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RTRFM Podcasts

Talk the Talk

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About

Talk the Talk is RTRFM’s weekly show about linguistics, the science of language.

Linguists Daniel Midgley and Hedvig Skirgård and smart person Ben Ainslie tackle language change, language tech, new words, society, minority languages, language and the mind, and much more.

Daniel teaches linguistics at the University of Western Australia. Hedvig is a linguist at ANU studying Pacific languages. Ben teaches media studies to the next generation of Western Australia’s secondary school students. Together, they look at language in all its variety and splendour while listening to some great tunes.

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Episodes

Wednesday 18th September 2019

Talk the Talk: Bugger All (with Isabelle Burke)

Blog post with show notes

You might do nothing. You might do zilch. But if you do bugger all, you're really doing the minimum.

But wait — how did the phrase "bugger all" become a negative, in the complete absence of any negative words?

There are larger forces at work here, and Dr Isabelle Burke joins us to explain them on this episode of Talk the Talk.

Wednesday 11th September 2019

Talk the Talk: Mailbag of Uncomfortableness

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The mail keeps coming, and we keep answering.

• Is English really a dialect of Chinese?
• Why do people say “uncomfortableness”, when we already have “discomfort”?
• Are "ankh” and “anchor” related?
• How does learning traditional languages help communities?
• Is there a better Noongar word for “white fella” if you’re not a fellow?
• Is “mire” one syllable or two?
• Why do people say they're “finna” do something?
• Where does the word “Carlton" come from?
• And listeners report back on “yeah no” in other languages.

All this and more on this episode of Talk the Talk.

Wednesday 4th September 2019

Talk the Talk: Language Hotspots (with Xia Hua)

Blog post with show notes

Some parts of the world are packed with languages. Others not so much.

Is there a reason that some places are linguistically dense? Researchers are turning up connections between biological ecology and language ecology.

Xia Hua studies language diversity, and we're talking to her on this episode of Talk the Talk.

Tuesday 27th August 2019

Talk the Talk: Community Size Matters (with Limor Raviv)

Blog post with show notes

Why are some languages more systematic than others?

We often hear about the irregularities in English, and other languages have them as well. But new work shows that systematicity in a language is influenced by the number of speakers in the community. How does that work?

Language researcher Limor Raviv joins Daniel, Ben, and Hedvig on this episode of Talk the Talk.

Tuesday 30th July 2019

Talk The Talk: Mailbag of Processes

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We're opening up the Mailbag for another episode.

Are sneezes written the same way everywhere?
Do all languages have rhyming name games?
Can all languages do all the things?
Why does "this and that" sound normal, but "that and this" sounds weird?
Why are people saying "process-eez"?
And what's with "yeah nah"?

All these and more on this episode of Talk the Talk.

Tuesday 23rd July 2019

Talk the Talk: Because Internet (with Gretchen McCulloch)

Blog post with show notes

The rules are changing. Here's the manual.

Gretchen McCulloch's book Because Internet is a look at how people use language on the net to communicate and to show identity. How do people laugh online? How is emoji like gesture?

It's a deep dive into internet language on this episode of Talk the Talk.

Thursday 18th July 2019

Talk the Talk: -nado, -holic, -pocalypse: Combining Forms (Live Q&A)

Take a tornado. Add some sharks. You've got a sharknado.

But it's not just sharks that can leap out of their normal context. It looks like -nado is jumping free and becoming a combining form — a part of a word that is becoming its own productive morpheme, as in firenado.

What others are there? We'll find out on this episode of Talk the Talk.

Blog post with show notes

Tuesday 9th July 2019

Talk the Talk: Named Wrong (Live Q&A)

Names are what they are, and as long as they work, they work.

But sometimes in the history of naming, people name things in a manner inapt to their nature or origin. So what's the story behind words like atom, peanut, and strawberry?

Daniel is unravelling these stories and more on this episode of Talk the Talk.

Blog post with show notes

Tuesday 25th June 2019

Talk the Talk: The Grammarian Is In (with Ellen Jovin)

If you're at a park in New York City, you may see someone at a table offering free grammar advice.

That person is writer Ellen Jovin, and people come to her Grammar Table for tips on usage, punctuation, and life in general. What motivates her to do this? What questions does she get? And how does the team stack up to her knowledge?

Ellen joins us on this episode of Talk the Talk.

Blog post with show notes

All live musical performances are included in our podcasts with the express permission of artists, who reserve all other rights in their music. All music used in our podcasts is licensed under an APRA Community Broadcasting license agreement.