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
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
58: A Fun-Filled Fricative Field Trip
What do the sounds fffff, vvvv, ssss, and zzzz all have in common? They're all produced by creating a sort of friction in your mouth when you constrict two parts against each other, whether that's your lips, your teeth, your tongue, the roof of your mouth, or in your throat. This whole class of sounds that are produced using friction are known as fricatives!
In this episode, your hosts Gretchen McCulloch and Lauren Gawne get enthusiastic about fricatives! We take you on a tour from the front of your mouth to the back (sadly, you’ll have to imagine the tiny cartoon schoolbus for yourself), and tell some of our favourite fricative-related stories along the way, including how the printing press is responsible for Ye Olde Teashoppe signs, the Extremely Welsh clothing chain LL Bean, and Gretchen’s erstwhile student days playing IPA Scrabble.
If you have fricative stories of your own to add, feel free to talk about them in the Lingthusiasm Discord, or tag us in them on social media @lingthusiasm and we might share them!
We have new merch! Have you always wanted to recreate the classic psycholinguistics experiment of cross-modal perception wherever you go? With our bold coloured kiki/bouba merch you can! https://www.redbubble.com/people/lingthusiasm/
If I give you a rounded, lumpy shape and a sharp, spiky one, and tell you that one is called kiki and the other bouba, which name would you attach to which shape? It turns out that people's responses are surprisingly consistent! This classic experiment in cross-modal perception featured in Lingthusiasm episode 21: What words sound spiky across languages?, has become a favourite subject of linguistics memes, and is now available as Lingthusiasm merch! https://www.redbubble.com/people/lingthusiasm/
What the fricative
Whether you're having a fricative hard day or you're just fricative surprised, now you can confuse people by not actually swearing and secretly give yourself an excuse to chat linguistics with them, thanks to our What the Fricative items in black or white text! Check out our cheeky ‘What The Fricative’ merch for all your almost-sweary needs! https://www.redbubble.com/people/lingthusiasm/
As ever, we love seeing photos of any Lingthusiasm merch in your lives! Tag us in them @lingthusiasm on social media!
In fiction, we can often tell when a character is drunk or high by their way of speaking: when someone's slurring sounds together or jumping erratically from topic to topic, the audience is meant to assume that they're under the influence. But how accurate are these fictional portrayals?
In this episode, Lauren and Gretchen get enthusiastic about two fun studies of how people talk differently when under the influence of alcohol or cannabis: the German Alcohol Language Corpus and the delightfully named "Dude, What Was I Talking About? A New Sociolinguistic Framework for Marijuana-Intoxicated Speech". We also talk about the logistical complications of setting out to study intoxicated speech, from setting up fake pubs and recording in a "vehicular environment" to the ethical issues around how to make sure that impaired people are giving informed consent to participate (tip: ask them when they're still sober).
Join us on Patreon to learn more, and get access to 52 other bonus episodes! You’ll also get access to our Discord server, where you can chat about your favourite Pokémon names with other language nerds! https://www.patreon.com/lingthusiasm
For links mentioned in this episode: https://lingthusiasm.com/post/656826674919440384/lingthusiasm-episode-58-a-fun-filled-fricative
57: Making machines learn Fon and other African languages - Interview with Masakhane
When you see something on social media in a language you don’t read, it’s really handy to have a quick and good-enough “click to translate” option. But despite the fact that 2000 of the world’s languages are African, machine translation and other language tech tools don’t yet exist for most of them.
In this episode, your host Gretchen McCulloch interviews Jade Abbott and Bonaventure Dossou of Masakhane, a grassroots organisation whose mission is to strengthen and spur Natural Language Processing research in African languages, for Africans, by Africans. We talk about how they started working on language tech, Bona’s machine translator in Fon, and alternative models of participatory research and collective co-authorship.
