Linguistics After Dark

Linguistics After Dark

Linguistics After Dark is a podcast where three linguists (and sometimes other people) answer your burning questions about language, linguistics, and whatever else you need advice about. We have three rules: any question is fair game, there's no research allowed, and if we can't answer, we have to drink. It's a little like CarTalk for language: call us if your language is making a funny noise, and we'll get to the bottom of it, with a lot of rowdy discussion and nerdy jokes along the way. At the beginning of the show, we introduce a new linguistics term, and there's even a puzzler at the end! read less
ScienceScience

Episodes

Episode 7: The Fax Machine of Gondor
Dec 10 2023
Episode 7: The Fax Machine of Gondor
Wherein we spin a shitpost question into linguistics gold. Jump right to: 0:58 Mailbag; revisiting our treatment of linguistic typology12:14 Language Thing of the Day: The Comparative Method32:32 Question 1: Is English a creole?40:34 Question 2: Are Old English and Modern English the same language?51:07 Question 3: Is there any part of language that isn’t just slang and jargon that’s made it into the mainstream?1:07:47 Last week’s puzzler answer1:08:33 The puzzler: Take the name of an old communication technology, add a letter, and mix the letters around. You should get the name of a new communication technology — what is it? Covered in this episode: How a language's words and syntax can fall into different places on the typology spectrumWe're not Fractions After Dark, but we do like PIEWhy Grimm's Law should be called Rask's RuleStar Wars spoilers via linguistic sound changesA linguistics hot take with meritThe deterioration of the institution of marriage via etymologyTime is the cement mixer of languageA defense of business jargon Links and other post-show thoughts: Morphological TypologySir William Jones's speech, with a quote presaging the comparative methodExample of a Swadesh listExamples of Grimm’s LawExamples of English and German post-Grimm shiftsEnglish Is Not Normal: A Case for English as a Semi-Creole Germanic, by John McWhorter (The article doesn’t appear to be accessible online, unfortunately.)We tried to answer the question “how many Romance languages are there?” and the answer is both “a lot, more than you might think” and “the number varies depending on what counts as a language” which, honestly, we should have seen coming.The History of English Podcast and the Saga Thing podcastLenition chartBill Labov's study about women being the agents of language change comes from Principles of Linguistic Change, Volume 2: Social Factors, in particular chapters 8-11. We couldn’t find a PDF available anywhere.The beacons are lit! Marketing calls for aid! Ask us questions: Send your questions (text or voice memo) to questions@linguisticsafterdark.com, or find us as @lxadpodcast on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook. Credits: Linguistics After Dark is produced by Emfozzing Enterprises. Edits: Luca; transcript: Luca/Jenny; notes: Jenny/Eli. Our music is "Covert Affair" by Kevin MacLeod. And until next time… if you weren’t consciously aware of your tongue in your mouth, now you are :)
Episode 6: Hamburger. Hamburger? Hamburger!
Nov 11 2023
Episode 6: Hamburger. Hamburger? Hamburger!
