How can we tell apart different sonorant consonants - your [n]s and [m]s, [l]s and [ɹ]s? What do their sound waves look like? In this episode, we take a look at the acoustics of nasal and approximant consonants: how opening up your nose influences your speech, how close some consonants are to being vowels, and why it can be hard for some people to tell apart the English l and r.
Topic 79: Possession and Determiner Phrases
How do we show possession in our syntax? And what does that tell us about representing nouns in our trees? In this episode, we take a look at determiner phrases: why we need them on top of noun phrases, how they turn some of our ideas about syntax inside out, and what they let us display in trees that we couldn't before.
Topic 78: L3 Acquisition
What knowledge do you start off with when you learn a third (or fourth, or fifth...) language? Do the languages you already have in your head help or interfere? In this episode, we talk about third language acquisition: whether you have to transfer from your first language, how you can build from the languages you already know, and what we still don't know about this new field.
Topic 77: A History of Clauses
What goes into making a sentence? How has our view of the sentence changed over time? In this episode, we look at the history of clauses: what our first conceptions of them were, how we came to view inflection as the key to the sentence, and why we then broke inflection down further and made tense central.
Topic 76: Compounds
How do we put words together to build more complex noun phrases? What do the structures of sentences and noun phrases have in common? In this episode, we talk about compound nouns: what they look and sound like, how big we can make them, and how they can let us delve into some deeper questions about syntax.
Topic 75: Information Structure
How do we focus on crucial information in our conversations? What methods do we have for moving things into the center of discussion? In this episode, we talk about information structure: how we build up the common ground in discussion, what we do to bring up topics and signal our focus, and how different languages use varying strategies to bring new ideas to the fore.
Topic 74: NPIs
Why can't we just use "ever" or "at all" in any sentence we want? What do we have to change about how a sentence works to let words like those in? In this episode, we talk about negative polarity items, or NPIs: when they can show up, why their name ismisleading, and how changing what a sentence entails changes everything for these little terms.
Topic 73: Ambiguities
Why do so many words and sentences have multiple meanings? How do we deal with all of the overlaps? In this episode, we talk about ambiguity: where it comes from, how we deal with processing it, and how children pick meanings from the menu of semantic possibilities they're presented with.
Topic 72: Derivational and Inflectional Morphology
How do we put our words together? What varieties of building blocks do we stack up to create bigger meanings? In this episode, we talk about derivational and inflectional morphology: what roles each of them play, how to tell them apart, and how differences in how we string them together can lead to ambiguity.
Topic 71: Word Order and VPISH
Why do different languages slot their words into sentences in different sequences? Do the subjects of sentences have to start off at the beginning of the sentence? In this episode, we talk about word order and the Verb Phrase-Internal Subject Hypothesis, or VPISH: how much variation in orders we see across languages, why having the subject start out lower down in the syntactic tree helps us capture these differences, and what other evidence we have that the subject might not start exactly where it appears.