The World in Words
By PRI's The World
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The World in Words is a podcast about languages and the people who speak them. What happens to the brain on bilingualism? Does it matter that so many languages are dying out? Should we fear the rise of global English? Is the United States losing its linguistic cohesion? Why are Chinese tech words so inventive? Why does Icelandic have so many cool swearwords? Patrick Cox and Nina Porzucki bring you stories from the world’s linguistic frontlines. Also at pri.org/language
||Dementia stole my grandma's memory and our common language||Memory is a mysterious thing. A few years ago my grandmother had a series of strokes and dementia set in. She's a polyglot, she speaks seven languages. But suddenly, post stroke she started speaking a mixture of Polish and Russian -- two languages that my family doesn't speak. She's stuck in this linguistic fog and nobody in my family can find our way through. And I wondered why does the brain latch on to one language and not another? This week on the World in Words podcast we delve into dementia and bilingualism. I speak with two scientists Ellen Bialystok a psychology professor at York University in Canada and Thomas Bak a neuropsychologist at the University of Edinburgh about their research into dementia and bilingualism. You’ll also get to hear from the expert, my grandmother, and hear a bit of my own crackpot theory as to why she’s chosen to speak Polish and Russian.||10/9/2015||Free||View In iTunes|
||Speaking to grandma and grandpa||Yowei Shaw was born in the United States and speaks virtually no Mandarin. Her grandparents are from Taiwan and speak virtually no English. Kid talk was fine when Yowei was a kid. But now she's grown up, she's determined to have proper conversations with them— before it's too late.||9/30/2015||Free||View In iTunes|
||A million lost words||Online dictionary Wordnik wants to give a home to a million "lost" words that aren't in traditional dictionaries. But do words like "lookupable" and "budthrill" really belong in a dictionary?||9/25/2015||Free||View In iTunes|
||How the Hawaiian word 'hapa' came to be used by people of mixed heritage||Recently, an old friend of mine had a language question she wanted me to investigate: Where does the word “hapa” come from? My friend Julie considers herself hapa. Her father is from Chile, her mom is Japanese American. And she calls herself “hapa” that is, half Asian, half something else. Julie had never questioned this definition before until one day, she was at the market, and she met a women who caused her to reconsider how she defined the word. This week, The World in Words takes a deep dive into the meaning(s) of the word hapa. I speak with Joanna Sotomura and Stephen Chang hosts of HalfTime, a YouTube talk show about Hapa issues. I interview professor Wei Ming Dariotis about how she became a hapa evangelist and then lost faith in the word. And we hear from Hawaiian linguist Kaeo NeSmith about the etymology of hapa and the term “hapa haole.”||9/15/2015||Free||View In iTunes|
||Japan's harassment words||A lawsuit has drawn the Japanese public's attention to 'matahara,' a word coined from the English 'maternity harassment.' It refers to the practice of demoting or even laying off women when they become pregnant. It joins 'sekuhara' (sexual harassment), 'pawahara' (power harassment) and several other terms used to describe different types of harassment.||9/9/2015||Free||View In iTunes|
||New Orleans or NOLA?||Part acronym, part abbreviation, NOLA is an increasingly popular nickname for New Orleans. But does it reflect the city's cultural and linguistic heritage?||8/24/2015||Free||View In iTunes|
||Learning your enemy's language||In the early 1940s, virtually no one in the UK spoke Japanese. The British War Office tried to change that after Japan invaded British-held Malaya and Singapore. The results were mixed.||8/20/2015||Free||View In iTunes|
||The language of Hiroshima||A chance encounter in Hiroshima's Peace Memorial Park gives an 87-year-old survivor hope that his memory will live on after he dies. Plus, a lexicon of atomic bomb-related words.||7/31/2015||Free||View In iTunes|
||Scrabble and the Scottish Accent||New Zealander Nigel Richards recently rocked the competitive scrabbling playing world when he became the 2015 French Scrabble World Champion. The World in Words digs into the backstory of the Scrabble genius. Also in the podcast we hear from a researcher who has been observing a slow change in the Scottish dialect – Scots seem to be swallowing their R’s.||7/22/2015||Free||View In iTunes|
||The accent quiz that tested the world||When linguist Bert Vaux posted a corpus of words and questions on his Harvard website back in the early 2000’s, little did he know that he would spawn an international meme. The quiz was supposed to test his students’ regional American accents. Did they say soda or coke or pop? Was it a roly-poly or a doodlebug? Do they wear sneakers or gym shoes or tennis shoes? His quiz went viral eventually becoming an international trend on YouTube. In this podcast I speak with writer Debbie Nathan who traced the origins of the meme for the language journal Schwa Fires. And I get to chat with linguist Vaux about what it's like to spark an internet phenomenon.||7/21/2015||Free||View In iTunes|
||Do I Sound Gay?||There’s a new documentary out in movie theaters analyzing stereotypes surrounding the “gay voice.” I’ll talk to linguist Ron Smyth featured in the documentary about those stereotypes and how they translate to other languages. Also, linguist and writer Arika Okrent explains the etymology of the word “disabled.”||7/9/2015||Free||View In iTunes|
