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Linguistics After Dark

8 EpisodesProduced by Linguistics After DarkWebsite

Linguistics After Dark is a podcast where three linguists (and sometimes other people) answer your burning questions about language, linguistics, and whatever else you need advice about. We have three rules: any question is fair game, there's no research allowed, and if we can't answer, we have to d… read more


Episode 5: Schwa de Vivre

Wherein we talk a LOT.

Jump right to:
  • 1:50 The International Phonetic Alphabet
  • 30:59 Corrections
  • 36:08 Question 1: Computer languages: Are they languages (in a linguistic sense)? They have rules, syntax, even dialects. They can express certain complex ideas better than English, but they cannot (easily) express arbitrary ideas.
  • 44:50 Question 2: What causes a compound word like ‘bluebird’ (a bird that is blue) to become bahuvrihi like ‘Blackbeard’ (not a beard that is black, but someone who has a black beard)?
  • 58:31 Question 3: If you could snap your fingers and know a new language, what would it be? (Like taking a point in D&D linguistics, you know the language as if you were a native speaker.) No rules, no restrictions (unless you want to pick one per category: real, commonly used; real, uncommonly used; real, dead; fake movie language; conlang).
  • 1:10:55 Last week’s puzzler’s answer
  • 1:12:50 The new puzzler: Three incandescent lightbulbs in a room, three lightswitches outside the room. You can look inside the room once and only once, after which you must decide which lightswitch controls which lightbulb.
Covered in this episode:
  • The IPA (developed by the IPA) ≠ an IPA, although Eli occasionally enjoys the latter too
  • ɹ, ə, æ, ʃ, Ʒ, ŋ, œ
  • Apple’s consistent failing of linguists
  • Cursive IPA, which apparently exists
  • How to learn IPA
  • “Bendy banana vowels”
  • Diphthong? Dip-thong? Dip-tong? It’s up to you, really
  • Computer languages have semantics but not pragmatics
  • A return of Gricean maxims having relevance (so to speak)
  • Compound words in Dutch versus in English
  • The gradual squishing-together of English compound words
  • “Website” is a single word, congrats to the AP style guide on finally joining the 21st century
  • Grilled cheese is not made on a barbeque
  • Agglutinative vs polysynthetic mostly means “where do you put the spaces”
  • Producer Jenny with the LOTR linguistic hot take
  • Producer Jenny with the (basic) elvish linguistic history
  • Zulu is neat and has interesting noun classes/gender-that-isn’t-gender
  • Sign languages are awesome and should have more research done on them!!
  • Also ASL is just a very useful second language in the US
  • This podcast exists because of Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series on multiple levels and y’all should read it (or listen! The audiobooks are so good!)
Links and other post-show thoughts: Ask us questions:

Send your questions (text or voice memo) to, or find us as @lxadpodcast on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.


Linguistics After Dark is produced by Emfozzing Enterprises. Eli edits, Sarah and Jenny transcribe and do show notes. Our music is “Covert Affair” by Kevin MacLeod.

And until next time… if you weren’t aware of your tongue in your mouth, now you are :)

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