DiscoverTED Radio HourSpoken And Unspoken

Spoken And Unspoken

Update: 2017-03-035


We communicate with each other in all sorts of ways. In this hour, TED speakers reflect on how words and methods of communication affect us, more than you might expect. (Original Broadcast Date: December 13, 2013).

Following script is auto-generated by Speech to Text Technology:

support for this podcast and the following message come from Ministry of Supply launched by MIT engineers they use performance materials to design dress clothes that are stretchy and breathe able to keep you comfortable all day long get fifteen percent off your first purchase at Ministry of Supply dot com slash NPR or in their U S stores hates guy here just a quick note to tell you that we'll be back next week with a brand new episode but in the meantime take a listen to this great one from our archives called spoken and unspoken and it's about the nature of language and how it affects us more than you think this radio hour each week the groundbreaking had talked the Ted Technology Design at Stanford and Ted conferences around gift of the human had to believe in impossible the true nature of reality beckons just beyond those talks those ideas adapted for radio NPR guy rise well John it's guy ready for your interview LOL this is John the quarter I am writing to God and saying kawaii time in the eye moves he's a linguist slack and he has a cover radical theory Mommy's last thing texting drinking in shoes hell the L plates to this new law lets do this a few fights back loll loll ROFL laughing by the It would take us like four ever do this by text book we could not do this would take that would have to book the studio for like three hours even though this is basically speaking with the fingers nobody ever said that with this fast so he snuck in there but that is basically John Porter's big idea that texting is more like speaking than writing and that makes it almost like a new form of language which brings us to today's show language spoken and unspoken how it started how it's changing in how words might not be the most important part of it but first look at texting mean for the future of human communication here's John MC orders to attack basically if we think about language language has existed for perhaps a hundred and fifty thousand years at least eighty thousand years and what a rose as his speech people taught that's what we are probably genetically specified for that's how we use language most writing is something that came along much later if humanity had existed for twenty four hours than writing only came along at about eleven o seven pm that's how much of a ladder only thing writing is now of course as history has gone by it's been natural for them to be a certain amount of bleed between speech and writing and a distant era now it was common when one gave a speech to basically talk like writing so for example the Gettysburg address was not the main of that event for two hours before that Edward Everett spoke on a topic that frankly cannot engage us today and barely did then the point of it was to listen to him speaking like writing ordinary people stood and listened to that for two hours it was perfectly natural that's what people did then speaking like writing well if you can speak like right then logically it follows that you might want to also sometimes write like you speak the problem was just that in the material mechanical sense that was harder back in the day it's almost impossible to do that with your hand except in shorthand and communication is limited on a manual typewriter was very difficult even when we had electric typewriters and computer keyboards the fact is that even if you can type easily enough to keep up with the pace of speech more last you have to have somebody who can receive your message quickly once you have things in your pocket that can receive that message then you have the conditions that allow that we can write like we speak and it's a very interesting thing but nevertheless easy to think that still represents some sort of decline that something has gone wrong but the fact of the matter is that what is going on is a kind of emergent complexity the the OK texting is just like a serious thing for academics to be still like the great linguist the world anything you have ok let's sit down and like do a symposium on this thing because this is the real deal yes I mean I'm not aware of a particular Greek symposium where people with three names than mutton chops are sitting down talking about things but definitely it has become a thing to use a current location to do papers on texting I would say that anybody who teaches linguistics these days is expecting to see papers from students on taxing it's because language changes generally slowly and below the radar where is this if I in nineteen ninety three saw some of the text messages that we just traded at the beginning of this interview I would have known what to make of it at all I would have had anywhere to grab onto and that's something that happened so very quickly linguists don't usually get to see language changing right now and this quickly so it's a feast and so for example LOL if you text now or if you are someone who's aware of the substrate of taxing the way it's become you'll notice that LOL does not mean laughing out loud anymore it's evolved into something that is much subtler the This is an actual text that was done by a non male person of about twenty years old not too long ago I love the font you using the E T W Julie loll the slippery now if you think about and that's not funny no one's laughing eye and yet there is so you assume there's been some kind of pick up then Susan says loll i know again morgue of following them were used to when you're talking about these inconveniences jewel cake just as I just sent you an email has in law Lacey is very funny people if that's what LOL means Julie says the law the half to write a ten page paper she's not amused let's think about who the wall as the in a very particular