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Future Tongues
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Future Tongues

Author: Aaron Zhu

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It has a life of its own, our propensity to babble: always evolving, pivoting in ever unexpected directions at the will of speakers. That sentence which rolled off your tongue or departed your fingertips just a minute ago — along with its tone, word choice, its construction — has something especially clairvoyant to say about language many years from now. Join host Aaron Zhu as he searches to better understand language — of both the past and the present — to surmise its future course.
3 Episodes
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To be multilingual is to be utterly uninteresting; most of the world's population is multilingual. Interesting, however, is what happens when multilingualism leads to language contact. The resulting innovations can be anything from a mere exchange of words to a shift in grammar or to the birth of an entirely new language — and how to define these innovations is a question linguists are still trying to answer. In this episode, Aaron talks with Philipp Krämer, a professor of linguistics at the Free University of Berlin. They talk about how languages like Kiezdeutsch are classified, the contact situations of creoles and multiethnolects, and the many crucial ingredients needed for a dialect so rich as Kiezdeutsch to develop.
Language isn't just a matter of cramming our ideas into a rigid grammar, vocalizing our words, and then voilà, meaning signaled, job done — no, not quite. More than just a convenient communication utility, language informs ourselves — and others — about who we are, a truth that is as existential as it is abstract, and one that Aaron examines in this episode with Heike Wiese, a professor of linguistics at Humboldt University of Berlin, who is among the world's leading researchers in Kiezdeutsch. The two discuss Germany's myth (and reality) of a "standard" national language, multilingualism in Germany, the culture around Kiezdeutsch, and how some Germans look at — or down on — the multiethnolect and its speakers.
There's a way of speaking German that's existed for barely a few decades, but has caused quite the stir in the German public with debates over what it really should be considered. Linguistics has offered the answer: it's Kiezdeutsch, a fully systematic multiethnolect complete with grammatical rules and a unique lexicon. In this episode, join Aaron as he discusses how he learned about Kiezdeutsch, our understanding of right and wrong in terms of language, and why he thinks Kiezdeutsch is a particularly insightful topic that requires further investigation.
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