We are how we speak, right? Well, it’s complicated— enough so to spend Subtitle’s next four episodes on this question. We’ll tell the stories of a diverse collection of people, tracing how each came to speak the way they do. Along the way, we’ll ask: Is speech a good barometer of identity? Does anyone truly speak authentically? Why are we so judgmental about how others speak? And how can we overcome our biases? In this first episode, hosts Patrick Cox and Kavita Pillay tell their stories.
Jane Setter’s book about speech and accent bias is Your Voice Speaks Volumes. Colleen Cotter researches the language of journalism and cultural representation. Dennis Preston is the editor of the Handbook of Perceptual Dialectology. Romona Robinson’s memoir is A Dirt Road to Somewhere.
Music in this episode by Blue Dot Sessions, Podington Bear, Spectacles Wallet and Watch, Honeycutts, Alan Carlson-Green, Moss Harman, Josef Bel Habib and Arthur Benson. The photos are of Patrick and Kavita when they were so very young.
In 1986, Nicaraguan officials invited American linguist Judy Shepard-Kegl to observe a group of Deaf children. The kids were using an unrecognizable signing system. Over the following years, Shepard-Kegl and other linguists found themselves uniquely placed to observe what they came to realize was the emergence of a new language. Today, Nicaraguan Sign Language has its own complex grammar and a broad vocabulary. What can it tell us about how languages evolve?
Photo of Deaf youth with Deaf outreach workers in rural Nicaragua courtesy of Nicaraguan Sign Language Projects, Inc. Music by Blue Dot Sessions, Podington Bear and Martin Klem.
Read a transcript of this episode here.
Finland has been named the happiest country in the world. So why is sisu the word that best describes Finns? Associated with war and endurance, sisu means stoic perseverance against almost insurmountable odds. But this small, cold nation is changing, as is the meaning of sisu. In these tumultuous times, this short Finnish word may have something to offer the rest of the world.
Photo by fintuq via Pixabay. Music by Blue Dot Sessions, Isobelle Walton, Trabant 33, Chill Cole, Podington Bear.
In unsettled times, we reach for metaphors. They help us make sense of the nonsensical—or at least that’s what we tell ourselves. In this episode, we hear from linguist Elena Semino, editor of a crowd-sourced publication called the Metaphor Menu intended for people with cancer. She assesses the merits of coronavirus metaphors, from battlefield clichés to forest fires to contaminated swimming pools.
Photo by Jo Zimny Photos. Music by Moss Harman, Megan Woffard, Alexandra Woodward, Heath Cantu, Sights of Wonder, Remodal, Sons of Hades, Podington Bear.