Wherein we find an excuse to recommend a bunch of music to you.Jump right to:2:26 Language Thing of the Day: Filler words14:17 Question 1: How did we get nicknames that don't seem to make sense? Like how did "Peggy" come out of "Margaret"?25:26 Question 2: Why do singers' accents almost always become less intense in their singing voices as opposed to their speaking voices?37:30 Question 3: How do we change the meaning of a sentence just by changing vocal pitch? Typed-out transcripts can lose the information conveyed by vocal pitch.1:04:32 Answer to last week's puzzler1:07:39 The puzzler: (Too long for Spotify! Check the post on our site!)Covered in this episode:Filler words in different languages (English, Japanese, ASL), and their discourse functionNames and their nickname equivalents: Margaret/Peggy, Theodore/Ted, Richard/Dick, John/JackBackformed names (e.g. if Nate is short for Nathan, then Kate is short for Kathan)How nicknames are formed in different languages (Russian, Polish, Chinese)What are children if not longitudinal linguistic studies?The Beatles, Whitney Houston, Blink-182, the RamonesOur future as an advice podcastGilbert & SullivanEffect of language exposure before birth on babies' linguistic behaviorNetspeak and netiquette in the 2000sgr8, gr9, T9Because Internet and its audiobook versionCourt transcript style guides of the futureHow to destroy a stuffed sheep with a lightbulbLinks and other post-show thoughts: Number One brand Thai iced tea (available loose or bagged)History of English podcast episode about first namesvlogbrothers video about the names John and HankPop punk accent article blink 182: "I'm an American guy faking an English accent faking an American accent," Green Day lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong told Rolling Stone in 1994.History of Punk docuseriesGilbert & Sullivan Modern Major General has excellent patter and limited lyrical. It was tough to find a G&S clip that had both by the same singer in back to back moments.Sondheim (Not) Getting Married Today has good patter vs lyrical.We couldn't find the My Cousin Vinny clip or Chinese nickname thread. If you find some, send them our way!The first five minutes: A sample of microscopic interview analysis by Pittenger, Hockett, and Danehy, which is a book from 1960 analyzing in minute detail the intonational meaning and paralinguistics of the first five minutes of a psychiatric interview.Ask us questions:Send your questions (text or voice memo) to questions@linguisticsafterdark.com, or find us as @lxadpodcast on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.Credits:Linguistics After Dark is produced by Emfozzing Enterprises. Luca edits, Jenny Sarah transcribed this one, and Sarah Eli did the show notes. Our music is "Covert Affair" by Kevin MacLeod. And until next time… if you weren't consciously aware of your tongue in your mouth, now you are :)
Bonus Episode: LxAD LIVE @ CrossingsCon 2022 (full video with audio description at the end)
Sep 23 2023
Bonus Episode: LxAD LIVE @ CrossingsCon 2022 (full video with audio description at the end)
Wherein we #GiveLinguistsSwords. (Please note that this recording cut out a lot of background noise and claps/cheers, so if there is a weird volume jump up or down, that might be why.) Jump right to: 00:04:42 Is syntax fake? 00:10:14 Favorite and least favorite words 00:23:48 How has profanity evolved with language? 00:34:40 What are the rules for onomatopoeia and how do they differ across languages? 00:41:13 What is lenition? 00:47:56 How do puns work in other languages? 01:02:15 What are fricatives? 01:02:33 The LxAD backstory 01:06:19 The first time we bring up L’Académie 01:08:12 Dead languages work poorly on the internet 01:12:44 Best stories of word mix-ups 01:18:12 How do colors work in different languages? 01:29:01 “It’s all Greek to me” 01:29:55 Where did the word orange come from? 01:31:36 Dialect-dependent homophones 01:34:56 What’s the most useless part of language? 01:40:29 Why is English spelling wonderful? 