Podcast recommendation: Talk the Talk

‘We get a lot of binge listeners,’ says linguist Daniel Midgley in episode #221 of Talk the Talk. I’m one of them. When I first encountered Talk the Talk, a podcast about language and linguistics based in Australia, I listened to an episode here and there. Soon I came to like it so much that I wanted to listen to everything they had recorded.

So I downloaded all the mp3s and got stuck in, usually while walking. It took a while because there are, at the time of writing, 360+ episodes, more or less one a week since November 2010. Early episodes are short, 10–15 minutes, then they grow to 40–65 minutes. I had to binge to catch up, and I enjoyed every minute.

A podcast’s appeal hinges not just on its topics and ideas but also, critically, on its people. This is highly subjective, of course, but I’ve bailed on podcasts before because I found the presentation style too dour, too portentous, too breathlessly enthusiastic. No such problems with the Talk the Talk hosts, whose company is affable and edifying.

Talk the Talk logo has dark red text on a light grey background, with a medium-grey speech bubble overlaid. Below "Talk the Talk" is a subtitle: "A weekly show about linguistics, the science of language."

The team has changed a bit over the years. Daniel Midgley is a constant, driving the topics. Ben Ainslie, a teacher, plays straight man to Midgley’s linguistic expert (though ‘straight man’ does not fit Ainslie’s livewire personality). Kylie Sturgess brings a philosophical background but is currently on hiatus to focus on a PhD. Stepping in recently is Hedvig Skirgård, a linguist from Sweden studying at ANU.

Each episode’s main topic takes up just a portion, so don’t be put off if it’s not of immediate interest. Before it there’s linguistics in the news, and sometimes interviews with linguists. Episode #261, for example, is ostensibly about adjective order (Tolkien’s green great dragon), but first Midgley talks with Damian Blasi about research into non-arbitrary words: the fact that across the world’s languages, words for red tend to have an ‘r’ in them, etc.

360 episodes plus specials – 7.84 GB and counting – has produced a wealth of material on a huge variety of linguistic topics, as well as several running jokes (Daniel’s typography fetish, Ben’s fear of the robopocalypse) and running themes, many of these emerging from social-justice aspects of language use. Each episode concludes with a word of the week; in older episodes these now function as a kind of time capsule.

There are lots of listening options, and you can browse the full archive here. If you want to sample before plunging into a megabinge, you could try an episode on semantic illusions (#80), tongue twisters (#149), arbitrariness (#220), ‘ludlings’ (#228), Hinglish (#237), language learning (#260), the hotdog/sandwich conundrum (#287), or non-linguistic influences on language (#346). Follow your linguabliss.

I have no ulterior motive for this unqualified rave, but I should mention that I have a couple of cameos: in episode #199, on computer humour, resulting from my post on the syntactic explosion of nope; and in #325, a mailbag episode that discusses, among other things, flat adverbs, which I wrote about for Macmillan Dictionary.

Talk the Talk airs on RTRFM, a non-profit community radio station based in Perth. They’re all over social media: on Patreon (early episodes require a subscription), Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, even Mastodon. Happy listening.

Update! Talk the Talk is now Because Language.


2 Responses to Podcast recommendation: Talk the Talk

  1. […] In the video below, Gawne chats about language podcasting with Lingthusiasm co-host Gretchen McCulloch and two other favourites: The Vocal Fries, aka Megan Figueroa and Carrie Gillon, and Because Language’s Daniel Midgley and Hedvig Skirgård (formerly Talk the Talk). […]

  2. […] You can also hear Sheidlower discuss this thoroughly impressive project in episode 22 of the Because Language podcast. Go suit up and jack […]

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