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Society & Culture

The World in Words

Updated 10 days ago

Society & Culture
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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

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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

iTunes Ratings

569 Ratings
Average Ratings
516
31
11
5
6

Whoa. I mean whoa. Egy jól pod.

By Anotherchessaddict - Jun 26 2019
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This is soo good. Patrick and Nina I miss you. Where did you go? -Dave B

So much fun

By arielthecat - Jan 22 2019
Read more
For language nerds this is lovely, good depth

iTunes Ratings

569 Ratings
Average Ratings
516
31
11
5
6

Whoa. I mean whoa. Egy jól pod.

By Anotherchessaddict - Jun 26 2019
Read more
This is soo good. Patrick and Nina I miss you. Where did you go? -Dave B

So much fun

By arielthecat - Jan 22 2019
Read more
For language nerds this is lovely, good depth
Cover image of The World in Words

The World in Words

Updated 10 days ago

Read more

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

Rank #1: Losing your accent

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English is spoken with countless accents by both native and non-native speakers. But a hierarchy persists: there are 'good accents and 'bad' ones. So whether you're from Thailand or Tennessee, you may want to get rid of your accent. We hear from a few such people, and from someone who has no interest in changing his accent.
Jan 12 2018
18 mins
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Rank #2: The first cousin of English

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Are the 300,000+ Dutch people who speak Frisian stubborn? Maybe...and maybe that's not a bad thing. We head to the Netherlands to hear from artists, writers, politicians and kids at a trilingual school.
Dec 23 2016
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Rank #3: 'Dialect' versus 'language,' what's the big deal?!

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This week on the podcast we step gingerly into scalding waters to explore the question: What is the difference between a language and dialect? Linguists hate to define it. “As a linguist I will not engage in trying to define language and trying to define dialect and I’m not alone in that,” said linguist Bojan Belić. He’s certainly not alone. We reached out to linguists and language experts and were met with sigh after sigh. There are many rubrics that people cite as indicators of a dialect versus a language. Take mutual intelligibility. Two varieties of speech that are mutually intelligible surely must be dialects. But what happens when they’re not? Then there’s the old cliché, coined apparently by a Yiddish scholar, “A language is a dialect with an army and a navy.” Is language and dialect purely politics? This week we discuss two places where these labels might make you scratch your head: Scandinavia and the Balkans.
Jun 27 2017
39 mins
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Rank #4: If you could talk to the animals

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Do you talk to your dog? Does your dog talk back to you? Dr. Doolittle’s dream of talking to the animals is one many of us can share. But what do all of those howls and growls mean and is it really language? This week on the podcast NOVA’s Ari Daniel joins us to explore the communication patterns of three different species: Túngara frogs, Humpback whales and Diana monkeys. And if you listen and still want more...continue to nerd out with NOVA. They're going deep this month with a new program, "NOVA Wonders: What Are Animals Saying?" www.pbs.org/novawonders
Apr 25 2018
28 mins
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Rank #5: How has Basque survived?

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Basque is a language isolate. Spoken in a region that spans northern Spain across the border into southern France, it is not part of the Indo-European language family. It’s not related to Spanish or French or German or Greek or any known language. The origins of the language are a bit of mystery. In fact you can almost hear the history of the European continent in the language according to Basque language scholar Xabier Irujo.

“The Basque language has words coming from all languages that have been in Europe since prehistory from Latin and Celtic languages, and probably from languages before these Celtic languages. Who knows what was spoken in Europe at the time.”

This week on the podcast we talk about this mysterious language. How did it survive the military dictatorship of Francisco Franco when writing and speaking were illegal? How has this minority language thrived and even grown in the years since Franco’s dictatorship ended? And what’s the future hold for the language?
May 31 2018
34 mins
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Rank #6: What the Cuck?

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WARNING: This podcast has explicit language and sexual content.
This has been an election season of words: “bigly” or is it “big league,” “basket of deplorables” and you can’t forget “nasty.” But one word has recently caught a lot of people's attention: cuck.

It’s a slur being used by white nationalists and white supremacists, the so-called "alt-right,” people like Richard Spencer, the president of the National Policy Institute. The deceptively generic sounding organization espouses white nationalist ideology. During their conference held in Washington DC right after the US election, Spencer made headlines by using the phrase “Hail Trump” in his speech. In the same speech he also used the word “cuck.”

But long before white nationalist grabbed hold of cuck, the word, which has roots in the ancient insult “cuckold” took some interesting turns in its modern usage.

