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Lexicon Valley
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Lexicon Valley

Author: Slate Podcasts

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Lexicon Valley is a show about language, from pet peeves, syntax, and etymology to neurolinguistics and the death of languages. Hosted by linguist John McWhorter.

203 Episodes
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From baby talk to formal varieties, languages around the world offer—or even require—different ways of speaking for different situations. Slate Plus members get a bonus segment on Lexicon Valley each week, and no ads. Sign up now to listen and support our show. Twitter: @lexiconvalley Facebook: facebook.com/LexiconValley Email: lexiconvalley@slate.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Enslaved people developed a hybrid language that sailed from Africa to the Caribbean and—unbelievably—back again. Slate Plus members get a bonus segment on Lexicon Valley each week, and no ads. Sign up now to listen and support our show. Twitter: @lexiconvalley Facebook: facebook.com/LexiconValley Email: lexiconvalley@slate.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
A longstanding mystery of Black English may finally be solved. Slate Plus members get a bonus segment on Lexicon Valley each week, and no ads. Sign up now to listen and support our show. Twitter: @lexiconvalley Facebook: facebook.com/LexiconValley Email: lexiconvalley@slate.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Languages of the Ottoman Empire, inspired by historian Alan Mikhail's new book God's Shadow. Slate Plus members get a bonus segment on Lexicon Valley each week, and no ads. Sign up now to listen and support our show. Twitter: @lexiconvalley Facebook: facebook.com/LexiconValley Email: lexiconvalley@slate.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Lots of languages have no dedicated way to indicate later-ness. Somehow life goes on. Slate Plus members get a bonus segment on Lexicon Valley each week, and no ads. Sign up now to listen and support our show. Twitter: @lexiconvalley Facebook: facebook.com/LexiconValley Email: lexiconvalley@slate.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Defund Karen

Defund Karen

2020-07-0739:467

On the insults, acronyms and sloganeering of America's racial reckoning. Slate Plus members get a bonus segment on Lexicon Valley each week, and no ads. Sign up now to listen and support our show. Twitter: @lexiconvalley Facebook: facebook.com/LexiconValley Email: lexiconvalley@slate.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Beyond the Five Ws

Beyond the Five Ws

2020-06-2349:42

The curious grammar of questions in languages around the world. Slate Plus members get a bonus segment on Lexicon Valley each week, and no ads. Sign up now to listen and support our show. Twitter: @lexiconvalley Facebook: facebook.com/LexiconValley Email: lexiconvalley@slate.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Language acquisition is like magic—how do children do it?! Slate Plus members get a bonus segment on Lexicon Valley each week, and no ads. Sign up now to listen and support our show. Twitter: @lexiconvalley Facebook: facebook.com/LexiconValley Email: lexiconvalley@slate.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Can strongly aspirated consonants increase transmission of COVID-19? Slate Plus members get a bonus segment on Lexicon Valley each week, and no ads. Sign up now to listen and support our show. Twitter: @lexiconvalley Facebook: facebook.com/LexiconValley Email: lexiconvalley@slate.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Our Indigenous Languages

Our Indigenous Languages

2020-05-1259:003

A luxuriance of long words, baroque case endings and irregular everything—the Native American tongues! Slate Plus members get a bonus segment on Lexicon Valley each week, and no ads. Sign up now to listen and support our show. Twitter: @lexiconvalley Facebook: facebook.com/LexiconValley Email: lexiconvalley@slate.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
I Just Can't!

I Just Can't!

2020-04-2844:242

Host John McWhorter shares some of his longstanding language peeves—yes, linguists have them too! Slate Plus members get a bonus segment on Lexicon Valley each week, and no ads. Sign up now to listen and support our show. Twitter: @lexiconvalley Facebook: facebook.com/LexiconValley Email: lexiconvalley@slate.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
The Many Meanings of Too

The Many Meanings of Too

2020-04-1440:443

Host John McWhorter finds linguistic inspiration in an 80-year-old musical performance of Rubber Dolly. Slate Plus members get a bonus segment on Lexicon Valley each week, and no ads. Sign up now to listen and support our show. Twitter: @lexiconvalley Facebook: facebook.com/LexiconValley Email: lexiconvalley@slate.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Sicko, Whacko, Weirdo