way it's a marker of empathy it's a marker of accommodation we linguists call things like that pragmatic particles any spoken language that used by real people has them if you happen to speak Japanese think about that little word net that you use at the end of a lot of sense is if you listen to the way black youth today speak about the use of the word yo whole dissertations could be written about it and probably are being written about a pragmatic article that's what loll has gradually become a way of using the language between actual people knew the and what's really important about a lot of these conventions is that they're actually quite sophisticated to figure out what loll actually means in the way the linguists can figure out what even means in a sentence like he didn't even comment and explain to a foreigner what that even mean to do in language style is every bit as challenging as figuring out even or figuring out what life means in he was like tired as slang in sweat sock as that sounds to us it really is a very subtle little item but like it took years and years and years and years and years to happen whereas these are coming in in in instant and here's the thing camcorders noticing the language we use and texting it's looping back into our daily speech as in OMG or slash to change the subject quickly or when people say out loud hash tag and so there are two possibilities that could be that we're living in a time where it's considered cute to use things that you get from texting in from Twitter in speech as gentle way to sell out if you are to be part of the conversation or maybe we're seeing the beginning of a constant kind of interaction between texting conventions and speech that will never end and so we've got this brand new layer of language will keep feeding in so it's in thing right because we hear a lot about how again people are texting and they're not really communicating an attack and develop communication skills do think that's that's like there's something to that you know having watched a fair number of people go through their teen years Texan an awful lot I can't say that I've seen evidence that text in the lot is going to interfere with people's ability to carry on conversation and enter into a relationship et-cetera you might worry that it might but I'm not sure that it does I think that the social effect of texting that we most have to worry about is the fact that with the distance it's always there even with the illusion of intimacy it's easier to be mean I think we're seeing a lot of this with the bullying episodes that sometimes even lead people to suicide texting as well as equivalents words of communications on the screen through Facebook and g chat make those sorts of things easier than it used to be when bullying was a matter of walking up to somebody and saying something to them that something that works OK how won before texting is a language Thai universities and fancy private schools you know something I would make a prediction I'm going to make a nerve be predicts and just for the heck of a cake that with in two thousand and fourteen we will hear a report of texting lessons of some kind maybe for foreigners or maybe they'll be some enterprising young twenty something and Zuckerberg a person who will present something like that its upper level for gangsters yeah yeah and texting for Dummies I certainly two thousand and fourteen and they will be outrage they will be media outrage How dare it'll be like the Obama controversy How dare you treat this as something respectable but that will only make it more interesting to more people I kind of with I could write for Dummies you should do it you know I'm going to ask those Dummies people whoever they are cut low and so the way I'm thinking of texting these days is that what we're seeing is a whole new way of writing that young people are developing which they're using alongside their ordinary writing skills and that means that they're able to do two things increasing evidence is that being bilingual is cognitively beneficial that's also true of being by dialect all that's certainly true of being by dialect in terms of your writing and so texting actually is evidence of a balancing act that young people are using today not consciously of course but it's an expansion of their linguistic repertoire so in closing if I go into the future if I could go into two thousand thirty three first thing I would ask is whether David Simon had done a sequel to the wire now and I really would ask that and then I want to know actually what's going on down and be that the the second thing and then the third thing would be please show me a sheath of texts written by sixteen year old girls was I would want to know where this language has developed since our times and ideally I would then send them back to you and me now so we could examine this linguistic miracle happening right under our noses thank you very much the sling with camcorder his tie TX T I N G is killing language JK is that Ted that NPR would LOL I hope I wasn't too lame lame LOL ROFL like you get the four one on the or spoken and unspoken in a moment and Guy rise and this is the Ted Radio Hour from NPR the ol' oh Hey Everyone Just a 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new card members limitations apply the thing all this month we are asking our listeners to tell other people about podcasts especially podcast that you love or podcast you think they might love so if you know somebody who doesn't listen to podcasts or might listen to podcast but doesn't listen to the one you like tell them about it even better show them how to download a podcast and then tell us what you've been recommending use the hash tag tripod that's T R Y P O D AND thinks the it's the Ted Radio Hour from NPR and I rise and they spoken and unspoken how we communicate here's the thing about language it's this amazing tool because it is a tool that has only evolved in our species homo sapiens we are the only ones ever to develop language why is it that the