The World in Words 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 pri.org/language
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 pri.org/languageMore from The World in Words »

Most Recent Episodes

A family divided by English

When American Lynne Murphy says 'sure' to her British husband, he thinks she means 'not really.' After 18 years together, they still disagree-- and not just on 'sure.'

Poetry thieves

Some people see British poet Ira Lightman as a champion of poets whose verses he valiantly defends. Others view him as a blowhard who delights in ruining other people's reputations. Either way, the story of his poetry sleuthing might make you think differently about what exactly plagiarism is.

The holes between the dots

Some people believe technology will render Braille obsolete, that blind people will choose talking apps and audiobooks over embossed dots. Maybe, but Braille has been written off many times before. Each time, it has come back stronger. We trace Braille from its beginnings, in Napoleon's France, through the "War of the Dots" in the early 20th century to the age of the smart phone, and beyond.

How soccer became multilingual

Professional soccer used to export its English-language terminology, giving other languages words like 'penalty' and 'goal.' But now, the roles are reversed. English-speakers use expressions loaned from other languages to describe skill moves: 'rabona,' 'panenka,' 'gegenpress.'

How has Basque survived?

Basque is a language isolate. Spoken in a region that spans northern Spain across the border into southern France, it is not part of the Indo-European language family. It's not related to Spanish or French or German or Greek or any known language. The origins of the language are a bit of mystery. In fact you can almost hear the history of the European continent in the language according to Basque language scholar Xabier Irujo. "The Basque language has words coming from all languages that have been in Europe since prehistory from Latin and Celtic languages, and probably from languages before these Celtic languages. Who knows what was spoken in Europe at the time." This week on the podcast we talk about this mysterious language. How did it survive the military dictatorship of Francisco Franco when writing and speaking were illegal? How has this minority language thrived and even grown in the years since Franco's dictatorship ended? And what's the future hold for the language?

Your brain on improv

Ever wondered about people who can improvise on stage? How the words seem to come so easily? Neuroscientist Charles Limb and comedian Anthony Veneziale did. First came the bromance, then Veneziale found himself improvising inside an fMRI machine.

My language is my home

Lea is a teenager born and raised in Japan. Her mother is Chinese, her father American. She speaks English, Mandarin and Japanese but isn't sure which of them is her mother tongue. Karolina lives in Boston but grew up in several countries and speaks a bunch of languages. Her English is perfect but she doesn't feel completely at home in it, or in American culture. Welcome to the world of third culture kids, a fast-growing group of people who fit in everywhere and nowhere.

Abandoning your mother tongue

Alina Simone was born in the Soviet Union to Russian-speaking parents and now lives in New York. She initially raised her daughter to speak both English and Russian. So why did she give up on Russian and send her daughter to a Chinese immersion school?

If you could talk to the animals

Do you talk to your dog? Does your dog talk back to you? Dr. Doolittle's dream of talking to the animals is one many of us can share. But what do all of those howls and growls mean and is it really language? This week on the podcast NOVA's Ari Daniel joins us to explore the communication patterns of three different species: Túngara frogs, Humpback whales and Diana monkeys. And if you listen and still want more...continue to nerd out with NOVA. They're going deep this month with a new program, "NOVA Wonders: What Are Animals Saying?" www.pbs.org/novawonders

The Story of 'X'

From X-rated to Gen X to Latinx, the meaning of 'X' has shifted while retaining an edgy, transgressive quality. We trace the meandering semantic route of 'X' through the 20th and 21st centuries, with help from Afro-Latinx writer Jack Qu'emi, retired linguistics professor Ron Smyth and film historian Adrian Smith.

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