Three pro­grammes about lan­guage

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The Al­lu­sion­ist

iTunes

The don of lan­guage pro­grammes, He­len Zaltz­man, uses her clever mind and su­perla­tive edit­ing skills to pro­duce a pod­cast about how we write and speak that is al­ways in­ter­est­ing, sur­pris­ing and re­veal­ing of our hu­man weird­ness. Last week’s show, con­cern­ing tram­mels (con­straints) and the ex­am­ple sen­tences in dic­tio­nar­ies, was ex­cel­lent, but you can pick any show to start – they’re all great. Zaltz­man has been tour­ing her live show of The Al­lu­sion­ist around the world and ap­peared at the London pod­cast fes­ti­val yes­ter­day. Her fans are le­gion. Join them.

Word of Mouth BBC iPlayer Ra­dio

First broad­cast in 1992, this is a Ra­dio 4 stal­wart, with all the ad­van­tages and dis­ad­van­tages that brings. It’s a purring Rolls-Royce of a show that brings in top-flight guests who, very oc­ca­sion­ally, seem to think they are there to show off, rather than in­form. Michael Rosen, ex-chil­dren’s lau­re­ate, is the host, and re­cent in­ter­vie­wees have been in­ter­est­ing: CN Lester on lan­guage and gen­der iden­tity, for ex­am­ple, and Tom He­wit­son on how you de­sign con­ver­sa­tion for Siri and Alexa. Rosen him­self is never less than a de­light.

The Big Idea: How Does Lan­guage Work?

BBC iPlayer Ra­dio

The Big Idea, from the World Ser­vice, is a short (un­der 10 min­utes) pod­cast that does what you imag­ine: looks at a large con­cept and helps us to un­der­stand it. In its most re­cent episode, neu­ro­sci­en­tist Cathy Price, a lan­guage ex­pert, un­picks some brain­lan­guage ques­tions. Is there a sin­gle lan­guage mech­a­nism in the mind? What are the ad­van­tages of be­ing bilin­gual? We learn how some stroke vic­tims show how un­der­stand­ing mean­ing and speak­ing the right word are two dif­fer­ent things, and much more be­sides. Quick and in­for­ma­tive.

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