language only involved in our species it's a complicated argument but it really boils down to the fact that other animals don't really have anything to talk about it this is Mark Cagle he's an evolutionary biologist and now we're a species that allows individuals to specialize in what they're good at and trade what they make or produce with other people on for objects that they make or produce no other animal does that as soon as that capability arises you need to have a technology a piece of social technology for ranging deals and that conduit is language but why we and we alone came to that strip tipping point of cognition I think is still something of a mystery in its possible that that tipping point actually happen sometime around two hundred thousand years ago and then something really strange happened as we spread out around the world we developed thousands of different languages currently there are about seven or eight thousand different languages spoken on earth but the real puzzle is that the greatest density of different languages on earth is found for people or most tightly packed together if we go to the island of Papa New Guinea we can find about eight hundred to one thousand different human languages spoken on the island alone their places on the island for you can encounter a new every two or three miles and so it seems that we use our language not just to cooperate but to drawl rings around our cooperative groups and to establish identities and perhaps to protect our knowledge and wisdom and skills from eavesdropping from outside different languages slow the flow of ideas between groups they slow the flow of technologies and even slow the flow of genes when you think about humans right and the way we evolve we evolved in a way that would not allow us to communicate with other members of our species which seems so weird it is really peculiar on the face of it that our languages exist to prevent us from communicating with each other and of course that's the subtext of that our able it's as if we use our language almost instinctively and subconsciously as a marker of tribal identity as soon as someone opens their mouth and we hear their accent we start to place them and what we're subconsciously doing is saying are they one of us are they within our in group are they an out group member and one of the reasons I think we can do that is that it is exceedingly difficult to learn a language to a very high standards such that you can pass yourself off your accent or the words that you use or the idioms that you use will give you away and so I think one of the reasons we've evolved to use it that way is because it is in some sense a reliable signal of our sort of tribal background it's interesting because it would serve to confirm this idea that humans are tribal instinctively that they're not cooperative the wonderful sort of paradox oh and the uncomfortable nature of our tribalism is that we are really remarkably and uniquely co operative among animals within our tribal groups and that the simplest examples of this on a daily basis are they holding doors for people and giving up seats on trains but you know we give to charities and we volunteer to fight in wars and so on and yet that that cooperation that we engage in at least throughout our history has largely been confined to other members of our tribe and as soon as we move outside the tribe it's as if a lot of our ethical and moral stances evaporate and we can treat people outside of our tribe has come sub human ok this tendency we have towards isolation towards keeping to ourselves crashes headfirst into our modern world our modern world is communicating with itself and with each other more than it has it anytime minutes pass and that globalization now raises a burden because these different languages impose a barrier to cooperation but this way nature knows no other circumstance in which functionally equivalent traits coexist one of them always drives the other sixteen we see this in the inexorable march toward standardization for lots and lots of ways of measuring things but the metric system is winning there lots and lots of ways of measuring time but really bizarre base sixty system known as hours and minutes and seconds is nearly universal around the world and so our modern world now is confronting us with a dilemma it's the dilemma that this Chinese man faces whose language is spoken by more people in the world than any other single language and yet he is sitting at his back for converting Chinese phrases into English language phrases all were sitting you can imagine a future in which you know people still speak Mandarin or Hindi but everybody will also speak English it's interesting that we look around the world there are about seven to eight thousand distinct languages but about ten languages account for about fifty percent of all speakers on earth and what's happening is that something like thirty to fifty languages per year go extinct so we're losing our linguistic diversity in a really rate it's virtually inevitable that there will be a single language on earth really yes and the reason is that we can already see it happening that something on the order of two billion people speak English as their second language and what will happen is that when you imagine two large language communities living next door to each other one of those languages is continually sort of out competing the other so every exchange in a local shop someone's got to agree to speak the other language simply because English has such an enormous head start one would have to bet on English being the language that's going to be the sort of this is a terrible sort of metaphor the lingual franca for the world but even if that happened I mean he would also change English yes one of the remarkable things is how English is visioning into many forms of English so this bangle a sian there's Franklin but the remarkable thing around the world is that all of these sort of dialects of English are very good at communicating with each other we