Sicko, Whacko, Weirdo

2020-03-3142:194

The -o suffix traces back to old comic strip characters with names like Knocko and Groucho. Neato! Slate Plus members get a bonus segment on Lexicon Valley each week, and no ads. Sign up now to listen and support our show. Twitter: @lexiconvalley Facebook: facebook.com/LexiconValley Email: lexiconvalley@slate.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Mandarin might not have gender or case endings but there's more to grammar than conjugations. Slate Plus members get a bonus segment on Lexicon Valley each week, and no ads. Sign up now to listen and support our show. Twitter: @lexiconvalley Facebook: facebook.com/LexiconValley Email: lexiconvalley@slate.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Want to hear what English will sound like in the future? Talk to a woman. Slate Plus members get a bonus segment on Lexicon Valley each week, and no ads. Sign up now to listen and support our show. Twitter: @lexiconvalley Facebook: facebook.com/LexiconValley Email: lexiconvalley@slate.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
DNA analysis is revealing which speakers traveled where and when. Join Slate Plus! Members get bonus segments, exclusive member-only podcasts, and more. Sign up for a free trial today at www.slate.com/podcastsplus. Twitter: @lexiconvalley Facebook: facebook.com/LexiconValley Email: lexiconvalley@slate.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Digging Up the Past

Digging Up the Past

2020-02-0439:5310

Let's talk about how we talk about that which already occurred. Join Slate Plus! Members get bonus segments, exclusive member-only podcasts, and more. Sign up for a free trial today at www.slate.com/podcastsplus. Twitter: @lexiconvalley Facebook: facebook.com/LexiconValley Email: lexiconvalley@slate.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Verbs on the Move

Verbs on the Move

2020-01-2139:065

Coming and going in languages around the world. Join Slate Plus! Members get bonus segments, exclusive member-only podcasts, and more. Sign up for a free trial today at www.slate.com/podcastsplus. Twitter: @lexiconvalley Facebook: facebook.com/LexiconValley Email: lexiconvalley@slate.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
How our idea of formality can affect the way we say certain words. Join Slate Plus! Members get bonus segments, exclusive member-only podcasts, and more. Sign up for a free trial today at www.slate.com/podcastsplus. Twitter: @lexiconvalley Facebook: facebook.com/LexiconValley Email: lexiconvalley@slate.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
A Bisl Yiddish

A Bisl Yiddish

2019-12-2446:207

Add to German a large helping of Hebrew and a dollop of Slavic. Stir. Let marinate. Enjoy! Join Slate Plus! Members get bonus segments, exclusive member-only podcasts, and more. Sign up for a free trial today at www.slate.com/podcastsplus. Twitter: @lexiconvalley Facebook: facebook.com/LexiconValley Email: lexiconvalley@slate.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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Comments (40)

Margaret Gardner

ummm...? Miss Marlene is a great song but it's Donald Fagen solo, not Steely Dan.

Aug 4th
Reply

Margaret Gardner

yay! I love steely Dan! unexpected. I have always heard about this podcast, finally checked it out, and wouldn't ("would you not") you know it... My favorite band!

Aug 4th
Reply

Mary Martinson

You are only the second person besides myself Ive known to say we should get rid of apostrophes altogether. I've been saying it for years. My son says we should hang out haha.

Jul 1st
Reply

Arielle Niss

LOVE this show. I always learn so much from it. Feel like i need a pen and paper to keep track of the lessons.

Jun 10th
Reply

Emma Gore-Lloyd

I've never commented on a podcast before but I feel I have to with this one. This is the first ep I've listed to of lexicon Valley, as I love languages and have studied linguistics, and love to get more. I was really excited when I came across this podcast. I'm confused - the details say that McWhorter is a linguist. But this ep is just rambling beliefs and speculation with a very weak argument, and on top of that completely neglects to factor in a key point (maybe he gets there later, I'm afraid I gave up at daffy duck). The formality theory is interesting, but surely the first thing to note is that words ending in - sis, pl. - ses come from Greek (not Latin as Mcwhorter says) ? Process comes from Latin. You can't compare words ending - sis with words ending - vis and mise! Etymology is key to understanding how English works. Secondly, Mcwhorter isn't using the concept of formality in the way that linguists use it. Thirdly, I'm not really sure how the syllable-number theory is relevant. I was hoping for an informative podcast telling me something new but it's sadly lacking in a sound logical approach. 😔 So disappointed. Persaude me it's worth listening to the rest?

