Is there anything that all human languages have in common?

With all the diversity in the world’s languages, a true universal is hard to find. But new research has unearthed a principle involving the distances between words, and this discovery has revived a long-standing debate.

Linguist Daniel Midgley keeps it short and sweet 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


Promo with Kylie Sturgess


Show notes

Marmoset ‘conversations’ may give clues to evolution of human language
http://news.sciencemag.org/plants-animals/2015/04/marmoset-conversations-may-give-clues-evolution-human-language

Related to PharaohKatt’s post: some of my favourite linguistic developments
http://221–bee.tumblr.com/post/125666704553/some-of-my-favourite-linguistic-developments

Know Your Meme: Doge
http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/doge

Know Your Meme: Son, I Am Disappoint
http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/son-i-am-disappoint

LOLspeak
http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/lolspeak-chanspeak/children

Follow Dog Solutions. It funny
https://twitter.com/DogSolutions

NatGeo: Bonobo “Baby Talk” Reveals Roots of Human Language
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/08/150808-animals-bonobos-apes-evolution-speech/

Guardian: Bonobos have mastered the art of babytalk, new research shows
http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/aug/04/bonobos-mastered-art-of-babytalk-language-evolution

Daily Mail: Bonobos speak like HUMAN BABIES: Apes use high-pitched ‘peeps’ just like infants learning to talk
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3184869/Bonobos-speak-like-HUMAN-BABIES-Apes-use-high-pitched-peeps-just-like-infants-learning-talk.html

Scientific American: Bonobo Peeps May Be Necessary Language Precursors
http://www.scientificamerican.com/podcast/episode/bonobo-peeps-may-be-necessary-language-precursors/

MIT Linguists Say Human Languages Might Be Predictable
https://www.inverse.com/article/5136-mit-linguists-say-human-languages-might-be-predictable

The paper: Large-scale evidence of dependency length minimization in 37 languages
http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2015/07/28/1502134112

MIT Study Suggests a Universal Property of Language
http://languagemagazine.com/?p=124247

All languages have evolved to have this in common
http://news.sciencemag.org/social-sciences/2015/08/all-languages-have-evolved-have-common

More about language universals (PDF)
http://www.uio.no/studier/emner/hf/ikos/EXFAC03-AAS/h05/larestoff/linguistics/Chapter%203.(H05).pdf

Klittra wins the vote in Sweden as the new word for female masturbation. Don’t be surprised if English adopts it. http://t.co/gQjBOnjsN5

— Wordability (@WordabilityHugh) June 23, 2015

Jezebel: Add the Word ‘Klittra’ to Your Sexual Dictionary
http://jezebel.com/add-the-word-klittra-to-your-sexual-dictionary-1712951840

Guardian: Sweden invents a word for girls’ genitals equivalent to ‘willy’ for boys
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/aug/01/sweden-girls-genitals-feminist-invention-snippa-vagina

Swedish children’s TV dancing genitals cartoon sparks parental outcry
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jan/14/swedish-childrens-tv-cartoon-dancing-sparks-parental-outcry-genitals-penis-vagina-dancing

English remix of Swedish ‘genitals’ song released
http://www.thelocal.se/20150305/english-remix-of-sweden-genitals-song-twinkle-willie

Inevitable dance remix
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4AWRwd6NlXA

Where does on the dole come from?
http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=dole


Show tunes

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

Image credit: http://news.sciencemag.org/social-sciences/2015/08/all-languages-have-evolved-have-common