Podcasts offer people the opportunity to learn, be entertained, or catch up on news while plodding through everyday tasks. While suffering an arduous commute, running on a treadmill or scrubbing the toilet, podcasts engage one’s mind.
There are many vehicles for those who love learning about other cultures and history. From this passion, many form an interest in learning about languages. The world of linguistics podcasts is vast and varied and there are a plethora of podcasts for language lovers.
Here are three great linguistics podcasts for the language lovers of the world.
The History of English Podcast
The straightforward title of the History of English can be misleading. This podcast is centered around the English language, but in telling the history of English, Kevin Stroud dives into each and every culture that has influenced the English language.
Stroud spends every episode focused on the source of words related to specific subjects like law, property, marriage, farming, business, etc. If you enjoy learning about the etymology of words, this is the podcast for you.
Stroud not only discusses etymology of English words, he also explains historical events and their influence on English today. The influence the Norman invasion of 1066 had on English is more well known, but the impact of the Danish (Viking) invasions of England on the language is sometimes overlooked (Note: the Normans were descendants of Vikings who settled in France).
Episode recommendation: Norse Words and New English
Why: Old Norse had a profound impact on the English language. While Vikings had raided the coasts of Europe for decades, in 865 the Danes executed a full-on invasion on the fractured English kingdoms.
For decades, the Danes controlled swaths of eastern and northern England (a region known as the Danelaw) and it’s in this period that Norse begins to influence English. Old German is the common language ancestor of both Old Norse and English. Old German commonly used hard ‘SKA’ sounds in many words. As the English evolved, speakers dropped the SKA sound and replaced it with ‘SH’ while Norse maintained the ‘SKA.’
Fast forward to the Danish invasions and words with similar meanings begin to encounter each other. These encounters then shift to new more specific appropriations. In old English, the word ‘shirt’ generally referred to clothing while in old Norse the word ‘skirt’ referred to clothing. Over time, shirt was appropriated to articles of clothing for the upper body while skirt was directed to the lower part. And to this day, the Nordic influence on English can still be heard in dialects spoken in Northern England.
The World in Words
Hosted by Public Radio International’s (NPR) Patrick Cox, the World in Words is one of the newer linguistics podcasts. In their own words, “The World in Words podcast is about language — everything from bilingual education to the globalization of English to Icelandic insults.”
Why does Ikea call this Ottoman a Färlöv? Why does Eddie Izzard perform comedy in four languages? How do football teams communicate at the World Cup? This podcast answers so many questions listeners didn’t even know they were curious about.
Episode recommendation: Some people are ashamed of Spanish in Miami. Wait, what?
Why: In this episode, the podcast discusses the strange relationship Miamians have with the Spanish language. This episode discusses the history of bilingual education in Miami as well as the complex relationship the children of immigrants have with their parents’ mother languages.
Maria Murriel describes life growing up in Miami stuck in a Catch 22. She’s proud of her parents and her heritage, yet was embarrassed to speak Spanish in certain social situations because of fear of being labeled a “reffy” (derived from refugee) by more established Hispanic populations in Miami. This episode touches on many issues related to assimilation and other modern complexities of language learning.
Talk the Talk
Talk the Talk is based out of Perth, Australia’s RTR FM 92.1 radio station, hosts Daniel Midgley, Ben Ainslie, and Kylie Sturgess discuss hot topics happening in the world of linguistics with a touch of mirth.
The trio of hosts are as educational as they are entertaining. While discussing complex subjects with deep understanding, they simultaneously provide fun, joking banter that makes the subjects easier to grasp and absorb. Talk the Talk discusses everything from why people love and hate puns to how emojis sometimes perfectly explain certain situations, they’ve got it covered.
Episode recommendation: Voice of the Apes
Why: For decades, the consensus on ape’s lack of ability to speak to one another is that their vocal cords are not developed to the point to engage in the act of ‘talking.’ This idea has persisted for decades; however, recent discoveries have disproven the idea of ‘under developed’ vocal cords. The gang discusses these new pieces of information while inserting jokes about apes taking over the world. A fascinating subject presented in an entertaining fashion.
Know About More Linguistics Podcasts?
The world of podcasts is extremely dense. There’s something for anyone about anything. If you take a chance to listen to these or other great linguistics podcasts, let me know your thoughts. Find me on twitter @ko_slick