Jun 5th
Reply

Becky Leverett

I really enjoyed this episode, thanks John 😊

May 5th
Reply

Russ Gee

But what if someone says it just as it is said in the title of the podcast? I don't think you can say, "I can't just." For example, "Why can't you curl your tongue?" "I just can't!" What then?

Apr 28th
Reply

Mido

Hi I love the show, actually it's my favourite podcast ever. I'm a linguistics student from Saudi Arabia, and I think you made a mistake when you said that Arabic dialects are different languages, because all almost Arabs understand each other with relative ease, except for the Morrocan dialects which can also be understood after a certain period of exposure, similar to colliquial Scottish to an American, I guess. The examples you gave, like zain and kuwayess and khosh that mean "good", are all words that we use in Saudi! the same for "shaf" for "see".

Apr 3rd
Reply

Erin Ross

I'm 3 episodes in and I'm hooked! Perfect blend of information and humor.

Mar 29th
Reply

Erin Ross

Husband: That is the longest conversation about faggot that I have ever heard. lol

Mar 29th
Reply

Mary Gatlin Bell

I'm obsessed with you and lexicon valley. Hopefully Jared and the annoying music were simply a send-up of the increasingly offensive podcast genre. (I'm old and easily fooled). If you were even semi-serious, I would have to drop you like a hot potato. Please say you were pulling the proverbial wool over my rheumy eyes

Mar 22nd
Reply

Phillip Miner

I'd love a discussion about various nations' non-binary identities and their linguistic properties, like the Nadleehi or Ihamana.

Mar 3rd
Reply

Phillip Miner

I'd love a discussion about various nations' non-binary identities and their linguistic properties, like the Nadleehi or Ihamana.

Mar 3rd
Reply

mehran bayat

hello john, thanks for your perfect mental food you giving us :). had a question; Freud had an article, "the antithetical meaning of primal words", in which he claimed in primal languages, words had two opposite meanings; for example, Greek "altus" means high and deep simultaneously, and so many other examples. he gives a psychoanalytic explanation, but through the lens of philology, why is that so?

Feb 20th
Reply

Nonya Bizness

zombie episode: you say we have the word impede (to slow down or get in the way) but there is no 'expede'. true, but we do have 'expedite', which is to speed up, and would be the opposite of 'impedite'... if that was a word. but then we do have 'impediment' (to slow down or get in the way). 🤔

Dec 25th
Reply (1)

Vernon Shoemaker

If you were curious about this podcast, this is a good one to try out.

Dec 1st
Reply

Imogen S.

Actually, Bob was right in his initial analogy to a fingerprint and Binango - as most people would be - was mistaken. Fingerprints are incredibly imprecise; they aren't nearly as unique as one might think, and since the advent of genetic testing, I think (pulling from memory here) that as many as 1/4th of convictions have been forcibly dismissed based on new evidence. That's how inaccurate fingerprinting is. But the comparison to handwriting is still a great analogy, because people can change that forcibly, or try to, and cultures tend to share similarities in writing style - i.e. kids who went to school and all learned the Palmer method, etc. Excellent episode!

Aug 22nd
Reply (1)

Zach Winchester

Why does an anecdote of a 70-year old man getting blown up by a landmine brighten my day as much as it did today?

May 29th
Reply

Tallulah Bell

I was born 1943) and raised in La Crosse WI, 3rd generation Norwegian. My grandparents said "ish" as did every one. Oddly my mother said, "Ish Kabibble". I just looked it up. He was a comedian. I had no idea "ish" was regional. In my mind's ear everyone says it. I'm working in NYC this month, will do an informal study. I'm mad for this podcast, John is a star. thx.

Apr 24th
Reply (2)

Matthew Hodge

I love this podcast... And this episode reminded me why... 'Ish'. My grandma would say 'ish'. However I never thought of it as a word to deter another from continuing. Grandma used it when she found something gross or dirty.. So right along the same lines

Apr 11th
Reply
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