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
64: Making speech visible with spectrograms
If you hear someone saying /sss/ and /fff/, it’s hard to hear those as anything other than, well, S and F. This is very convenient for understanding language, but it’s less convenient for analyzing it -- if you’re trying to figure out exactly what makes two s-like sounds different, it would be helpful if you could kinda sorta turn the language processing part of your brain off for a sec and just process them as sounds.
In this episode, your hosts Lauren Gawne and Gretchen McCulloch get enthusiastic about linguistic visualizations that let us examine sounds in more detail. One kind of visual is a wave form (which is found in many podcast apps!) and consists of longer lines for louder parts and shorter lines for quieter parts. Another kind of visual is a spectrogram, which shows a massive range of possible pitches and shades in which pitches have stuff going on during them at each time, sort of like a giant musical staff with thousands of potential notes. Spectrograms are especially popular in linguistics (there are even spectrogram reading competitions at conferences sometimes), although they’re also used for things like recording bird calls and making weird music videos, and there’s much-beloved free program called Praat which has been used to make them for over 30 years. If you don’t want to download a program, there are also free websites which let you speak into a live running spectrogram and see what it looks like, and we’ve produced a sample for you!
We’ve created a dedicated video clip of the five minutes we spent using the real-time spectrogram maker, which you can watch here: https://youtu.be/ztctdMcK_1A
Thanks to ScienceMusic.org for the handy real-time spectrogram maker, and go check it out yourself if you want to see what you sound like making various sounds. https://spectrogram.sciencemusic.org/
LingComm Grants are back in 2022! These are small grants to help kickstart new projects to communicate linguistics to broader audiences. There will be a $500 Project Grant, and ten Startup Grants of $100 each. Apply here by March 31, 2022 or forward this page to anyone you think might be interested, and if you’d like to help us offer more grants, you can support Lingthusiasm on Patreon or contribute directly. We started these grants because a small amount of seed money would have made a huge difference to us when we were starting out, and we want to help there be more interesting linguistics communication in the world. https://lingcomm.org/grants/
If you want to help keep our ongoing lingthusiastic activities going, from the LingComm Grants to regular episodes to fun things like liveshows and Q&As, join us on Patreon! As a reward, you will get over 50 bonus episodes to listen to and access to our Discord server to chat with other language nerds. In this month's bonus episode we interview each other! We chat about what we were up to in 2021, what's coming in 2022, what we've been reading, our most mind blowing moments of linguistics undergrad, and more. Listen here! https://www.patreon.com/lingthusiasm
For links to everything mentioned in this episode: https://lingthusiasm.com/post/673943123952549888/episode-64-making-speech-visible-with
63: Where to get your English etymologies
When you look at a series of words that sorta sound like each other, such as pesto, paste, and pasta, it’s easy to start wondering if they might have originated with a common root word. Etymologists take these hunches and painstakingly track them down through the historical record to find out which ones are true and which ones aren’t -- in this case, that paste and pasta have a common ancestor, but pesto comes from somewhere else.
In this episode, your hosts Gretchen McCulloch and Lauren Gawne get enthusiastic about English etymology! We talk about where the etymological parts of dictionaries come from, the gaps in our knowledge based on the biases of historical sources, how you can become the Etymology Friend (with help from Etymonline), and which kinds of etymologies should immediately make you put your debunking hat on (spoiler: anything containing an acronym or formatted like an image meme. Just saying.). Now you too can have etymology x-ray vision! (Aka, where to quickly look up etymologies on your phone!).
Read the transcript here.
Thanks for celebrating our 5 year anniversary with us! We loved seeing you share all your favourite Lingthusiasm episodes and moments. We’re looking forward to another year of sharing linguistic joy with you.
This month’s bonus episode is about linguistics olympiads! These involve a series of fun linguistic puzzles, sort of like sudoku for linguistics. Since linguistics isn't commonly taught in high schools, the puzzles can't assume any prior linguistics knowledge, so they're either logic puzzles as applied to language or they teach you basic linguistics concepts in the preamble to the question, making them great for ling fans as well. Alas, we were not in high school recently enough to participate in any olympiads ourselves, so we also talk about how people can get involved if you're not a high school student, from helping to host a session at a local high school or university to just doing puzzles for fun and interest (they're available for free with answer keys on the olympiad websites, plus there was a recent book that came out compiling some of them). Plus: how Lauren has made a few olympiad puzzles herself!
Get access to this and over 50 more bonus Lingthusiasm episodes (and help keep the show ad-free) by supporting Lingthusiasm on Patreon. www.patreon.com/lingthusiasm
For links to everything in this episode visit the shownotes page: https://lingthusiasm.com/post/670767938518827008/episode-63-where-to-get-your-english-etymologies
62: Cool things about scales and implicature
We can plot the words we use to describe temperature on a scale: cold, cool, warm, hot. It’s not as precise as a temperature scale like Celsius or Fahrenheit, but we all generally agree on where these words sit in relation to each other. We can also do the same with other sets of words that don’t necessarily have an equivalent scientific scale, such as the relationship between “some", "a few" and “many“ or even words like "suppose”, “believe” and “know”.
