Category: forensic linguistics

Episode 294: Trademarks and Slurs (featuring Simon Tam)

Freedom of expression is again in the news.

Simon Tam has won his case before the US Supreme Court, allowing him to trademark the name of his all-Asian rock band, the Slants. But this ruling opens the door to people who want to trademark other offensive names — or hold on to existing ones. Is that okay? How do we distinguish between reclamation and vilification?

Linguist Daniel Midgley talks it over with Simon Tam on this episode of Talk the Talk.

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Promo with Kylie Sturgess

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Show notes

Abraham Lincoln’s Bixby Letter Mystery Finally Solved After 150 Years

Abe Lincoln mystery ‘almost certainly’ solved using technique that unmasked JK Rowling

Joe Nickell’s analysis
Google Books link

Great slides from Andrea Nini

Paper: Attributing the Bixby Letter using n-gram tracing

The Slants’ Simon Tam Wins Supreme Court Case to Trademark Offensive Band Name

Supreme Court: Rejecting trademarks that ‘disparage’ others violates the First Amendment

An indie rock band just cleared the way for the Washington Redskins to keep their racist name

Rock band The Slants’ victory in court secures your rights

Listen to The Slants: The Band Who Must Not Be Named

Seattle band Thunderpussy awaits Supreme Court ruling on controversial names

Facebook community standards under scrutiny as out and proud ‘dykes’ banned

Richard Dawkins deplatformed at a book talk in Berkeley for “abusive speech” about Islam on Twitter

Richard Dawkins’ Open Letter to the People Who Canceled His Event

Organizations have the right to not invite Richard Dawkins — or me — to speak

‘Disinvite’ or ‘Uninvite’?

Show tunes

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

Image credit: Simon Tam

Episode 204: Shibboleths

A shibboleth can mark you as a insider… or an outsider.

Shibboleths can be words, phrases, or even sounds, but getting them wrong can lead to social or political exclusion, and in some cases, they can be fatal.

Linguist Daniel Midgley gives himself away on this episode of Talk the Talk.

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Promo with Em Burrows

Show notes

Flat Adverbs Are Flat-Out Useful

Banned words and flat adverbs

Nando’s: ‘Eat interesting’

A complaint about Nando’s

Grammatically Incorrect Slogans

Wikipedia: List of shibboleths

Disney Research creates method enabling dialogue replacement for automated video redubbing

A Mouth Full of Words: Visually Consistent Acoustic Redubbing


‘Shibboleth’ in the Old Testament

My blog post about ‘shibboleth’: Gospel Doctrine for the Godless

Wikipedia: Frisian peasant rebellion

Wikipedia: Parsley Massacre

Foucault That Noise: The Terror of Highbrow Mispronunciation

List of shibboleth names by which the privileged judge their inferiors

Slate: How Do You Pronounce “Bon Iver”?

How To Pronounce 18 Indie Band Names

Turkish sex worker dialect Lubunca liberates, stigmatizes LGBT community

Lubunca and the History of Istanbul Slang

The secret language of Turkey’s LGBT community

Diana Eades: Applied linguistics and language analysis in asylum seeker cases (PDF)

Tim McNamara: 21st Century Shibboleth: Language tests, identity, and intergroup conflict

Immigration by Shibboleth By Michael Erard

Monika S. Schmid: Treacherous shibboleths: Language as an indicator of origin (PDF)

More from Monika Schmid: Language as a passport

What’s the deal with Mx?

Wikipedia: Mx

Mx flagged as possible title for transgender and other gender neutral people, according to Oxford English Dictionary

Oxford English Dictionary could soon include gender-neutral title ‘Mx’

When was the Mx gender-inclusive title created?


Show tunes

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

Image credit:

Episode 160: Evidence for Innateness?

Are we hard-wired for language?

New studies have found that infants (and even adults) seem predisposed to certain combinations of sounds and words. But is this evidence for innateness, or is there another explanation?

Linguist Daniel Midgley takes us into a great debate on this episode of Talk the Talk.

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Promo with James Hall

Show notes

Forensic linguistics has found a likely candidate for the author of a crucial Bitcoin document

It’s Nick Szabo

An article in the Daily Mail that seems very certain that language is innate.

Slightly better ones from Science Daily.

The article in PNAS

About the sonority hierarchy

Australian languages show different phonological tendencies than does Italian: VC as well as CV (PDF)

Learning can begin very early.

The ‘shoes blue’ experiment. With an opinion by Chomsky.

Banning ‘Nazi’ in Israel

Show tunes

‘Bubble Baby’ by Clouds
from the album Favourites

‘Cry! Baby!’ by Bibio
from the album Ambivalence Avenue

Episode 129: Light Warlpiri

With so many dying languages in the world, it’s good to see new languages being born.

A brand new language has been discovered in the Northern Territory. It’s Light Warlpiri, and while it seems to combine English with the Australian language Warlpiri, it has grammatical rules that are entirely its own. What’s it like, and does it have a future?

Linguist Daniel Midgley gets into the mix on this episode of Talk the Talk.

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Big news for this week’s show: A new Australian language invented by children. It’s not a pidgin. It’s not a creole. What is it? It’s a mixed language. What’s the difference?

So many questions! Why don’t you listen to the podcast, and follow the links on our Show Notes page. Then you’ll know all about it.

There’s a bit about linguistic forensics, and the upcoming ‘Dinner with Ben and Daniel’ to benefit RTRFM’s Radiothon. So exciting!

Oh, and one more thing — the day I feared has arrived. From doing so many shows with me, Ben has learned about as much about linguistics as I know. Check out his entirely accurate knowledge of the difference between pidgins and creoles. That’s fantastic, but also bad because I need him to ask the non-linguist questions (“So what’s a phoneme?” and so on). Then I give the answers. If he knows everything, what am I going to say? I’d better study harder and learn more.

Show notes

Forensic linguistics unmasks J.K. Rowling as author of well-reviewed novel

And you can download JGAAP, the software used to unravel the mystery.

Light Warlpiri: a new language spoken by under-35s in a remote community

Dr O’Shannessy’s paper (PDF)’Shannessy.pdf

The research goes back a ways. Here’s a 2005 paper in the AJL. (Paywall)

Watch a video of the Monster Story in LW. (Warning: Contains monster.)

Here’s a video of Professor Alan Dench discussing Light Warlpiri on television

A bit about the Warlpiri language

A bit about Australian Kriol

Show tunes

‘Photon’ by Pantha du Prince and the Bell Laboratory
from the album Elements of Light

‘New Seeds’ by Boards of Canada
from the album Tomorrow’s Harvest

Episode 31: Who Wrote the Bible?

Scholars have long supposed that certain books of the Bible were written by a number of different authors.

Now a team of language researchers is using computers to determine Bible authorship, and they’re coming up with some surprising findings. Can text give an author’s identity away? How can computers determine who wrote what?

UWA linguist Daniel Midgley tells the story on this week’s Talk the Talk.

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Show notes

A good intro:

The ACL paper. Pretty readable, but mostly for hardcores. (PDF)

A really good series from the Straight Dope team about Bible authorship

And something from the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible about discrepancies

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