This month’s bonus episode is about the linguistics of Pokémon names! Which sounds cuter, a Pikachu or a Charmander? Which sounds like it would be more likely to win in a fight, a Squirtle or a Blastoise? Even if you're not familiar with these pocket monsters, or if you're encountering new Pokémon you haven't heard of before, you might still have a vague sense of which names sound big or small, cuddly or powerful. This has lead to the creation of the delightful and entirely real linguistic subfield of Pokémonastics. https://www.patreon.com/lingthusiasm
Join us on Patreon to learn more, and get access to 51 other bonus episodes! You’ll also get access to our Discord server, where you can chat about your favourite Pokémon names with other language nerds! https://www.patreon.com/lingthusiasm
Here are the links mentioned in this episode: https://lingthusiasm.com/post/654293595359182848/lingthusiasm-episode-57-making-machines-learn-fon
56: Not NOT a negation episode
“I don’t have a pet dinosaur.” This sentence is, we assume, true for everyone listening to this episode (if it isn’t, uh, tell us your ways?). And yet it has a different feel to it than a more ordinary sentence like “I don’t have a cat”, the type of negated sentence that’s true for some people and not others.
In this episode, your hosts Lauren Gawne and Gretchen McCulloch get enthusiastic about negation! We talk about how languages make sentences negative, how negation fits into the social side of conversation, and two ways you can make things super extra negative: negative concord (aka “French toast negation”) and negative polarity items (aka “Mean Girls negation”). Plus, a few sneak peeks from the upcoming book Highly Irregular by Arika Okrent, which is coming out on July 1, 2021 and which we are delighted to recommend.
This month’s bonus episode is a recording of our live show! When someone else is telling a story, you might encourage them to keep talking or to elaborate on a particular point by making various words, sounds, phrases, or gestures, such as "oh really?" and "mhm-hm" and nodding. This linguistic behaviour is known as backchannelling. Join us on Patreon to learn more, and to get access to 50 other bonus episodes. You’ll also get access to our Discord server to chat with other lingthusiasts! www.patreon.com/lingthusiasm
For links to everything mentioned in this episode: https://lingthusiasm.com/post/651742548840398848/lingthusiasm-episode-56-not-not-a-negation
55: R and R-like sounds - Rhoticity
The letter R is just one symbol, but it can represent a whole family of sounds. In various languages, R can be made in various places, from the tip of your tongue to the back of your throat, and in various ways, from repeatedly trilling a small fleshy part against the rest of your mouth to an almost fully open mouth that’s practically a vowel.
In this episode, your hosts Lauren Gawne and Gretchen McCulloch get enthusiastic about R and R-like sounds, technically known as rhotics, including English r, French r, Spanish r and rr, and more. We also talk about how the presence or absence of R is a feature that distinguishes certain accents: think Canadian vs Australian English, northern vs southern varieties of English in the UK and US, and northern vs southern varieties of Mandarin.
We’re doing a virtual live show! It’s on April 24, 2021 and you can get access to it by becoming a patron of Lingthusiasm at any level. The Lingthusiasm liveshow is part of LingFest, a fringe-festival-like programme of independently organized online linguistics events for the week of April 24 to May 2. See the LingFest website for details on other events. https://lingcomm.org/lingfest/
The week before LingFest is LingComm21, the International Conference on Linguistics Communication. LingComm21 is a small, highly interactive, virtual conference that brings together lingcommers from a variety of levels and backgrounds, including linguists communicating with public audiences and communicators with a “beat” related to language. Find out more about LingComm21. https://lingcomm.org/conference/
This month’s bonus episode is about talking to babies and small children! We talk about how the way babies are addressed differs across cultures, how people sometimes alter their speech subtly for babies even when they think they don't, and how infant-directed speech differs from similar genres like pet-directed speech. Join us on Patreon to get access to this, as well as 49 other bonus episodes - as well as a ticket for you and a friend to our upcoming liveshow! https://www.patreon.com/lingthusiasm
For links to everything mentioned in this episode: https://lingthusiasm.com/post/648571714904670208/lingthusiasm-episode-55-r-and-r-like-sounds
Super happy to have found this podcast!
Outstanding podcast! Recently discovered it about a month ago, and I have already binged all 59 episodes. Can’t wait until more episodes are released. Hope we get more podcasts regarding some of the language families. Super interesting topics!
Linguistics made accessible!
Two great hosts, fun and educational discussion on a variety of topics in linguistics. If you’re looking for something to give you a primer on a topic, or just a fun way to learn about the ways we communicate, then Lingthusiasm is absolutely perfect!
Fantastic! I love linguistics, and this show is a wonderful example of the field. It’s understandable without talking down to the audience. I love the hosts’ enthusiasm and interplay.