01:59:42 Sarah has to pronounce the hardest IPA sounds 02:07:30 The Thing At The End Covered in this episode: ⁠Kewpie mayo⁠ That feeling you get when someone else is suffering and you’re just glad it’s not you How to be rude and insulting but still G-rated Translator love SWORDS On a scale of dead to Amish… How to accidentally come on to someone in Spanish and ASL Cappuccinos Moose ⁠Dessus vs. dessous⁠ Links and other post-show thoughts: Due to our link shortener going down, please click through for the ⁠full list of additional links⁠. Ask us questions: Send your questions (text or voice memo) to questions@linguisticsafterdark.com, or find us as @lxadpodcast on Twitter, Instagram, & Facebook. Credits: Linguistics After Dark is produced by Emfozzing Enterprises. Luca edits, Sarah does show notes, transcription is a team effort. Our music is ⁠“Covert Affair” by Kevin MacLeod⁠. Join us at ⁠linguisticsafterdark.com/volunteer⁠! And until next time… if you weren’t consciously aware of your tongue in your mouth, now you are :)
Bonus Episode: LxAD LIVE @ CrossingsCon 2022
Sep 3 2023
Bonus Episode: LxAD LIVE @ CrossingsCon 2022
Wherein we #GiveLinguistsSwords. (Please note that this recording cut out a lot of background noise and claps/cheers, so if there is a weird volume jump up or down, that might be why.) Jump right to: 00:04:42 Is syntax fake? 00:10:14 Favorite and least favorite words 00:23:48 How has profanity evolved with language? 00:34:40 What are the rules for onomatopoeia and how do they differ across languages? 00:41:13 What is lenition? 00:47:56 How do puns work in other languages? 01:02:15 What are fricatives? 01:02:33 The LxAD backstory 01:06:19 The first time we bring up L’Académie 01:08:12 Dead languages work poorly on the internet 01:12:44 Best stories of word mix-ups 01:18:12 How do colors work in different languages? 01:29:01 “It’s all Greek to me” 01:29:55 Where did the word orange come from? 01:31:36 Dialect-dependent homophones 01:34:56 What’s the most useless part of language? 01:40:29 Why is English spelling wonderful? 01:59:42 Sarah has to pronounce the hardest IPA sounds 02:07:30 The Thing At The End Covered in this episode: Kewpie mayo That feeling you get when someone else is suffering and you’re just glad it’s not you How to be rude and insulting but still G-rated Translator love SWORDS On a scale of dead to Amish… How to accidentally come on to someone in Spanish and ASL Cappuccinos Moose Dessus vs. dessous Links and other post-show thoughts: Due to our link shortener going down, please click through for the full list of additional links. Ask us questions: Send your questions (text or voice memo) to questions@linguisticsafterdark.com, or find us as @lxadpodcast on Twitter, Instagram, & Facebook. Credits: Linguistics After Dark is produced by Emfozzing Enterprises. Luca edits, Sarah does show notes, transcription is a team effort. Our music is “Covert Affair” by Kevin MacLeod. Join us at linguisticsafterdark.com/volunteer! And until next time… if you weren’t consciously aware of your tongue in your mouth, now you are :)
LxAD @ CrossingsCon Announcement
Jul 28 2021
LxAD @ CrossingsCon Announcement
Hello, and welcome to Linguistics After Dark! I'm Sarah, and this not really an episode—it's another teaser for next week's live show at CrossingsCon: Slipping Sideways. At 7pm New York time, Tuesday August 3rd, we'll be doing a live episode with real questions from real audience members! That's you! The convention is free to attend, and throughout the rest of the week, your beloved podcast team (that's us!) will be participating in several other cool events as well! On Wednesday August 4th, at 8pm New York time, Eli will be running a pub-quiz-style general knowledge trivia game for anyone who wants to attend. On Friday August 6th, at 6pm New York time, Eli will also be joining writers CB Lee, Ursula Vernon, and Cat Valente to play Baron Munchausen, a wild and ridiculous semi-cooperative story-telling game. Then I'll be hosting and Jenny will be appearing on a panel about the creation and use of conlangs, currently scheduled for 8pm New York time on Friday August 6th. That one might change, so keep an eye on the website. And finally, as promised in our last live show, Eli and I will join our friend Dash to talk about the linguistics and archaelogy of the game Heaven's Vault. We'll be doing that on Saturday August 7th, at 7pm New York time. We hope to see you at as many of these events as possible, and we welcome you to check out crossingscon.org/events to get a full run-down of the whole convention. Thanks! And if you weren't consciously aware of your tongue in your mouth… now y'are :)