In this episode, your hosts Gretchen McCulloch and Lauren Gawne get enthusiastic about the things that get implied when we use words that involve scales, aka scalar implicature. Why can we revise our description of a warm coffee by saying “actually, it’s hot” but not “actually, it’s cold”? What happens when your language breaks up the scale differently to another language (spoiler: everyone can still agree that a warm spring day is different to a scorching hot one in the height of summer). And how can implied scales be used for humorous purposes, as in the Whale Fact™ that many whales were never taught how to drive manual stick shift?
It’s our 5 year anniversary! We’ve loved sharing the Lingthusiasm with you all these year, and as we do every year for our anniversary celebrations, we’re asking you to share it too! Share your favourite episode or moment on social media (and don’t forget to tag us!), or just tell a friend who you think could use a little more linguistics in their life. Then go forth and enjoy the warm fuzzies of having spread the linguistic joy!
In this month’s bonus episode we’re getting enthusiastic about linguistic illusions! We talk about the where the Yanny/Laurel illusion that became popular on social media a while back came from, the McGurk Effect, using the Stroop Test to find spies, hallucinating words from musical instruments, the Comparative Illusion (aka "More people have been to Russia than I have"), and making our own speech to song illusion to infect you with (sorry) (no but seriously).
Join us on Patreon to listen to this and 56 other bonus episodes. You’ll also get access to the Lingthusiasm Discord server where you can discuss your favourite linguistically interesting fiction with other language nerds! https://www.patreon.com/lingthusiasm
For links to everything in this episode:
61: Corpus linguistics and consent - Interview with Kat Gupta
If you want to know what a particular person, era, or society thinks about a given topic, you might want to read what that person or people have written about it. Which would be fine if your topic and people are very specific, but what if you’ve got, say, “everything published in English between 1800 and 2000″ and you’re trying to figure out how the use of a particular word (say, “the”) has been changing? In that case, you might want to turn to some of the text analysis tools of corpus linguistics -- the area of linguistics that makes and analyzes corpora, aka collections of texts.
In this episode, your host Gretchen McCulloch gets enthusiastic about corpus linguistics with Dr Kat Gupta, a lecturer in English Language and Linguistics at the University of Roehampton in London, UK. We talk about how Kat’s interests changed along their path in linguistics, what to think about when pulling together a bunch of texts to analyze, and two of Kat’s cool research projects -- one using a corpus of newspaper articles to analyze how people perceived the various groups within the suffrage movement, and one about what we can learn about consent from their 1.4 billion-word corpus of online erotica.
There's just under two weeks left to sign up for the Lingthusiastic Sticker Pack! Become a Ling-phabet patron or higher by November 3, 2021 (anywhere on earth) and we'll send you a pack of four fun Lingthusiasm-related stickers! Plus, if we hit our stretch goal, that'll also include the two bouba and kiki stickers below for all sticker packs. Tea and scarf, sadly, not included, but the usual tier rewards of IPA wall of fame tile and Lingthusiast sticker are. (That could be seven stickers!) https://www.patreon.com/lingthusiasm
In this month’s patron bonus episode, Lauren and Gretchen get enthusiastic about improving linguistics content on Wikipedia! We talk about gaps and biases that still exist for linguistics-related articles, getting started with Wikipedia edit-a-thons for linguists (#lingwiki) in 2015, how Wikipedia can fit into academia (from wiki journals to classroom editing assignments), and the part that Wikipedia played in the Lingthusiasm origin story. To access this and 55 other bonus episodes, join the Lingthusiasm patreon: https://www.patreon.com/lingthusiasm
For links to things mentioned in this episode: https://lingthusiasm.com/post/665693903339536384/episode-61-corpus-linguistics-and-consent
60: That’s the kind of episode it’s - clitics
Here’s a completely normal and unremarkable sentence. Let’s imagine we have two different coloured pens, and we’re going to circle the words in red and the affixes, that’s prefixes and suffixes, in blue.
“Later today, I’ll know if I hafta get some prizes for Helen of Troy’s competition, or if it isn’t necessary.”
Some of these are pretty straightforward. “Some”? Word. The -s on “prizes”? Affix. But some of them, “I’ll”, “hafta”, “Helen of Troy’s”, “isn’t”....hmmm.
