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There's a wonderful new podcast on linguistic matters that I highly recommend to all Language Log readers. It's called Lingthusiasm, and it's appropriately billed as "a podcast that's enthusiastic about linguistics." The podcast is co-hosted by Gretchen McCulloch and Lauren Gawne. You may know Gretchen from her All Things Linguistic blog or her posts on The (dearly departed) Toast about Internet language. Lauren is a postdoctoral fellow at SOAS and blogs at Superlinguo. There have been six episodes so far, and they're all worth a listen.

    • Episode 6: All the sounds in all the languages – The International Phonetic Alphabet (audio, links)

You can listen on iTunes, SoundcloudYouTube or other podcast apps via rss. Lingthusiasm is also on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.

Update: If you'd like to support Lingthusiasm, check out their Patreon page.


  1. Jim said,

    March 29, 2017 @ 12:19 pm

    I listened to the first episode of this a few weeks ago, and although I was thrilled at first to hear about a linguistics podcast, I was substantially less thrilled by how snide and dismissive the hosts were about Esperanto, especially given how many factual errors about it they made in the course of the discussion. Mindful of the Gell-Mann amnesia principle, it did not fill me with great confidence that they will know what they're talking about on other subjects either.

  2. Ellen K. said,

    March 30, 2017 @ 9:25 am

    Jim, I'm interested in what you consider to be errors in their discussion of Esperanto.

  3. Jim said,

    March 30, 2017 @ 1:12 pm

    @Ellen: certainly. For starters, Gretchen says "the feminine forms were diminutive of the masculine forms", which is flatly wrong; the diminutive suffix in Esperanto is -et, whereas the feminine suffix is -in. She later says that Esperanto can't distinguish a group of mixed gender from a group of single gender, which is also incorrect; the prefix ge- does exactly that. It's implied that there is no way to make a specifically masculine word other than just using the root form, which is misleading; although it wasn't originally designed that way, the root vir is often used as a prefix to make masculine nouns. So for example, "bovo" = a member of Bos taurus; "bovino" = a cow; "virbovo" = a bull. Homo means a human being in general, and while it isn't grammatically wrong to add the feminine suffix to get homino, I don't think anyone really uses that except maybe in technical contexts, e.g. discussing human biology or evolution. IIRC, ino or virino would be more common words for "woman" in general.

    While not an error per se, I think it's a telling omission that they fail to mention that the Esperanto community has been aware of these issues for a long time, and the language has changed quite a bit since the 19th century. Many words that would originally be assumed masculine by default are now usually used in a gender-neutral way, and the remainder are leaning in that direction too. There are various proposals for evening out the grammatical gender situation, one popular one being the addition of a masculine suffix -iĉ to parallel the feminine -in, as well as several competing suggestions for gender-neutral pronouns and affixes. No doubt it will take a while for any of them to be recognized officially, but the trend is clear. Speakers of the language are adapting to changing social mores, just as they are in other natural languages, which they would have learned with even some cursory research.

    As a conlanger myself, I'll be the first to admit that Esperanto has its share of design flaws. I'm willing to Zamenhof a pass on some of them, since they didn't exactly have Wikipedia in 1887, and he still managed to do okay anyway. Despite its warts, Esperanto is the most popular constructed language ever; it's easy to say some other language might have better design or more inclusive vocabulary or whatever, but that's academic if nobody actually uses it. In any case I think it's unfair to summarize it as "a terrible language for a bunch of reasons", especially when their stated reasons are either wrong or more nuanced than they make them out to be.

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