Episode 5: Schwa de Vivre
Aug 3 2020
Episode 5: Schwa de Vivre
Wherein we talk a LOT. Jump right to: 1:50 The International Phonetic Alphabet30:59 Corrections36:08 Question 1: Computer languages: Are they languages (in a linguistic sense)? They have rules, syntax, even dialects. They can express certain complex ideas better than English, but they cannot (easily) express arbitrary ideas.44:50 Question 2: What causes a compound word like ‘bluebird’ (a bird that is blue) to become bahuvrihi like ‘Blackbeard’ (not a beard that is black, but someone who has a black beard)?58:31 Question 3: If you could snap your fingers and know a new language, what would it be? (Like taking a point in D&D linguistics, you know the language as if you were a native speaker.) No rules, no restrictions (unless you want to pick one per category: real, commonly used; real, uncommonly used; real, dead; fake movie language; conlang).1:10:55 Last week’s puzzler’s answer1:12:50 The new puzzler: Three incandescent lightbulbs in a room, three lightswitches outside the room. You can look inside the room once and only once, after which you must decide which lightswitch controls which lightbulb. Covered in this episode: The IPA (developed by the IPA) ≠ an IPA, although Eli occasionally enjoys the latter tooɹ, ə, æ, ʃ, Ʒ, ŋ, œApple’s consistent failing of linguistsCursive IPA, which apparently existsHow to learn IPA“Bendy banana vowels”Diphthong? Dip-thong? Dip-tong? It’s up to you, reallyComputer languages have semantics but not pragmaticsA return of Gricean maxims having relevance (so to speak)Compound words in Dutch versus in EnglishThe gradual squishing-together of English compound words“Website” is a single word, congrats to the AP style guide on finally joining the 21st centuryGrilled cheese is not made on a barbequeAgglutinative vs polysynthetic mostly means “where do you put the spaces”Producer Jenny with the LOTR linguistic hot takeProducer Jenny with the (basic) elvish linguistic historyZulu is neat and has interesting noun classes/gender-that-isn’t-genderSign languages are awesome and should have more research done on them!!Also ASL is just a very useful second language in the USThis podcast exists because of Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series on multiple levels and y’all should read it (or listen! The audiobooks are so good!) Links and other post-show thoughts: IPA chartthe Summer Institute of Linguisticscursive IPA totally was a thingtypeit.org, and the PatreonAgglutinative vs polysynthetic languages and more!The Elvish languages mentioned: Quenya, Sindarin, and their shared ancestor, Common Eldarin (i.e., basically, “language of the elves”)Native ListeningThe Car Talk puzzle source Ask us questions: Send your questions (text or voice memo) to questions@linguisticsafterdark.com, or find us as @lxadpodcast on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Credits: Linguistics After Dark is produced by Emfozzing Enterprises. Eli edits, Sarah and Jenny transcribe and do show notes. Our music is “Covert Affair” by Kevin MacLeod. And until next time… if you weren’t aware of your tongue in your mouth, now you are :)
Episode 4: The HOA of Francophones
May 16 2020
Episode 4: The HOA of Francophones
Wherein we frequently get off topic and get angry at Les Immortels. Jump right to: 1:08 Things Sarah Is Mad About Once She Did the Show Notes3:39 Linguistic Thing of the Day: Borrowing!8:00 L’Académie Française is annoying22:27 Are there languages other than Irish that have the concept of helping vowels?33:51 How do linguistic rules emerge?51:36 Canadian raising! What actually is it?1:09:00 The puzzler: Why are these birds flying in from different directions? Covered in this episode: A very hardcore church named All Souls ParishCalques vs loanwordsSarah mispronouncing the Spanish word for “avocado”Epenthetic schwa and syllabic consonantsShould linguists get swords?L’Académie Française does not know how language worksAnglishLanguages are not mathematical constructsHow phonetic inventories and stress patterns differ between languagesLenition isn’t lazy, it’s economical!Pidgins are not pigeons (though neither has syntax)Linguistic redundancyAdopting children and/or giving them piggyback ridesVowels are like a shopping cart, or maybe a tromboneWhitney HoustonEmordnilaps Links and other post-show thoughts: Louisiana sort of has the Mary/marry/merry merger⟨scooch⟩ predates ⟨skosh⟩ and is not related! Nor is either related to ⟨skoosh⟩.All about Anglish! And all about physics in Anglish: Uncleftish BeholdingEpenthesis, and more about its presence in Ireland and the UK.The “Castilian lisp” is indeed not out of deference to a king, nor is it actually a lisp, but that folk-explanation apparently dates back to the late 1300s.