When you’re watching a fantasy or science fiction show, and the characters are speaking a language that does not exist in this world but sounds like it could - that doesn’t happen by accident, or improvisation. A lot - a LOT! - of work goes into inventing new languages that sound real. Conlanger David Peterson talks about how he created languages for HBO’s Game of Thrones.Read More
You are born and raised in a household speaking a language. Then you start going to school, and that language is banned. If you speak it, you'll be punished physically or psychologically. Across your country, there are people like you who associate their first language with shame, or not even being a language at all.
This is the predicament of the Scots language.
Scots language campaigners Ishbel McFarlane and Michael Dempster recount how Scots was sent into the shadows, and how it is at long last returning to public.Read More
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The English language is a mess. And if you don't like it, what are you going to do about it - fix it? Good luck with that.
In the early 18th century, a movement of grammarians and authors wanted to set up an official authority to regulate English, like French had in the Academie Francaise. But is trying to fix a language a good move? Linguists Liv Walsh and Thomas Godard weigh up the evidence.
Apologies in advance, pedants: this episode may contain some truths you* don't want to hear.
- Some of the audio is a bit unclear, so here's a transcript of the show.
- Find out about the Academie Francaise, including what you'll need to do if you want to become one of Les Immortels. (You'll probably have to kill one of the current ones.)
- Here is Jonathan Swift’s language proposal and here is his Modest Proposal.
- This article summarises how most linguistic rules are just busking it; it also links to a 1909 paper about the subject that doesn't mess around.
- Thomas Godard recommends reading Fixing English by Anne Curzan and The Bishop's Grammar by Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade, and listening to PRI's The World in Words.
- The purists among you may wish to seek refuge with the Queen's English Society.
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MAILCHIMP'S RANDOMLY SELECTED WORD FROM THE DICTIONARY:
- Thanks very much to Dr Liv Walsh and Thomas Godard, and to Dr Rachele De Felice who helped me find them.
- This episode was produced by me, Helen Zaltzman. All the music is by Martin Austwick. Hear and/or download more - WITH LYRICS! - at thesoundoftheladies.bandcamp.com.
- Say hello to me at facebook.com/allusionistshow, twitter.com/allusionistshow and twitter.com/helenzaltzman.
Come back in a fortnight to see if the current attempts to fix English are faring any better than the 18th century ones.
The Allusionist is a proud member of Radiotopia from PRX.
I know this is a show about words, but forget the words for a moment; look at the spaces between the words.
Without the spaces, the words would be nigh incomprehensible. And yet, they're a relatively recent linguistic innovation.Read More