On the podcast this week we focus on the word "cuck." What does it mean? Who uses it? And how did it become the slur of choice for white nationalists? We'll hear from and linguist Michael Adams, sex columnist Dan Savage, and white nationalist Richard Spencer.
Dec 14 2016
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Rank #7: To Catch a Fortune Cookie Thief

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This week on the podcast producer Lidia Jean Kott cracks open a case of fortune cookie theft. "Some men dream of fortunes. Others dream of cookies." This is a real fortune cookie fortune. A prescient fortune it would turn out for Yong Sik Lee. Lee invented the fully automatic fortune cookie machine and built a business on his invention. He sold fortune cookie machines and fortunes to companies all over the US. It was a good business, until one day somebody stole it all from him. Lidia Jean gets to the bottom of a theft that forever changed the life of Lee. She also gets explores the eternal question: Why are fortune cookie fortunes never really fortunes? And where do fortune cookies come from anyway? Hint: It's not China.
Jul 24 2017
25 mins
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Rank #8: Could Neanderthals talk?

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Humans are the only creatures on Earth that can choke on their own food. Yes, that’s right. Because we have funky plumbing. There’s a crucial split in our throats – one path that leads to the esophagus and the stomach, and another that leads to our larynx, or voice box. Why would humans have evolved such potentially fatal architecture? Some experts say the reason is speech, suggesting speech might pre-date Homo sapiens, going back to Neanderthals, or even Homo erectus, our likely ancestors from millions of years ago. This is all theoretical of course. There are no million-year-old recordings. But some of these ideas are gaining steam. This week on the podcast, reporter Ari Daniel from our partner program NOVA explores several theories about where language comes from.
Feb 21 2018
23 mins
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Rank #9: Grandmothers have the best curse words

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This week on The World in Words we talk about swear words from around the world and the bad words our grandmothers teach us. We hear from swearologist Stephen Dodson and author Marilyn Chin. Plus, Nina Porzucki interviews her grandmother about the meaning of a Polish word.
Jul 12 2017
28 mins
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Rank #10: The Story of 'X'

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From X-rated to Gen X to Latinx, the meaning of 'X' has shifted while retaining an edgy, transgressive quality. We trace the meandering semantic route of 'X' through the 20th and 21st centuries, with help from Afro-Latinx writer Jack Qu'emi, retired linguistics professor Ron Smyth and film historian Adrian Smith.
Apr 03 2018
26 mins
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Rank #11: The words of 2017

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What are the words and images that best describe this past year? And why do some people think "whom" is obsolete? We talk with Buzzfeed's copy chief Emmy Favilla and Cartoon Queen Carol Hills who monitors political cartoons from around the world.
Dec 20 2017
26 mins
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Rank #12: How Christianese became a thing

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Have you attended any “Matthew parties” lately? Or ever felt “too blessed to be stressed, too anointed to be disappointed”? If the answer is yes, you speak Christianese, a "religiolect" that linguists have recently started tracking.
Mar 29 2017
19 mins
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Rank #13: 'Black' is a French word too

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Many French people favor the English word 'black' over the local equivalent 'noir.' Why? There's a history behind it that dates back decades— in fact, two histories: the French version seeks to be colorblind while the American one recognizes race at every turn.
Feb 28 2017
23 mins
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Rank #14: Elena Ferrante & Italy's Linguistic Past

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Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan novels have become a global hit. Their plot is rife with love and sex and the mob AND language. This week on the podcast we explore Italy's linguistic history and the tensions between Italian dialects like Neapolitan and the lingua franca. BONUS: Patrick Cox will sing for you in his best Italian accent.
Apr 11 2017
30 mins
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Rank #15: Deciphering the Lingo of Pro-Trump Trolls

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In the run up to the presidential election Cristina López kept coming across language on the internet that she didn’t quite understand; words and phrases like “meme magic,” and “red-pilled” and “nimble navigator.” These expressions kept popping up in Reddit and 4chan on Trump supporter message boards.

“It felt like I was looking in to a group and I didn’t understand the group joke,” said Cristina.

But understanding the group joke is Cristina’s job. She works for a non-profit called Media Matters For America, a left leaning non-profit that monitors the conservative media for misinformation. Since the election Cristina and her colleagues have spent many hours lurking on these message boards deciphering the words and memes of what she calls the #MAGA troll dialect.
This week on the podcast Cristina Lopez explains some of the dialect.
Aug 23 2017
27 mins
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