⟨hƿæt⟩/⟨hwæt⟩ gives us ⟨what⟩ and also some DiscourseNative Listening (the book where Sarah read about that Spanish/English/Dutch word-stress study)Some online things related to thatLenition of consonants follows reliable patterns.Eli said a quote wrong! It should have been "Eventually, you sell enough fish together, you decide to have a kid." -Tom Purnell, Eli’s sociolinguistics professorGretchen McC on the basic English vowel cartCanadian raising diagrams and audio examplesWe’re grateful that you could bear with us Ask us questions: Send your questions (text or voice memo) to questions@linguisticsafterdark.com, or find us as @LxADpodcast on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Credits: Linguistics After Dark is produced by Emfozzing Enterprises. Eli edits, Jenny transcribes, and Sarah does show notes. Our music is "Covert Affair" by Kevin MacLeod. And until next time… if you weren’t consciously aware of your tongue in your mouth, now you are :)
Episode 3: The Gospel of the Wug
Apr 2 2020
Episode 3: The Gospel of the Wug
​Wherein we make wugability happen and invoke rule three. Jump right to: 3:40 The Part Where We Say The Title20:22 Are clicks consonants?30:22 Why do people like some words and hate others?43:53 An uncharacteristically serious discussion about conversational styles and their relation or lack thereof to gender65:18 The puzzler: What do the words ASSESS/BANANA/DRESSER/GRAMMAR/POTATO/REVIVE/UNEVEN/VOODOO have in common? Covered in this episode: The parts of linguistics we secretly don’t likeThe ablaut of yeetAn inadvertent All The Stations shoutoutJenny just says WalrusSend us law questions!The official LxAD Linguistics Hot TakesClicks, Ingressives, Ejectives, and... the other onesAaron/Erin is the new Mary/marry/merryPhonesthemesBubu and KikiOur show notes have research!Words are fake, but there’s a spectrum of realityIt’s like chai, but coffeeMeta language is important even for laypeople!High school teachers know the dank memes of today—sometimesIf you say the food "herb" with an "h" you're wrong but validOptimality theory easter egg? Links and other post-show thoughts: The original Wug Test by Jean Berko GleasonSo far Sarah has not found the German study that she referenced, but has learned a lot about The Discourse around what constitutes irregularity in German. If you have information about this, let us know!⟨snuck⟩ is indeed newer than ⟨sneaked⟩Ohio 2Choose your favorite wug pluralJBG’s Wug StoreVowels are still a hot messThe Other Consonants are called pulmonic consonants, which means that technically ejectives and ingressives are also not made using air from your lungs. We learned a thing.Phonesthemes are super cool!Bubu and kiki are also super cool!Another optimality theory jokeThere are new episode-specific highlights on our Instagram, with fancy highlight art! Ask us questions: Send your questions (text or voice memo) to questions@linguisticsafterdark.com, or find us as @lxadpodcast on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Credits: Linguistics After Dark is produced by Emfozzing Enterprises. Eli edits, Jenny transcribes, and Sarah does show notes. Our music is “Covert Affair” by Kevin MacLeod. And until next time… if you weren’t consciously aware of your tongue in your mouth, now you are :)
Episode 2: Juno's Geese
Feb 13 2020
Episode 2: Juno's Geese
