Three programmes about language
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.