||Louisiana 'en Franglais'||This podcast we're headed down to the heart of French-speaking Louisiana. First we'll visit the French language radio station KVPI in Ville Platte, Louisiana. Since 1953 this commercial radio station has been broadcasting daily the local news in French. Even as the number of fluent French speakers dwindles in the area, the station is dedicated to reviving the heritage language. Next we'll head east to visit a public foreign language immersion elementary school in Baton Rouge. Kids spend the majority of their school day speaking either French or Spanish. The school began as a magnet program under East Baton Rouge Parish School System's desegregation order. Finally, we head back to KVPI to hear a little swamp pop. Never heard of swamp pop? Well, you'll just have to listen.||6/30/2015||Free||View In iTunes|
||ARRR and other words||The year is 1793 and Horatio Lord Nelson is given command of the ship Agamemnon. Wait, “is” given command? Shouldn’t it be “was” given command? 1793 is the past, right? In this podcast, Patrick Cox delves into the historical present. And The World’s history guy, Chris Woolf lets the cat out of the bag on the lingo of the high seas. Plus other bits of fun tape. We won’t leave you high and dry.||6/30/2015||Free||View In iTunes|
||Will Welsh survive?||Welsh is thriving. Or maybe it's not. While it is making a comeback in cities like Cardiff, the language is spoken much less in its traditional rural heartlands. All the same, efforts to keep Welsh alive are considered a model for other struggling languages.||6/24/2015||Free||View In iTunes|
||Can you hear me now?||Remember that Verizon commercial where some guy "tests" his cell signal in swamps and deep in the woods and in the middle of rush hour? The "can you hear me now?" guy is based on the real thing. Verizon engineers traverse the country testing signal but they aren't using the phrase "Can you hear me now?" They're using a set of special sentences written in a secret basement lab at Harvard during WWII. More about these Harvard Sentences in the podcast and British Justice Minister Michael Gove lays down the grammar laws for his staff. Gove's not-so-secret list of grammar no-nos.||6/22/2015||Free||View In iTunes|
||Kibun and Cowardice||So, Hollywood finally took note. Piper, the protagonist from the TV series Orange is the New Black named checked the big show, The World with Marco Werman for teaching her the meaning of the word "kibun." Except, well, we never did a story about that word. No worries. Find out what kibun means in the pod. We'll also explore the meaning of the word cowardice. Ever wonder why it's associated with the color yellow? Or the gut? The World's Clark Boyd found the courage to talk with author Chris Walsh about his book, "Cowardice: A Brief History."||6/17/2015||Free||View In iTunes|
||Magna Carta changed the law as we know it, but what else did it say?||Happy Birthday Magna Carta! The groundbreaking document turns 800-years-old this June. The "Great Charter" changed governance as we know it. But while the charter has long been revered, we really only cite a small part of the 5000 word document. So what does the rest of it say? The World's history guy Christopher Woolf explores the lesser known clauses of this great charter. Plus, The World in Words host, Patrick Cox takes a trip to the Salisbury Cathedral to see one of the four remaining copies of the Magna Carta.||6/10/2015||Free||View In iTunes|
||Land, nation and tongue||The holy trinity of Icelandic identity is, according to a popular poem, land, nation and tongue. Remove one, and the others will collapse. So will the Icelandic nation survive if, as some predict, the Icelandic language eventually dies out?||6/3/2015||Free||View In iTunes|
||Retro Icelandic||For centuries, Icelanders have looked backward to move forward with their language. When they need to come up with words for a new technologies or ideas, they dredge up archaic terms-- and try to talk the public into re-using them.||6/1/2015||Free||View In iTunes|
||China's English language contest||Sponsored by state TV, the Star of Outlook English Competition is like a cross between the National Spelling Bee and American Idol. It claims to attract five million school-age entrants, as Chinese families chase the promise of an English-speaking life.||5/25/2015||Free||View In iTunes|
Highly, highly recommend to anyone
Love this one. It always leaves me with a sense of awe and a feeling of admiration with humanity and all its little cultural quirks. I have a horrid addiction to listening/reading (no longer watching, thank God) the news, and this podcast is the perfect antidote to the overwhelmed/bitter aftertaste left from that. The podcast's host is perfect and I wish he hosted more podcasts, since most tend to talk in a disinterested and humorless way, as though the subject matter bears no relevence to them. This podcast gives the listener a delight for the knowledge gained, like your favorite high school history teacher. Seriously, give it a listen.
A fascinating and enlightening podcast!
As a polyglot and educator, I enjoy "The World in Words" podcast. It is endlessly fascinating, well produced and, dare I say, educational. I'm glad I ran across this podcast by accident; there have been several stories I've used in my classroom to the benefit of my students. Thank you and keep up the good work.
Bravo, Mr. Cox
Simply incredible. The dazzling array of languages and the evolution of the spoken word discussed is enthralling and captivating. A logophile's dream, "The World in Words" encapsulates the spirit of the nature of language as a whole, delving deep into English, foreign languages, and newly invented languages, to probe and dissect idioms, ultimately showcasing the unity AND diversity of our changing world at large. Bravo!
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