Language in the News, Recommended Listening

Linguistics: Following Me Wherever I Go!

I’ve been doing a lot of driving lately, and listening to NPR in between the Christmas carols. I was fortunate enough to hear two linguistic-related segments (before the station I was listening to turned into static), both of which were summaries of recent TED talks. Since I just finished a solo 6 hour drive, and am about to embark on a two-day trek to sunny Florida, this week’s post is going to be short and sweet, with little teaser blurbs to entice you to listen to all the TED talks from “Spoken and Unspoken.”

The first segment was about texting, and how it’s an example of language changing quickly in a short amount of time, which is unusual as language usually makes small changes over years or generations. The interviewee, John McWhorter, explained that linguists tend to view texting as “written speech,” which follows different rules than traditional writing (with its full sentences and punctuation). And if we’ve started typing how we speak, it’s likely that we might also start speaking how we type, like saying the term “hashtag” in a conversation, to the point where it’s been parodied by Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake.

The second segment with Mark Pagel, talked about how language, which is unique to human beings, both divides and unifies us, and how the prevalence of English as a lingua franca might change our sense of what it means to belong to a particular community in the near future.

As I mentioned above, I really only heard the interviews of the first two segments, so I can’t summarize the next two TED Talks (Phuc Tran and Mark Forsyth), but I’m sure they’re incredibly interesting and I plan on listening to them both very soon.

However, I HAVE watched the Amy Cuddy talk on body language, and I can say that this is a fascinating presentation, and one with lessons that are eye-opening and immediately applicable. In fact, I’ve used several of the ideas mentioned here in consultations with participants in an ongoing ethnographic study I’m involved in, and the responses have been very positive!


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