Subtitle Language unites and divides us. It mystifies and delights us. Patrick Cox and Kavita Pillay tell the stories of people with all kinds of linguistic passions: comedians, writers, researchers; speakers of endangered languages; speakers of multiple languages; and just speakers—people like you and me.
Subtitle

Subtitle

From PRX

Language unites and divides us. It mystifies and delights us. Patrick Cox and Kavita Pillay tell the stories of people with all kinds of linguistic passions: comedians, writers, researchers; speakers of endangered languages; speakers of multiple languages; and just speakers—people like you and me.

Most Recent Episodes

Subtitle presents A Better Life?

Here's a guest episode from our friends at A Better Life?, a podcast from Feet in 2 Worlds about the immigrant experience in the time of COVID-19. The episode follows two US-based immigrants. Heeja, born in South Korea, and Elsa, born in Mexico, both wrestle with the same question: "Should I stay or should I go?" Music in this episode by Fareed Sajan. The photo of Heeja and her children Jeff and Mia is courtesy of Mia Warren. Read more about A Better Life? here. More on Subtitle here.

We Speak: Tina

Tina Tobey was born and raised in Texas. She's used to non-Texans expecting her to know all about oil-drilling and ranching. And of course to speak "like a Texan." While she barely meets those expectations, Tina has come to realize that she speaks more Texas English than she thought. Also in this episode: how difficult is it to win an accent bias lawsuit? And to overcome our own accent biases? This is the fourth and final part in our series on speech, identity and bias. Notes on contributors: Tina Tobey is Subtitle's sound designer. Lars Hinrichs is the director of the Texas English Language Lab at the University of Texas. Erica Brozovsky is also at the University of Texas where she researches the speech of Taiwanese Texans. New York-based attorney Melinda Koster has litigated employment discrimination cases and written about the topic of accent discrimination. Erez Levon teaches sociolinguistics at Queen Mary University of London and is the principal investigator of the Accent Bias in Britain project. The music in this episode is by Blue Dot Sessions, Podington Bear, Biddy Sullivan, Moss Harman, Alexandra Woodward and Alan Carlson-Green. The photo is courtesy of Tina Tobey who is pictured in her youth atop a Texas-bred horse. Read a transcript of this episode here.

We Speak: Ciku

Why doesn't Ciku Theuri sound Black? Her friends wanted to know. Eventually, she wanted to know. Ciku tells the story of how she came to speak the way she does—and how others, from Ohio to Kenya, perceive her speech. (Spoiler alert: she does sound Black.) Also in this episode: why many Americans choose the voices of Black celebrities for their digital assistants. This is the third in our four-part series on speech, identity and bias. Ciku Theuri is a producer with WBUR/NPR public radio show, Here & Now. Nicole Holliday teaches linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania. Much of her research is focused on one question: What does it mean to sound Black? Music in this episode by Blue Dot Sessions, Jobii, and Podington Bear. The photo of Ciku Theuri (credit: Amanda Pitts) is from her graduation at Oakwood University, Alabama, in 2015. Read a transcript of this episode here.

We Speak: Verónica

Verónica Zaragovia lives in Miami but she was born in Colombia. Although she has a Colombian passport, her Spanish doesn't sound Colombian— at least that's what people tell her. During a recent stay in Bogotá, she decided to change that: she took lessons in Colombian Spanish. Along the way, she gained a new understanding of how language and identity interact. This is the second in our four-part series on speech and bias. Verónica Zaragovia is a reporter with Miami public radio station, WLRN. Phillip Carter is the author of many articles on Spanish in the United States. Music in this episode by Podington Bear, BLAEKER, Headlund, and Louie Wuatton. The photo is of Verónica Zaragovia in Cali, Colombia. Read a transcript of this episode here.

We Speak: Patrick and Kavita

We are how we speak, right? Well, it's complicated— enough so to spend Subtitle's next four episodes on this question. We'll tell the stories of a diverse collection of people, tracing how each came to speak the way they do. Along the way, we'll ask: Is speech a good barometer of identity? Does anyone truly speak authentically? Why are we so judgmental about how others speak? And how can we overcome our biases? In this first episode, hosts Patrick Cox and Kavita Pillay tell their stories. Jane Setter's book about speech and accent bias is Your Voice Speaks Volumes. Colleen Cotter researches the language of journalism and cultural representation. Dennis Preston is the editor of the Handbook of Perceptual Dialectology. Romona Robinson's memoir is A Dirt Road to Somewhere. Music in this episode by Blue Dot Sessions, Podington Bear, Spectacles Wallet and Watch, Honeycutts, Alan Carlson-Green, Moss Harman, Josef Bel Habib and Arthur Benson. The photos are of Patrick and Kavita when they were so very young. Read a transcript of this episode here.

The birth of a language

In 1986, Nicaraguan officials invited American linguist Judy Shepard-Kegl to observe a group of Deaf children. The kids were using an unrecognizable signing system. Over the following years, Shepard-Kegl and other linguists found themselves uniquely placed to observe what they came to realize was the emergence of a new language. Today, Nicaraguan Sign Language has its own complex grammar and a broad vocabulary. What can it tell us about how languages evolve? Photo of Deaf youth with Deaf outreach workers in rural Nicaragua courtesy of Nicaraguan Sign Language Projects, Inc. Music by Blue Dot Sessions, Podington Bear and Martin Klem. Read a transcript of this episode here.

'Sisu' gets an update

Finland has been named the happiest country in the world. So why is sisu the word that best describes Finns? Associated with war and endurance, sisu means stoic perseverance against almost insurmountable odds. But this small, cold nation is changing, as is the meaning of sisu. In these tumultuous times, this short Finnish word may have something to offer the rest of the world. Photo by fintuq via Pixabay. Music by Blue Dot Sessions, Isobelle Walton, Trabant 33, Chill Cole, Podington Bear. Read a transcript of this episode here.

A metaphor for our times

In unsettled times, we reach for metaphors. They help us make sense of the nonsensical—or at least that's what we tell ourselves. In this episode, we hear from linguist Elena Semino, editor of a crowd-sourced publication called the Metaphor Menu intended for people with cancer. She assesses the merits of coronavirus metaphors, from battlefield clichés to forest fires to contaminated swimming pools. Photo by Jo Zimny Photos. Music by Moss Harman, Megan Woffard, Alexandra Woodward, Heath Cantu, Sights of Wonder, Remodal, Sons of Hades, Podington Bear.

In quarantine with Joe Wong

Joe Wong is a brilliant bilingual comedian. In the US, he does standup. In his native China he hosts a popular TV game show. Recently his comedy has become more political: he is confronting US racial tensions head-on. In quarantine, Joe is writing a book, cooking for his son (to his son's dismay), and decrying virus-related anti-Asian hate crimes. Music in this episode by Podington Bear, Blue Dot Sessions, Particle House and Treadline.

In quarantine with Joanna Hausmann

Bilingual comedian Joanna Hausmann (pictured with her mother Ana Julia Jatar-Hausmann) is sitting out the lockdown at her Venezuelan parents' New England home. She tells us of her love of outdated Venezuelan slang; also about parenting her parents (in both Spanish and English); and how the restrictions of quarantine are unleashing her creative instincts. Photo by Joanna Hausmann. Music by Podington Bear, Isobelle Walton, Nathan Welch, Flooaw, and Million Eyes.

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