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17: Vowel Gymnastics
Say, “aaaaaahhhh…..” Now try going smoothly from one vowel to another, without pausing: “aaaaaaaeeeeeeeiiiiiii”. Feel how your tongue moves in relation to the back of the roof of your mouth as you move from one vowel to the next. When you say “ahhhh” like at the dentist, your tongue is low and far back and your mouth is all the way open. If you say “cheeeeese” like in a photo, your tongue is higher up and further forward, and your mouth is more closed: it’s a lot harder for the dentist to...
16: Learning parts of words - Morphemes and the wug test
Here’s a strange little blue animal you’ve never seen before. It’s called a wug. Now here’s another one. There are two of them. There are two ___? You probably thought “wugs” – and even kids as young as 3 years old would agree with you. But how did you know this, if you’ve never heard the word “wug” before? What is it that you know, exactly, when you know how to add that -s? Now try saying two cat__ 🐈🐈, two dog__ 🐕🐕 and two horse__ 🐎🐎. Why did you end up with catssss but dogzzzz, and...
15: Talking and thinking about time
When we talk about things that languages have in common, we often talk about the physical side, the fact that languages are produced by human bodies, using the same brain and hands and vocal tract. But they’re also all produced (so far) by people from the same planet and going through the same fourth dimension: time. As the earth revolves around the sun again, each of your Lingthusiasm cohosts is going through another longest (Lauren) or shortest (Gretchen) day, and we’re reflecting on how...
14: Getting into, up for, and down with prepositions
Are you up for some prepositions? You might think you’re over prepositions, but have you ever really looked into them, or have you just gone by them? Other parts of speech notwithstanding, prepositions are something we’re really down with. In Episode 14 of Lingthusiasm, your hosts Gretchen McCulloch and Lauren Gawne introduce you to our favourite English grammar book, the mammoth, 1800-page Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (affectionately known as CGEL), and take a deep dive into...
13: What Does it Mean to Sound Black? Intonation and Identity Interview with Nicole Holliday
If you grow up with multiple accents to choose from, what does the one you choose say about your identity? How can linguistics unpick our hidden assumptions about what “sounds angry” or “sounds articulate”? What can we learn from studying the melodies of speech, in addition to the words and sounds? In Episode 13 of Lingthusiasm, your host Gretchen McCulloch interviews Dr. Nicole Holliday, an Associate Professor of linguistics at Pomona Collegem about her work on the speech of American...
12: Sounds you can’t hear - Babies, accents, and phonemes
Why does it always sound slightly off when someone tries to imitate your accent? Why do tiny children learning your second language already sound better than you, even though you’ve been learning it longer than they’ve been alive? What does it mean for there to be sounds you can’t hear? In Episode 12 of Lingthusiasm, your hosts Lauren Gawne and Gretchen McCulloch explore the fundamental linguistic insight at the heart of all these questions: the phoneme. We also talk about how to bore...
11: Layers of meaning - Cooperation, humour, and Gricean Maxims
– Would you like some coffee? – Coffee would keep me awake. Does that mean yes coffee, or no coffee? It depends! Is it the morning or the evening? Is the person trying to pull an all-nighter or take an afternoon nap? A computer looking strictly at the meanings of the words would be confused, but we humans do this kind of thing all the time without even noticing it. In episode 11 of Lingthusiasm, your hosts Gretchen McCulloch and Lauren Gawne talk about the hidden assumptions of cooperation...
08: People who make dictionaries - Review of WORD BY WORD by Kory Stamper
Dictionaries: they’re made by real people! In episode 8 of Lingthusiasm, your hosts Lauren Gawne and Gretchen McCulloch talk about Word by Word, a recent book by Kory Stamper, a lexicographer at Merriam-Webster, about how dictionaries get made. (Spoiler: we liked it.) We also talk about how dictionaries get made for languages that don’t have any yet, the changing role of dictionaries on the internet and with social media, and how words often have a longer history than we expect...
07: Kids these days aren’t ruining language
There are some pretty funny quotes of historical people complaining about kids back then doing linguistic things that now seem totally unremarkable. So let’s cut to the chase and celebrate linguistic innovation while it’s happening. In episode 7 of Lingthusiasm, your hosts Lauren Gawne and Gretchen McCulloch explore how far back we can trace complaints about the language of Kids These Days, why linguistic discrimination is harmful, and why “be like”, hyperbolic “literally”, and other...
05: Colour words around the world and inside your brain
Red, orange, yellow, grue, and purple? Not so fast – while many languages don’t distinguish between green and blue, it’s unlikely that a language would lump these two together while also having distinct words for “orange” and “purple”. But how do we know this? What kinds of ways do different languages carve up the colour spectrum? Why does English say “redhead” instead of “orangehead”? How do colour words interact with smells, reading, and the human brain? In episode 5 of the podcast...
04: Inside the Word of the Year vote
Every January, hundreds of linguists gather in a conference room somewhere in the US to discuss and vote for the Word of the Year. It’s the longest-running and most public WotY proceedings, and it’s part of the annual meeting of the American Dialect Society, a sister society of the Linguistic Society of America. Gretchen was there this year and the past few years, while Lauren has never been (but actively reads the #woty16 hashtag on twitter!). We discuss what the ADS Word of the Year vote...
03: Arrival of the Linguists
Lingthusiasm Episode 3: Arrival of the linguists Linguists are very excited about the movie Arrival, because it stars a linguist saving the day by figuring out how to talk with aliens. Which, if you compare it to previous linguists in film (being obnoxious to poor flower girls, for example) is a vast improvement. In this episode of the podcast that’s enthusiastic about linguistics, Gretchen and Lauren come to you having just watched Arrival, to tell you what it got right and wrong about...
Lingthusiasm 01: Speaking a single language won’t bring about world peace
Wouldn’t it solve so many problems in the world if everyone just spoke the same language? Not so fast! Lingthusiasm is a brand-new podcast that’s enthusiastic about linguistics, hosted by Lauren Gawne of Superlinguo and Gretchen McCulloch of All Things Linguistic. In this first episode of Lingthusiasm, Gretchen and Lauren discuss the “one language equals peace” fallacy, and whether speaking the same words means that people will necessarily agree with each other (spoiler: no). But the...