expect if there are these forces of imagination they will lead eventually to a single kind of grave form of English that spoken all over the world of course they'll be sort of regional dialects but we expect they would all be sort of enter communicable people will be able to spend as they already are the what this does is it raises the possibility to us that in a world in which we want to promote cooperation exchange in a world that might be dependent more than ever before on cooperation to maintain and enhance our levels of prosperity might be inevitable that we have to confront the idea that our destiny is to be one world with one language thank you the bagel he's a professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Reading his talk how language transformed humanity is at Ted dot NPR dot org My name is Tran I live in Portland Maine I teach Latin and Greek you don't look like a Latin and Greek teacher you look like a hipster like a leather apron like making homemade tonics and bitters do that too okay maybe not to make solid just a fluke is also a tattoo artist and is actually tattooed himself when I got the tattoo fever I just was like I want to be covered in tattoos and one days like i wanna do this huge thing on my thigh but isn't a big koi fish and I look at it like man I think stinks I know Ted two is regret actually does have something to do with folks other passion which is grammar because thinking that you could or should have done something different it's all possible because of the subjective mood which is when folks talk is all about I'm here to talk about how grammar is a tool to use like a pair of glasses and when it's used at the right time can bring the world into sharp focus when it's used at the wrong time to make things incredibly blurry and this all starts with our understanding of the subjective I remember talking to my dad about this and because he's a non native speaker of English he didn't quite grasp all the nuances of the subjective I say that listen you can say if it hadn't rained we would have gone to the beach and my dad's response that stupid but the wide you want to talk about something it did to the subjective allows us to look into the future and to see multiple highly nuanced possibilities which was a little sprinkling of Could wood termites similarly it allows us to look into the past and to imagine what didn't happen but could have happened junk is the most powerful mood it's like a timeless piece dream machine that can conjure alternate realities with just the idea could have or should have to live in this idea should have is a Pandora's box of hope and regret the growing up in Pennsylvania that these refugee I often thought about what would have happened if my family had escaped Saigon in nineteen seventy five we have been imprisoned like my father's cousin who spent years and re education camp being tortured and sentenced to hard labor or would we have simply been killed like countless other South Vietnamese who were unable to escape that April night that my family was fleeing Saigon my entire family parents grandparents aunts and uncles were all scheduled to board a bus and as that bus was loading passengers I began crying shrieking uncontrollably so much so that my entire family decided to wait for the next bus and as that was pulled away cos it was struck by artillery fire that exploded and everyone aboard was killed as a kid I thought alot about our good fortune in escaping and about what would have happened if we hadn't and I didn't realize at the time but I was pondering things in my parents couldn't ponder knows all because of the English That Into You don't think the family ever thought about what could've been I really don't and you know after I thought about that I was visiting my mom because she was sick and one of my aunts was there visiting her as well in just for conversation my aunt recounted the whole story again you know not all the details are pretty much there and I remember asking What are you in English and what do you think they would have happened she issues like I don't know because we would have all died you can kind of tell if she hadn't really like shoes so why would you even wanna think about that or what's the point I kind of like this pointless exercise in pondering what could have happened that's a huge piece guy and in that pondering the could've would've and should've straight like does it benefit you to think about the things that could've happened nor does it just kind of fester and if it doesn't if it's not good for you and good for your service your soul you know let it go because I think it's not healthy right but I think it's obviously easier said than done right the the the My Father There were no alternate realities in nineteen seventy five there was just what happened and what didn't happen even if he did feel the pangs of losing a life that he should have had he did have the language to express it in Vietnam my father was a lawyer and an aspiring politician he should have had a career he should have been somebody important yet there he was in nineteen seventy five in the country he didn't know driving a cement mixer trying to learn English and support stemming from a parent's survival however the slack of the subjective was fundamental to their resiliency they were able to provide for me and my brother to do what needed to be done in part because they didn't expend psychic energy and what could have been in Vietnamese that was just the naked indicative ness of the world and they met it head on as a kid growing up for me of the subject of English was this rise in a way of an oasis through the power of the subjective I imagined this amazing for this fantastical world where my name wasn't weird I was trying to pretend that I was typical American teenager I played a punk band Skype or did I worked at a gas station I ran away from home and white smoke pot was kind of like this asian kid have been photoshopped into a John Hughes movie
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