In this episode, your hosts Lauren Gawne and Gretchen McCulloch get enthusiastic about a small bit of language that’s sort of a halfway point between a standalone word and a fully glommed-on affix: the clitic! We talk about why sentences like “That’s the kind of linguist I’m” feel so strange and how on the one hand clitics are a sign of increased efficiency in terms of saying more common words more quickly, but on the other hand they kind of add complication because there are some contexts where the full forms of the words would be fine and yet the clitic doesn’t work, giving you one more thing to keep track of. We also talk about clitics and reduced forms of words in Yolmo, Old English, and Dutch, and how clitic pronouns might be evolving into affixes in French and Spanish.
We’re excited to announce a special offer that we’re running on Patreon that brings you fun things in the mail! Join the Ling-phabet tier or higher by November 3, 2021 (anywhere on earth) and get a sticker pack of FOUR stickers:
- Two round “Schwa never stressed” stickers (one floral, one geometric)
- One classic square Lingthusiasm logo sticker
- One BECAUSE INTERNET bookplate sticker signed by Gretchen, for you to stick inside your copy or anywhere else you like
Plus, if we reach a total of 1400 patrons at any level before November 3, then the sticker pack will also include:
- Two mini Lingthusiasm green cutout stickers, one of which is called “bouba” and the other “kiki” — which is which? That’s an experiment you get to run on your friends when you stick them on your phone case, water bottle, laptop, etc.
This special offer is part of the Ling-phabet tier, which also has the ordinary perk of letting patrons sponsor an IPA symbol or other special character and be recognized on the Lingthusiasm website on our “Supporter Wall of Fame” page. You can get your symbol through our ~*~super scientific~*~ Which IPA Character Are You Quiz, or just tell us what your favourite character or other Unicode symbol is. Then you get an image with your name and favourite symbol on it (see samples here!) recognizing you as a supporter, which you can share on social media/print off and use as a bookmark/gaze at in warm satisfaction/etc. Plus, after 3 months at this tier, you get its regular “Lingthusiast” sticker in the mail, so that could be a total of 5 (or 7) stickers and 2 joyous mail occasions for you! www.patreon.com/lingthusiasm
In this month’s bonus episode, we talk with Emily Gref, a linguist who’s been working at a new language museum called Planet Word since 2018, first on creating content for the museum and, now that it’s open, on analyzing how visitors interact with the exhibits. We talk about what’s in Planet Word (including a library room with secret passage!), Emily’s career journey from academia to publishing to the museum world, and Emily’s passionate defence of pigeons.
Join us on Patreon to listen to this and 53 other bonus episodes. You’ll also get access to the Lingthusiasm Discord server where you can discuss your favourite linguistically interesting fiction with other language nerds!
For links to things mentioned in this episode: https://lingthusiasm.com/post/662535562508517376/lingthusiasm-episode-60-thats-the-kind-of
59: Are you thinking what I'm thinking? Theory of Mind
Let's say I show you and our friend Gavagai a box of chocolates, and then Gav leaves the room, and I show you that the box actually contains coloured pencils. (Big letdown, sorry.) When Gav comes back in the room a minute later, and we've closed the box again, what are they going to think is in the box?
In this episode, your hosts Gretchen McCulloch and Lauren Gawne get enthusiastic about Theory of Mind -- our ability to keep track of what other people are thinking, even when it's different from what we know ourselves. We talk about the highly important role of gossip in the development of language, reframing how we introduce people to something they haven't heard of yet, and ways of synchronizing mental states across groups of people, from conferences to movie voiceovers.
This month’s bonus episode is about some of the linguistically interesting fiction we've been reading lately! We talk about the challenges of communicating with sentient plants (from the plant's perspective) in Semiosis by Sue Burke, communicating with aliens by putting babies in pods (look, it was the 1980s) in Suzette Haden Elgin's classic Native Tongue, communicating with humans on a sailing ship using a sorta 19th century proto-internet in Courtney Milan's The Devil Comes Courting, and taking advantage of the difficulty of translation in communicating poetry across cultures in A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine. https://www.patreon.com/lingthusiasm
Join us on Patreon to listen to this and 53 other bonus episodes. You’ll also get access to the Lingthusiasm Discord server where you can discuss your favourite linguistically interesting fiction with other language nerds! https://www.patreon.com/lingthusiasm
For links to all the things mentioned in this episode: https://lingthusiasm.com/post/659993200644308992/01-speaking-a-single-language-wont-bring-about
My favorite podcast
Lingthusiasm is so much fun! I’ve listened to countless episodes at this point and love it. I’ve learned so much, and funnily enough, when I’m having a lot of anxiety, popping on an episode really helps me relax. Thank you, Lauren and Gretchen!
The content seems interesting but one of the hosts speaks WAY too fast for me to keep up
This podcast is delightful dive into the totally wild world of linguistics, that feels like you’re listening in on 2 brilliant friends having a chat. It’s changed the way I think about the my speech, especially on dating apps.