playlist

How language changes over time

Language isn’t set in stone. It changes all the time — and in turn, our language changes us. These talks explore how new words come to be.

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  1. 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.

  2. 6:52
    Erin McKean Go ahead, make up new words!

    In this fun, short talk from TEDYouth, lexicographer Erin McKean encourages — nay, cheerleads — her audience to create new words when the existing ones won’t quite do. She lists out 6 ways to make new words in English, from compounding to “verbing,” in order to make language better at expressing what we mean, and to create more ways for us to understand one another.

  3. 20:10
    Mark Pagel How language transformed humanity

    Biologist Mark Pagel shares an intriguing theory about why humans evolved our complex system of language. He suggests that language is a piece of "social technology" that allowed early human tribes to access a powerful new tool: cooperation.

  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. 14:12
    Suzanne Talhouk Don't kill your language

    More and more, English is a global language; speaking it is perceived as a sign of being modern. But — what do we lose when we leave behind our mother tongues? Suzanne Talhouk makes an impassioned case to love your own language, and to cherish what it can express that no other language can. In Arabic with subtitles.

  6. 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.

  7. 7:04
    Mark Forsyth What's a snollygoster? A short lesson in political speak

    Most politicians choose their words carefully, to shape the reality they hope to create. But does it work? Etymologist Mark Forsyth shares a few entertaining word-origin stories from British and American history (for instance, did you ever wonder how George Washington became "president"?) and draws a surprising conclusion.