Wherein we discuss how linguistics is everywhere but linguists are nowhere, and introduce the concept of the unsolicited etymology swear jar. Jump right to: 01:33 “Universal” word lists, bad puns, and university “field work” stories07:25 What composes an accent? What counts as a dialect? What about “little kid speak”?24:16 What are the most valuable ways linguistics can improve society?45:45 Favorite ridiculous etymologies54:31 The puzzler: What do the words JOB, POLISH, and HERB have in common? Covered in this episode: We love Car TalkDialects and accents often overlap but are not the same thingDialects and registers also often overlap but are not the same thingObligatory “A language is just a dialect with an army and a navy.”Linguistics After Dark has no official positions on contentious geopolitical issuesUnderstanding the value of descriptivism and the reality of language evolutionHot takes on regional identity in the UK vs North America vs CaliforniaWhy don’t journalists know that linguists exist?A story that has nothing to do with financial advising, and everything to do with geeseOK is the only acronym etymology that’s all correct Links and other post-show thoughts: Swadesh’s first name was MorrisMutual intelligibility on the Deutsch/Dutch borderMore mutual intelligibility, including Scandinavia, from an A++ YouTube channelVictor Mair, coiner of the word topolectAll sorts of ways linguists and linguistics benefit societyBBC and Received PronunciationHere are some diagrams about the overlap between linguistics and other fields (this last one is the one Sarah had in mind)The Unsolicited Etymology Trivia JarEtymologies of canary, easel, and lettuceThe full story of what the fuck, geese (spoiler alert: 356≠390)And yes, ⟨mint⟩ (where money is printed) is also related to ⟨moneta⟩Etymologies of island, isle, OK, and lox (which has a dialectical variation still spelled "lax"!) Ask us questions: Send your questions (text or voice memo) to questions@linguisticsafterdark.com, or find us as @lxadpodcast on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Credits: Linguistics After Dark is produced by Emfozzing Enterprises. Eli edits, Jenny transcribes, and Sarah does show notes. Our music is “Covert Affair” by Kevin MacLeod. Thanks for listening!
Episode 1: Batman's Batsman
Dec 24 2019
Episode 1: Batman's Batsman
Our very first episode, answering real language questions from real listeners! And boy do we live up to our no-research policy. (What is the truth about bubblers? TEACH THE CONTROVERSY!) Jump right to: 00:43 Thing of the Day: Ambiguity (...or is it?)04:28 In the English word ⟨scent⟩, is the ⟨s⟩ or the ⟨c⟩ silent?11:50 Has our study of linguistics caused us to consciously change how we talk?25:48 How should you pluralize superhero names?34:37 Can "informal" mean "giving information to the reader" along with "not formal"?39:30 The Puzzler: Can you find a word that has three double letters in a row? Covered in this episode: Fun with affixes!English “soft c” spelling rulesAwkward teenage spelling reform phasesA hot take not takenObligatory (incorrect) citation of the Martha’s Vineyard accent studyHow to tell if you should study linguisticsObligatory mention of “bubbler”Why is “bubbler” localised SO SPECIFICALLY?Everyone needs to see Spider-Man: Into The Spider-VerseHot takes on Spider-Men, the Toronto Maple Leafs, and the Attorney GeneralIn-laws and SinlawsObligatory Latin-based explanations⟨bassoon⟩ and ⟨balloon⟩ are basically the same word Links and other post-show thoughts: We have no link to back up Sarah’s assertion that ⟨sc⟩ makes an [ʃ] sound in Late Latin and modern Italian, despite a wide search. However, ⟨conscious⟩ is an English word where ⟨sc⟩ makes an [ʃ] sound, so that's almost as good.The Nantucket study, which was actually done in Martha’s Vineyard (no research, y'all)Confirmed: Kohler is a town named after the company named after the founding familyBubbler is related to a Kohler trademark Bubbler is not related to a Kohler trademark I don't know what to think about bubbler anymore (They exist in Portland, OR, too!)Fun fact: Sarah heard “Spider-Mans” in the wild the week after we recorded this podcast, explaining that "Into the Spider-Verse" has six total “Spider-Mans”. Native speaker intuition for the win!Etymologies of inform versus informalTurns out that ⟨informative⟩ ALSO used to be an inflammable-style contranym! (Well, sort of. It used to mean ⟨formative⟩. What even.) Ask us questions: Send your questions (text or voice memo) to questions@linguisticsafterdark.com, or find us as @lxadpodcast on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Credits: Linguistics After Dark is produced by Emfozzing Enterprises. Eli edits, Jenny transcribes, and Sarah does show notes. Our music is "Covert Affair" by Kevin McLeod. Thanks for listening!