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A podcast that's enthusiastic about linguistics by Gretchen McCulloch (All Things Linguistic) and Lauren Gawne (Superlinguo). A weird and deep conversation about language delivered right to your ears the third Thursday of every month. 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
 
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“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 Gawn…
 
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 t…
 
If you go to the linguistics section of a big library, you may find some shelves containing thick, dusty grammars of various languages. But grammars, like dictionaries, don’t just appear out of nowhere -- they’re made by people, and those people bring their own interests and priorities to the process. In this episode, your hosts Lauren Gawne and Gr…
 
When we tell you, “stay lingthusiastic!” at the end of every episode, we’re using a grammatical feature known as the imperative. But although it might be amusing to imagine ancient Roman emperors getting enthusiastic about linguistics, unlike Caesar we don’t actually have the ability to enforce this command. So although “stay lingthusiastic!” has t…
 
There’s no known human society without language, whether spoken or signed or both, but writing is a different story. Writing is a technology that has only been invented from scratch a handful of times: in ancient Sumeria (where it may have spread to ancient Egypt or been invented separately there), in ancient China, and in ancient Mesoamerica. Far …
 
“Cold enough for ya?” “Nice weather for ducks.” Small talk is a valuable piece of our social interactions -- it can be a way of having a momentary exchange with someone you don’t know very well or a bridge into getting to know someone better by figuring out which deeper conversational topics might be of mutual interest. In this episode of Lingthusi…
 
“Blick” is not a word of English. But it sounds like it could be, if someone told you a meaning for it. “Bnick” contains English sounds, but somehow it doesn’t feel very likely as an English word. “Lbick” and “Nbick” seem even less likely. What’s going on? In this episode, your hosts Lauren Gawne and Gretchen McCulloch get enthusiastic about the un…
 
Before even starting to translate a work, a translator needs to make several important macro-level decisions, such as whether to more closely follow the literal structure of the text or to adapt more freely, especially if the original text does things that are unfamiliar to readers in the destination language but would be familiar to readers in the…
 
High school is a time when people really notice small social details, such as how you dress or what vowels you’re using. Making choices from among these various factors is a big way that we assert our identities as we’re growing up. For a particular group of students in the UK, they’re on the forefront of linguistic innovation using a variety known…
 
Adjectives: they’re big, they’re fun, they’re...maybe non-existent? In English, we have a fairly straightforward category of adjectives: they’re words that can get described with a comparative or a superlative, such as “bigger” or “most fun”. But when we start looking across lots of languages, we find that some languages lump adjectives in with ver…
 
How are you? Thanks, no problem. Stock, ritualistic social phrases like these, which are used more to indicate a particular social context rather than for the literal meaning of the words inside have a name in linguistics -- they’re called phatics! In this episode, your hosts Lauren Gawne and Gretchen McCulloch get enthusiastic about the social dan…
 
Language is much older than writing. But audio and visual cues from sounds and signs don’t leave physical traces the way writing does. So when linguists want to figure out how people talked before history started being recorded, we need to engage in some careful detective work, by comparing two or more similar, known languages to (potentially!) rec…
 
The words about, broken, council, potato, and support have something in common -- they all contain the same sound, even though they each spell it with a different letter. This sound is known as schwa, it's written as an upside-down lowercase e, and it has the unique distinction of being the only vowel with a cool name like that! (The other vowels a…
 
Using “they” to refer to a single person is about as old as using “you” to refer to a single person: for example, Shakespeare has a line “There's not a man I meet but doth salute me. As if I were their well-acquainted friend”, and the Oxford English Dictionary has citations for both going back to the 14th century. More recently, people have also be…
 
Asking which language is the hardest to learn is like asking where the furthest place is – it all depends on where you start. And for babies, who start out not knowing any of them, all natural languages are eminently learnable – because otherwise they wouldn’t exist at all! In this episode of Lingthusiasm, your hosts Gretchen McCulloch and Lauren G…
 
How do languages talk about the time when something happens? Of course, we can use words like “yesterday”, “on Tuesday”, “once upon a time”, “now”, or “in a few minutes”. But some languages also require their speakers to use an additional small piece of language to convey time-related information, and this is called tense. In this episode of Lingth…
 
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