How do different languages play with pitch to create differences in meaning? How do we tell where stress falls? In this episode, we look at stress and foot structure: how languages use tone, pitch, and stress; how we can build different kinds of feet; and how where we place our stress can change the way we emphasize our sounds.
Topic 59: Eye Tracking
What do our eyes do while we read written language? What can their movements tell us about our processing? In this episode, we look at eye tracking: how we can measure these small movements, what following how people read shows us about processing, and how even just studying how we look at pictures can unlock how our brains approach incoming words.
Topic 58: Common Ground
How do we work with the people we're talking with to make conversation flow smoothly? What tools can we use to show we're engaged? In this episode, we talk about common ground: how we build it, whether it differs for face-to-face vs. online communications, and how memes and new turns of phrase can help conversations and communities along.
Topic 57: Parameter Resetting
How do we change our grammars when we pick up a new language? Is there a limit to how much we can shift? In this episode, we talk about parameter resetting in second language acquisition: how quickly we can change our transferred grammar, whether there's a difference in ability between children and adults, and whether there are some areas where we might be unable to adjust.
Topic 56: Historical Reconstruction
What did our languages sound like before we had written records? How can we work that out? In this episode, we talk about historical reconstruction of languages: what methods we can use to rebuild long-dead systems, what groupings of languages we can put together using these techniques, and if there’s a limit to how far back we can go.
Topic 55: Set Theory and Adjectives
How do we form sets of different elements? How do those collections contribute to meaning? In this episode, we talk about set theory: the basics of how it works, how it connects to adjectives, and how it informs the way we build up larger meanings from individual words.
Topic 54: Lingua Francas
How do some languages get to be so widespread? What happens to them once they're in such broad use? In this episode, we talk about lingua francas: where they come from, and how they grow. We also discuss a few different examples: English, Latin, Nahuatl, and Indonesian!
Topic 53: Phonation and Glottal States
How do our throats work to make different kinds of sounds? What different settings for our vocal folds do we have? In this episode, we talk about phonation and glottal states: how air interacts with our anatomy to create waves, what settings we have besides voiced, voiceless, and closed completely, and how these other settings, breathy and creaky voice, are used across languages. And how they're all totally fine and cool!
Topic 52: Raising and Control Verbs
How does a sentence's structure change when you swap one word for another? How can we know what those changes are? In this episode, we talk about raising and control verbs: what they are, how we can tell that they're different, and what they can tell us about how syntax works.
Topic 51: Predictions about the Future of Language
What might happen to language in the future? What changes can we foresee based on what we know now? In this episode, we look at predictions for the future of language: how the past tense in English may change, how many of the world's languages may go extinct, and whether we'll all end up with a global language.