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Category: Talk the Talk (page 1 of 6)

Do we have free will?

I recently interviewed professor of neuroscience Thalia Wheatley for an episode of Talk the Talk, but at the tail end of the interview, I threw her a curveball and asked her about free will. I’ve been trying to understand this for a long time. Do we choose something, or does our brain just… do it? And if it does, what does that mean?

Here’s that part of our conversation.

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If you want some prep, here’s a video of Thalia with actor Alan Alda.

The rest of our interview will be appearing in an episode this August. Watch for it!

Extra Talk the Talk banter

I always upload Talk the Talk episodes on Tuesday morning, but today I decided to have a chat with the smooth-voiced James Hall of RTRfm. He had a question about hyphens. So here’s the clip.

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Talk the Talk: Esperanto

I’ve never been an Esperantist, but ever since finding out about Esperanto at a young age, I’ve always kind of wondered about it. So this was a good chance to find out more. Will it ever take over the world? Or will it fizzle out? My prediction would be fizzle as lots of minority languages are losing ground, but at this stage in history it looks robust.

Many people emailed me about selfie becoming Oxford Dictionaries Online’s Word of the Year. I just think it’s cool that a) this is an Australian word, and b) we can trace it back so far. But we still don’t know who the ABC poster ‘Hopey’ is. Hopey, if you’re out there, get in touch with us! We want to know how you heard the word.

And here’s my favourite selfie. Because cheeky.

One-off show: Here

Show tunes:

‘Because Before 2’ by Ulf Lohmann
from the album Because Before

No video, but check out this cool player. We played Track 2, but you might like the whole thing.

‘Free of This World’ by Guided by Voices
from the album The Best Of Jill Hives

Also no video, but listen at the Juno Records site. It’s track 2.

Talk the Talk: The Longest Word

For some reason, the other kids at my school thought you were smart if you could spell. And the ultra-hardest word was ‘antidisestablishmentarianism’. It was my ticket to fame, and all I had to do was spell one word.

My dad, for his part, once read somewhere that people with bigger vocabularies got paid more, and so encouraged me to learn lots of words so I’d make more money. A classic case of mistaking correlation and causation, I’m afraid. But it did start me building my empire of language podcasting and world domination, so maybe Dad was onto something there. Anyway, he thought the longest word was ‘pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis’. It’s either not the longest, or not a word, but what is? All will be answered in this week’s podcast.

There’s also something about the longest word in German, which Ben liked.

The offer stands: If you think you can pronounce any of the words in this podcast better than I can, make a video and post it!

One-off show: Here
Subscribe via iTunes: Here
Show notes: Here

Show tunes:

‘Schaufensterpuppen’ by Kraftwerk
from the album Trans-Europa Express

‘Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik’ by Outkast
from the album Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik

Talk the Talk: GIF

I’ve always called it a GIF (like ‘gift’ but with no ‘t’). That’s the only way I’ve ever heard it — on two continents, no less. But I’m aware that some people call it a ‘jif’. I guess I don’t move in those circles. But I can accept that both are okay because, hey, I can accept the validity of things I don’t actually do. What a concept!

Seriously, isn’t it weird that intelligent people can accept other people’s right to do things they don’t do themselves — eat meat, have threesomes, wear plaid — but when it comes to language, they’re like “ERADICATE THE DEVIATORS!”

Anyway, this show’s about GIF, and it’s a fun one. We even strap into the time machine and find out about the letter G.

And if that’s not enough, there’s even a blooper from today’s show.

One-off show: Here
Subscribe via iTunes: Here
Show notes: Here

Show tunes:

‘Gigantic’ by the Pixies
from the album Surfer Rosa

‘Gila’ by Beach House
from the album Devotion

Talk the Talk: Navajo

As language preservation efforts go, I think this one’s a keeper. Star Wars is getting the Navajo treatment. Or should I say Diné? because that’s what its speakers call it.

But there’s something even better than Star Wars — there’s also verbs. Yeah, there’s some really intense verb stuff going on. And then to round everything out, I bring up the Code Talkers. A fun show.

One-off show: Here
Subscribe via iTunes: Here
Show notes: HereShow tunes:

‘El Caminos in the West’ by Grandaddy
from the album Sumday

‘Western Eyes’ by Portishead
from the album Portishead

Talk the Talk: Word Aversion

When we start talking about the most hated words in English, things are bound to get out of hand.

One-off show: Here
Subscribe via iTunes: Here
Show notes: Here

Show tunes:

‘Even If You’re Missing Fingers, You Can Make a Fist’ by The Barons of Tang
from the album Knots and Tangles

‘Do You Remember the First Time?’ by Pulp
from the album His ‘n’ Hers

Talk the Talk: Linguistic Time Machine

Language reconstruction is one of the dark linguistic arts, but this time Ben and I are getting into it. It’s like going back in time, deciding what early languages must have been like by looking at what languages are like now. So first, we talk about how language reconstruction works, and then we look at a new project where people are getting computers to do the work.

I hate to say this, but as is so often the case in linguistics, big progress is being made by non-linguists — engineers and computer scientists! Linguists sometimes grump that the engineers aren’t familiar enough with the actual work of language reconstruction, but I love the idea of taking linguistic tasks and making them tractable for a computational treatment.

Even though this is kind of dense subject matter, I think we made it interesting. Thanks to Ben, of course.

One-off show: Here
Subscribe via iTunes: Here
Show notes: Here

Talk the Talk: Scrabble Points

I love Scrabble. I’m just not sure that Q deserves to be worth 10 points anymore. It used to be a serious liability that required some skill to play off. Now? Pfeh. Just play QI, which is a word meaning new age energy horseshit. It didn’t use to be this way back in the old days of the OSPD 3rd edition.

Well, this episode is half about suggested changes to Scrabble scoring, and then the other half is really interesting! That’s where I talk about Peter Norvig finding letter and word frequencies in English by using billions and billions of words. Cool!

One-off show: Here
Subscribe via iTunes: Here
Show notes: Here

Show tunes:

‘A Letter from the Past’ by I’m Not a Gun
from the album We Think As Instruments

(No video, sorry.)

‘The Numbers Game’ by Thievery Corporation
from the album Radio Retaliation

Talk the Talk: Language and the Pirahã

Doing the podcast is my dream job. Not only do I get to talk about language every week, but I also get to talk about language with some of my linguistic idols. Dr Daniel Everett is definitely on the list. I’ve talked about his work with the Pirahã people of the Amazon many times in my classes, but here I got to ask him about what it all means.

Now everyone on my interview list can move up one. What linguistic types should I go after next?

First episode: Here
Second episode: Here
Subscribe via iTunes: Here
Show notes: Here

Show tunes:

‘Sunchemical’ by O Yuki Conjugate
from the album Equator

‘Crawling by Numbers’ by Lali Puna
from the album Faking the Books

‘Now It’s On’ by Grandaddy
from the album Sumday

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