Month: October 2014


Where in the brain is language located, and how do we know? In this week’s episode, The Ling Space talks about neurolinguistics, the two main areas in the brain that are in charge of language, and two different neuroimaging techniques we use to look at where and when the brain does all its linguistic magic.

Also, zombies.

We tried a bunch of new things for this one, so we’re looking forward to seeing what people think! Happy Halloween. ^_^

Yay! We finally get to reveal the zombie episode to the world! BRAAAIIINNNNNSS

Happy Halloween everybody!



Why do people interpret the same sentence multiple ways? What is it about semantics that leads us to more than one meaning? This week, The Ling Space takes on semantic scope and talks about how the most innocent-seeming words in your sentence are fighting it out to bestow upon you an interpretation where they come out on top, as well as how we avoid being lost in an ambiguous fog all the time.

This is a new kind of topic for us to cover, so we’re really looking forward to hearing what people have to say about it! No ambiguity about that. ^_^

Quick reblog for the morning crew!

Been away from Tumblr for a couple days because busy, but new episode! Yay!


The Teal Pumpkin Project for an Allergy-Friendly Halloween. More info:

One of my closest friends has a number of severe food allergies, so I’m all for boosting the heck outta this! And hey, even kids without allergies could possiblymaybekinda be enjoying non-food treats during Halloween season too. Might help moderate the sugar overload, without falling into the camp of like, celery and toothbrushes, which, come on.


What are the parts of words that matter for meaning? They’re not always as big as you might think. This week, the Ling Space talks about morphemes, the smallest bits of meaning: how to find them, where to dig for them, and how different languages deal with them.

This is a slightly shorter video than the previous ones, but with lots of good information! And a lot of meaning ore around. ^_^

New ep is up!

So I think one of my favourite things about working on this project is that although I direct the videos and help with scripts, I generally have no part in the finishing process – I don’t know what graphics will be used, or how it’ll be edited, or what. So Wednesdays I get a lovely little surprise in my subscription feed. Today that surprise included blue morpheme potato things!! Why are they so frigging cute!!! I kind of want them to have adventures now! COME ON, FREE MORPHEME, TAKE YOUR PAL BY THE HAND AND 

wait, what is this

I regret nothing

The Elephant Technique or How Not To Break Your Momentum During NaNoWriMo And Beyond

So I’m not doing NaNoWriMo, but I am writing a novel, and this technique sounds super odd but also like it might be an absolute lifesaver. In brief (although I encourage you to scroll down and read the whole post I got this from, if only for the wonderful gifs):

1. Whenever you hit a spot in your writing where you would need to research, check, or cross-reference something, just write a very unlikely word like “elephant” there instead.

2. When editing, do a document search for “elephant” (or whatever) and replace the offending pachyderms with the appropriate items, which you now have time to research without breaking your flow.



So there’s this thing, National Novel Writing Month, where a person writes a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. These people are referred to as crazy. I am one of them.


And there’s this guy, Chris Baty. Baty helped make NaNoWriMo a thing. He even wrote a book about it. A…

The Elephant Technique or How Not To Break Your Momentum During NaNoWriMo And Beyond

Language will evolve irregardless of your attempt to literally lock it away in a secluded tower. Obvs.

— Welcome to Night Vale, episode 55: The University of What It Is (via the-librarians-of-night-vale)

Not only true, but extra points for the text speak in actual speak thing. I would have been embarrassed even five years ago for doing that myself, but once you start, you realize that it’s as good a marker for being part of a speech group as anything.

I use the internet plural more than I’d like to admit, but, y’know. I’ll admit it here! It’s the internet.

(via thelingspace)

I definitely have been using “because” as a preposition a bunch lately! Like, “Speech patterns change all the time, because language”. Pretty useful stuff!

A maximal projection walks into a v bar and asks for a little vP. The bartender says, “That’s not your usual selection.” To which the maximal projection replies, “Yeah, must be a phase.”

Source unknown. Update: the joke seems to have changed some in the telling, but I have now found it on this t-shirt, which was around in 2009

This joke requires quite a lot of linguistics background to get, but if it doesn’t appeal to you, you’ll still probably have some luck with the 15 pages of linguist humour in my archives

(via allthingslinguistic)

Syntax! I wish I was better at syntax. I do (kind of) get this joke, but only because of hours and hours and hours and hours of studying to get even the rudiments of syntax to stick. I wonder why people tend to either fall on the Phonology or the Syntax side of the fence, but only so very rarely have one foot in both (not that that’s a very comfortable way to experience a fence)?

We’re working on a syntax episode right now, and I’m honestly hoping it helps me get a better grasp on it! 

That list of linguist jokes, though – so good. It probably proves that I am about five years old that my favourite is:

What does a linguist-ghost say?

omg I’m totally gonna go around saying /bu::::/ now



What happens when babies are exposed to more than one language at the same time? You might be worried about them getting confused, but The Ling Space is here this week to talk about bilingualism, and how kids have no trouble working out how to build their two languages right. It turns out babies, as always, are linguistically amazing.

Since we started the Ling Space, this is the topic we’ve been asked about the most. And we’ve got some extra material about bilingualism back on our website, too. We’re excited to hear what you all think!

The Ling Space is a relatively new YouTube channel about linguistics, posting every week on Wednesdays, and their previous videos are also worth checking out

One of the most interesting findings about the critical period for infants and telling apart speech sounds is that it’s socially sensitive. A lot of people’s first reaction to studies like these is “great, I’ll just get some recordings of other languages and play them to my hypothetical future children”, but studies have shown that this doesn’t actually work. That is, kids will learn sounds from exposure to real-life people but not from recordings.

I couldn’t find the reference anymore, but I seem to recall reading an neat twist on this several years ago: if you put the speaker behind a video loop such that they can see the baby and respond to it, the baby will actually learn the sounds, whereas if you play the baby a video of a adult interacting via video loop with a different baby, the baby doesn’t learn anymore. Social interaction and joint attention are very important. I wonder if this is part of what makes interactive-y shows like Blue’s Clues particularly useful for kids’ learning.

There’s also more today on bilingualism from Claire Bowern on kids learning from non-native speakers. Excerpt: 

In fact, kids who are exposed to early language from non-native speakers usually grow up to be full speakers of that language. For example, deaf children of hearing parents benefit greatly from early exposure to Sign Language from non-natively signing parents, and in fact end up almost as fluent as Deaf people who have Sign Language exposure from birth. Another striking example comes from Daryl Baldwin and David Costa’s work on revitalizing the Native American language Myaamia, where children fluently use sounds and grammar that their parents, who learned the language as adults, still struggle with.

Having grown up bilingual myself (French-English, if you were wondering), I always find it surprising when I hear people doubt the ability of kids to master multiple languages. I mean, this concern becomes even weirder when you think that probably most humans, both presently and throughout history, have been to some degree multilingual! There are huge swaths of the world where it’s pretty much the norm to speak (at least to some degree of proficiency) multiple languages. So why the big fuss?

I honestly don’t know. It’s not a rhetorical question. I feel like the answer might lie somewhere in the treacherous domain of language politics… Feel free to educate me, Internet.


We did a bunch of fun filming today! Can’t wait to share this episode with people. ^_^

Not gonna lie, had a lot of fun with my sideline as a makeup artist today ^_^. It wasn’t anything fancy, but getting to indulge a childhood dream is always fun. Good times! (there was a while there where I really wanted to be Michael Westmore when I grew up)