The World in Words

The World in Words

From PRI

The World in Words is a podcast about languages and the people who speak them. What happens to the brain on bilingualism? Does it matter that so many languages are dying out? Should we fear the rise of global English? Is the United States losing its linguistic cohesion? Why are Chinese tech words so inventive? Why does Icelandic have so many cool swearwords? Patrick Cox and Nina Porzucki bring you stories from the world's linguistic frontlines. Also at from The World in Words »

Most Recent Episodes

A tale of two linguists

Israeli linguist Arik Sadan is an authority on the Arabic language. Palestinian Sobhi Bahloul is Gaza's best-known Hebrew teacher. The two have never met.

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ISIS, ISIL or Daesh?

In the wake of the Paris Attack French President François Hollande was quick to denounce the alleged attackers, 'Daesh.' Many people call this same jihadist group ISIS. Alternatively they've been called ISIL and even the Islamic State. But many in the Arab speaking world and increasingly Western leaders have taken to calling the group 'Daesh.' This week in the podcast we explore the meaning of the term 'Daesh.'

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Three mother tongues in one

Many Lebanese speak a full-on mix of Arabic, French and English. Calling this linguistic melange a "mother tongue" started out as a joke, but now it's become a part of Lebanon's national identity — even if it means that sometimes people don't understand what they are saying. Also, to be a Lakota Indian how much of the language do you need to speak?

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Faking the Funk

Adele, the Rolling Stones, Cliff Richard, Iggy Azalea, Nicki Minaj, The Killers, Snow – what do these artists all have in common? Their accent. That is, the fact that they sometimes put on an accent other than their own when they sing. This week's edition of The World in Words podcast we tackle the complicated questions that arise when artists sing in an accent that's not their own. We'll hear from linguists Bill Beeman and Jane Setter and ethnomusicologist Langston Wilkins as we explore what it means to fake the funk and "how" and "why" we do it. It's a wild musical ride from the Rolling Stones to Cliff Richard and the Shadows to Iggy Azalea. Plus, Marco Werman, host of PRI's The World and the newsroom's resident music nerd makes a special appearance on the podcast to take a musical accent quiz.

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What the deal with the pop punk accent?

On a recent road trip reporter Dan Nosowitz and his girlfriend found themselves belting out the lyrics to a Blink-182 song in the highly affected style of lead singer Tom DeLonge. Singing in DeLonge's nasal, Southern California surfer twang, is a hilarious way to pass the long hours on the road says Dan. But that road trip serenade got him thinking, what the heck was going on with DeLonge's strange pop punk voice? He enlisted a linguist's help to find out. This week's podcast we explore the strange vocal stylings of the lead singer of Blink-182, Tom DeLonge. We'll learn about elongated vowels and rhotacism. Plus, we will talk about how the punk accent has evolved from New York City to London and in California. Come listen and sing along!

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Talking Texas in Iran

What is it about Texas that sparks the global imagination? Persian and Turkish both have an expression that means, "This is not Texas." The Norwegian adjective, 'Texas' means out of control.

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When in Rome...

Pope Francis has switched the official language of Vatican doctrine from Latin to Italian. He's also democratized his meetings with bishops. So why do some conservative bishops believe that contentious reforms are being deliberately lost in translation?

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Learning English on the Fly

Donald Trump is hardly the only political candidate to complain about immigrants not learning English. But has he ever tried to find a convenient, affordable English class?

Dementia stole my grandma's memory and our common language

Memory is a mysterious thing. A few years ago my grandmother had a series of strokes and dementia set in. She's a polyglot, she speaks seven languages. But suddenly, post stroke she started speaking a mixture of Polish and Russian -- two languages that my family doesn't speak. She's stuck in this linguistic fog and nobody in my family can find our way through. And I wondered why does the brain latch on to one language and not another? This week on the World in Words podcast we delve into dementia and bilingualism. I speak with two scientists Ellen Bialystok a psychology professor at York University in Canada and Thomas Bak a neuropsychologist at the University of Edinburgh about their research into dementia and bilingualism. You’ll also get to hear from the expert, my grandmother, and hear a bit of my own crackpot theory as to why she’s chosen to speak Polish and Russian.

Speaking to grandma and grandpa

Yowei Shaw was born in the United States and speaks virtually no Mandarin. Her grandparents were born in Taiwan and speak virtually no English. Kid talk was fine when Yowei was a kid. But now she's grown up, she's determined to have proper conversations with them— before it's too late.

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