I’ve been enjoying listening to a couple of language-related podcasts recently. First is one from Slate, called Lexicon Valley, hosted by Mike Vuolo and Bob Garfield. In their six episodes to date, they have talked about:
- The history of the proscription against ending a sentence with a preposition
- The development of faggot as a slur against male homosexuals, with commentary by Arnold Zwicky
- Whether between you and I is a case of hypercorrection, or if another rule can describe its distribution.
- Black English, with commentary from Walt Wolfram (which they pronounce as “Wolf-Ram”)
- What a controversy the publication of Webster’s Third caused in 1961
- What insights Scrabble can and cannot give into the nature of English
The episodes are all about half an hour long, and even the ones I didn’t think I’d be too interested in (the dictionary, Scrabble) have turned out to be quite interesting after all. Furthermore, they’re linguistically sound. With all the complaints at Language Log and other places about how news media just can’t be bothered to fact-check anything related to language, I have yet to hear a piece of bad information here. The only part I don’t care too much for is their “lexiconundrum” puzzlers at the end of each episode.
There are no further episodes of Lexicon Valley yet; apparently, these six episodes were a trial run. So listen to them quick, and if you like them, go say so on iTunes, as I’m about to do now.
The other podcast is Conlangery, “the podcast about constructed languages and the people who create them,” hosted by George Corley, Bianca Richards, and William Anniss (sp?). In each episode, these three talk about some aspect of language — discourse particles, dialects, sound systems — ostensibly with the intent of giving conlangers (i.e. language creators) tips and ideas to use in their conlangs. However, the information and observations they bring in should be interesting to anyone interested in language, even if they have no interest whatsoever in creating one. Each episode also has a featured conlang.
Unlike Lexicon Valley, each episode of Conlangery lasts about a full hour, but unlike Lexicon Valley, Conlangery has more than 40 episodes so far, with no sign of quitting yet. The discussions are unscripted, with George loosely moderating and all three making contributions as the spirit moves them. There are sometimes strange background noises (like a recurring “clac-k-k-k-k-k-k” in one episode), and George’s hesitant speaking style takes a little getting used to, but it’s a fun podcast and I look forward to catching up on the episodes I haven’t listened to yet.
While I’m in a link-loving mood, here are a couple of non-podcast links. First, Jonathon Owen’s two most recent posts. If you thought benefactive datives such as I love me some barbecue brisket sounded strange, you’ll find this construction a little bit stranger. In the other post, he talks about a question I’ve had for a while: If plural -s is pronounced as [z] after a vowel, then why is the plural of die still dice instead of dies?
Lastly, a post from Arnold Zwicky about people who “look their nose down” (not “look down their nose”) at things they disapprove of. It reminded me of my own posts about particles, prepositions, and phrasal verbs.