Where to learn linguistics

These are my personal recommendations for places to learn more about linguistics. Most of the resources will be of interest to linguists and non-linguists alike.

books :: videos :: podcasts :: articles :: courses

Books

Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries (Kory Stamper)

Word By Word is an excellent introduction to lexicography and a fun journey for anyone excited about language. Kory Stamper worked at Merriam-Webster for nearly two decades and has witty writing style that will draw you in.

How Language Works: How Babies Babble, Words Change Meaning, and Languages Live or Die (David Crystal)

David Crystal has written many excellent books on language and I recommend them all. How Language Works covers many major topics in linguistics (the ones you would find in most intro to linguistics classes) in a very accessible way.

The Prodigal Tongue: The Love-Hate Relationship Between American and British English (Lynne Murphy)

Lynne Murphy writes about the historical relationship between British and American English as well as modern stereotypes and how they correspond to reality. I asked my mom (not a linguist) to buy me The Prodigal Tongue for Christmas one year — she read the book before giving it to me and gave it a sparkling recommendation.

Videos

The Ling Space

The Ling Space creates 10-minute videos covering a wide range of linguistics topics, usually from a more formal angle. This is a good resource for refreshing your knowledge about a syntax topic, for example.

Dr. Word Person

Dr. Word Person makes short videos mainly focusing on ancient languages and phonetics.

Podcasts

Lingthusiasm (Gretchen McCulloch & Lauren Gawne)

Lingthusiasm ("the podcast that's enthusiastic about linguistics") covers a wide range of topics from sound symbolism to determiners. The podcast is very accessible to non-linguists, but even long-time language enthusiasts will learn something new from each episode. Episodes are 30-40 minutes long and come out once a month (with a monthly bonus episode for Patreon supporters).

Fiat Lex (Kory Stamper & Steve Kleinedler)

Although as of July 2019 they haven't been producing new episodes, Fiat Lex covered a variety of very interesting lexicography topics. The podcast is hosted by two lexicographers (I highly recommend their books as well), and includes a lot of witty and extremely nerdy banter. This podcast is quite accessible to non-experts, and anyone who loves word puzzles will enjoy it. Episodes are under 30 minutes.

Field Notes (Martha Tsutsui Billins)

Field Notes is an interview-based podcast focusing on linguistic fieldwork. Topics range from data-loss horror stories to fieldwork self-care. This podcast is an excellent resource particularly for early-career fieldworkers. Episodes are under 30 minutes and come out once a week.

The Vocal Fries (Carrie Gillon & Megan Figueroa)

The Vocal Fries is a podcast about linguistic discrimination (with the tagline "don't be an asshole"). Their episodes are usually divided into a section of banter about recent goings-on in the linguistics world followed by an interview. While the episodes may be a bit technical for someone completely new to linguistics, they're a good fit for anyone with at least some undergrad linguistics experience. Episodes range from 60-90 minutes and come out twice per month.

Articles

While many many articles have been written about linguistics, these are a few which I think are either particularly important or particularly interesting to most people.

Testifying While Black (Taylor Jones and colleagues)

This team of researchers found that although court reporter certification requires at least 95% accuracy in transcribing speech, their accuracy in transcribing nonstandard dialects such as African American English is significantly lower. Jones and colleagues argue that court reporters should be trained in all English dialects that they are likely to encounter in the courtroom, including African American English and Appalacian English.

This blog post is a summary of research published in the journal Language; the journal article is also available for free.

Language and Linguistics on Trial (John R. Rickford & Sharese King)

Rickford and King wrote about the underlying biases of the judicial system, as manifested in the treatment of Rachel Jeantel, a key witness in the 2012 shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman. As the judge, jury, and attorneys on the case were not fluent in African American English, much of Jeantel's testimony was misunderstood and mischaracterized. Furthermore, because of prejudice against nonstandard English dialects, she was discredited as a witness.

A summary article is available here; the journal article, published in Language, is available for free here.

The Mystery of Babies’ First Words (Michael Erard)

This article, published in The Atlantic, gives an interesting linguistic perspective on how baby's learn language and how we interpret their "first" words. Spoiler: Not only is it hard to know what word baby might be pronouncing, but language and communication can come far before an identifiable word.

What Do Talking Apes Really Tell Us? (Jane C. Hu)

This Slate article covers more than just linguistics, but provides important background to the study of animal communication and the history of attempts to teach apes American Sign Language. (Spoiler: while ape communication in the wild is very advanced, most linguists are skeptical of how much ASL Koko the gorilla actually learned.)

Formal Courses

Essentials of Linguistics (Catherine Anderson)

Essentials of Lingusitics is an open-access online linguistics textbook. The course includes videos as well as transcripts, and covers most major topics you would find in an intro to linguistics course.