When we're studying language, which rules are the rules that matter? We take a look at prescriptive and descriptive rules, and explains why the rules that tell you how you actually do something are more interesting and more scientific than the ones that tell you how you should do it.
How long have we been inventing languages? What can those languages look like? In this episode, we talk about constructed languages, or conlangs: their history, their populations, and what it means for something to be considered a language.
Does our language determine how we can think, or can we think about things our language can't frame? In this episode, we talk about linguistic determinism: who came up with the hypothesis, what its implications are, and whether a stronger or weaker version best matches the facts.
Principles and Parameters
How much do languages have in common underneath? Are there some rules all languages follow? In this episode, we talk about the Principles and Parameters approach to Universal Grammar, and look at some principles that all languages obey, as well as some parameters that offer a choice between two options for your language.
Linguistics as a Science
How do we define what qualifies as a science? Does linguistics fit the definition? In this episode, we look at linguistics as a science: whether it fits the scientific method, how scientifically sound different parts of the field are, and why studying linguistics is a great tool for introducing people to how science works.
What kinds of games do we play with language? What do we use those games for? In this week's episode, we talk about wordplay: what parts of language we play with, how the languages we speak influence the fun we can have, and how, sometimes, wordplay can be used for serious goals.
How Do Computers Understand Our Speech?
How do programs figure out what we're saying? How have these programs changed over time? In this episode, we talk about speech recognition software: what sorts of information it pays attention to, how it's evolved over time, and why it's both gotten a lot better and still has a long way to go.
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.
How does our speech affect the world around us? How can we measure the changes that our words make? In this episode, we take a look at performative language: what you need for your words to work their magic, what different parts make up our speech acts, and how our word choices can change the way we perceive and remember events.
What basic properties do all human languages have in common? How might languages from other worlds differ? In this episode, we take a look at potential alien languages: how we can categorize them differently from how our languages work, how they could potentially make sounds and compose meanings, and how imaginative we may have to be to understand what other species might have to say to us.