Does climate affect language?

A linguist has found that tone languages appear in regions of high humidity. But the idea that human speech adapts to the environment is not a popular one. So what’s going on?

Daniel Midgley speaks with the author Caleb Everett on this episode of Talk the Talk.


Listen to this episode

Or subscribe via iTunes
Subscribe on Android
Click here for more options: How to listen to Talk the Talk


Show notes

App That Aims To Make Books ‘Squeaky Clean’ Draws Ire From Edited Writers
http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2015/03/27/395788461/app-that-aims-to-make-books-squeaky-clean-draws-ire-from-edited-writers

Authors: end to censored versions of books is ‘victory for the world of dirt’
http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/mar/27/clean-reader-books-app-censorship-victory-authors-celebrate

Clean Reader: The app that censors rude words from ebooks
http://www.cnet.com/news/clean-reader-the-app-that-censors-rude-words-from-ebooks/

Jennifer Porter: “My Clean Reader App Experience” Hilarious!
http://www.romancenovelnews.com/joomla/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=1167:my-clean-reader-app-experience&Itemid=53

Some languages don’t have syllables: Larry Hyman on the universality of the syllable
http://dlc.hypotheses.org/263

The idea of syllables doesn’t work with some Native American languages
The Languages of Native North America
Salish Languages and Linguistics: Theoretical and Descriptive Perspectives

Linguists didn’t accept Everett’s first attempt on this theme. See “Ejectives, High Altitudes, and Grandiose Linguistic Hypotheses”
http://languagesoftheworld.info/geolinguistics/ejectives-high-altitudes-grandiose-linguistic-hypotheses.html

Everett pressed the point: “A return to ejectives at high altitude”
http://scholar.googleusercontent.com/scholar?q=cache:_Xu2id2MHQ0J:scholar.google.com/&hl=en&as_sdt=2005&sciodt=0,5

Long article with lots of background: “Correlational Studies in Typological and Historical Linguistics”
http://pubman.mpdl.mpg.de/pubman/item/escidoc:2071367:4/component/escidoc:2071365/Ladd_roberts_dediu.pdf

Everett’s new paper: “Climate, vocal folds, and tonal languages: Connecting the physiological and geographic dots”
http://m.pnas.org/content/112/5/1322.abstract

Everett talks about the paper
http://serious-science.org/news/2152

Post in Replicated Typo: “Tone and Humidity”
http://www.replicatedtypo.com/tone-and-humidity/10207.html

Other linguists aren’t convinced. Here’s the interview with Ben Zimmer and Geoffrey Nunberg.
http://www.mprnews.org/story/2015/03/10/language-words

You can look at the data for tone in the World Atlas of Linguistic Structures. Lots of other data, too.
http://wals.info/feature/13A#1/6/142

Sweden will make a gender-neutral pronoun official by adding it to the dictionary
http://qz.com/369725/sweden-will-make-a-gender-neutral-pronoun-official-by-adding-it-to-the-dictionary/

Epenthesis
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epenthesis

About every dictionary in the world has ‘whale’ as one syllable.
Hey, look, Em: it’s even got “hwayl”.
http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/whale

The ‘prayer hands’ emoji changed in the latest iPhone update and people are freaking out
http://www.businessinsider.com.au/the-prayer-hands-emoji-is-changing-2015-3

Emojipedia: Person With Folded Hands
http://emojipedia.org/person-with-folded-hands/

Gawker: No, the Praying Hands Emoji Is Not a “High Five”
http://gawker.com/no-the-praying-hands-emoji-is-not-a-high-five-1613936693


Show tunes

Find the tracks we play on the RTRFM webpage for this episode.

Image credit: http://www.replicatedtypo.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Screen-Shot-2015-01-14-at-17.27.53.png