answer: none of them! Like how humans are all descended from other humans, even though some of us may have longer or shorter family trees found in written records, all human languages are shaped by contact with other languages. We don't even know whether the oldest language(s) was/were spoken or signed, or even whether there was a singular common ancestor language or several.

    In this episode, your hosts Gretchen McCulloch and Lauren Gawne get enthusiastic about what people mean when we talk about a language as being old. We talk about how classifying languages as old or classical is often a political or cultural decision, how the materials that are used to write a language influence whether it gets preserved (from clay to bark), and how people talk about creoles and signed languages in terms of oldness and newness. And finally, how a language doesn't need to be justified in terms of its age for whether it's interesting or worthy of respect.

    Read the transcript here: https://lingthusiasm.com/post/739896819002277888/transcript-episode-88-every-language-is-an-old

    For links to things mentioned in this episode:https://lingthusiasm.com/post/739896689822990336/lingthusiasm-episode-88-no-such-thing-as-the

    • 41 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
594 Ratings

594 Ratings

Audreymarie97 ,

Great show!

Recently caught up and now I'm in withdrawal between episodes! I don’t study linguistics but both of my sisters do and it's great to have an entry-level way for me to learn enough to ask them about stuff that they're learning in school!

Suzannekmoses ,

Enthusiastic!

I love this podcast. While I may not share the deep geekery on this subject, I’m happy to learn more.

Maestra Erin ,

Incredible!

As a linguistic nerd, lover of languages, and kindergarten teacher at a dual immersion school, this podcast fascinates me. You do an amazing job. I’ve recommended to various co workers. Thank you! (Am also wondering if potentially I could get a couple of months of bonus material for free…I’m so curious about the episodes and….educator bonus?🥰)

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