playlist

Talks for people who love words

As Wittgenstein wrote, "The limits of my language mean the limits of my world." Watch talks by linguists, data analysts and word nerds.

  1. 17:13
    Anne Curzan What makes a word "real"?

    One could argue that slang words like ‘hangry,’ ‘defriend’ and ‘adorkable’ fill crucial meaning gaps in the English language, even if they don't appear in the dictionary. After all, who actually decides which words make it into those pages? Language historian Anne Curzan gives a charming look at the humans behind dictionaries, and the choices they make.

  2. 3:57
    Terry Moore Why is 'x' the unknown?

    Why is 'x' the symbol for an unknown? In this short and funny talk, Terry Moore gives the surprising answer.

  3. 13:11
    Parul Sehgal An ode to envy

    What is jealousy? What drives it, and why do we secretly love it? No study has ever been able to capture its "loneliness, longevity, grim thrill" — that is, says Parul Sehgal, except for fiction. In an eloquent meditation she scours pages from literature to show how jealousy is not so different from a quest for knowledge.

  4. 17:27
    Steven Pinker What our language habits reveal

    In an exclusive preview of his book The Stuff of Thought, Steven Pinker looks at language and how it expresses what goes on in our minds — and how the words we choose communicate much more than we realize.

  5. 13:48
    John McWhorter Txtng is killing language. JK!!!

    Does texting mean the death of good writing skills? John McWhorter posits that there’s much more to texting — linguistically, culturally — than it seems, and it’s all good news.

  6. 14:08
    Jean-Baptiste Michel + Erez Lieberman Aiden What we learned from 5 million books

    Have you played with Google Labs' Ngram Viewer? It's an addicting tool that lets you search for words and ideas in a database of 5 million books from across centuries. Erez Lieberman Aiden and Jean-Baptiste Michel show us how it works, and a few of the surprising things we can learn from 500 billion words.

  7. 15:50
    Erin McKean The joy of lexicography

    Is the beloved paper dictionary doomed to extinction? In this infectiously exuberant talk, leading lexicographer Erin McKean looks at the many ways today's print dictionary is poised for transformation.

  8. 16:39
    Luis von Ahn Massive-scale online collaboration

    After re-purposing CAPTCHA so each human-typed response helps digitize books, Luis von Ahn wondered how else to use small contributions by many on the Internet for greater good. In this talk, he shares how his ambitious new project, Duolingo, will help millions learn a new language while translating the web quickly and accurately — all for free.

  9. 13:12
    Stephen Burt Why people need poetry

    "We're all going to die — and poems can help us live with that." In a charming and funny talk, literary critic Stephen Burt takes us on a lyrical journey with some of his favorite poets, all the way down to a line break and back up to the human urge to imagine.

  10. 4:26
    Alan Siegel Let's simplify legal jargon!

    Tax forms, credit agreements, healthcare legislation: They're crammed with gobbledygook, says Alan Siegel, and incomprehensibly long. He calls for a simple, sensible redesign — and plain English — to make legal paperwork intelligible to the rest of us.

  11. 6:13
    Jill Shargaa Please, please, people. Let's put the 'awe' back in 'awesome'

    Which of the following is awesome: your lunch or the Great Pyramid of Giza? Comedian Jill Shargaa sounds a hilarious call for us to save the word "awesome" for things that truly inspire awe.

  12. 12:13
    Keith Chen Could your language affect your ability to save money?

    What can economists learn from linguists? Behavioral economist Keith Chen introduces a fascinating pattern from his research: that languages without a concept for the future — "It rain tomorrow," instead of "It will rain tomorrow" — correlate strongly with high savings rates.