philena (philena) wrote in linguaphiles,

Video clips with linguistics concepts


I'm going to be teaching an introductory linguistics class this summer, and I'd like to introduce class sessions with short video clips illustrating various concepts. These should not be pedagogical, but rather cases of linguistics in action. For example, in the last season of the West Wing, there's a conversation between Leo McGarry and his very short publicity assistant about how to pronounce Matt Santos's last name: [sɑntos] or [sæntos], complete with a discussion of the implications of saying it wrong. This can introduce both a class on vowel transcription, and also a class on sociolinguistics. There's also that great scene from Pirates of Penzance where the entire humor rests in the fact that, in British English, "orphan" and "often" (here, starting at about 1:30: are homophonous which can introduce a discussion of mergers (also use vs. mention). And, of course, practically any scene from My Fair Lady is good for phonetics (and sociolinguistics). Do you have any scenes from films or TV shows (ideally three minutes or less) that made you think, "Golly, what a great example of [syntactic ambiguity/Gricean conversational implicature/imperfect synonyms/morphological productivity]?" It's good if they're on youtube, but I can also get them through my school's library, so don't hold back!

  • Post a new comment


    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

Unimportant nitpick that you may well have on board: Orphan/often are only homophonous in very upper class (and now completely archaic, I think? Are there still people who pronounce 'often' that way?) British English.
There are, but are mainly elderly and/or very upper class. Lord St.John of Fawlsley does, but so do several older mainly Tory MPs like John Gummer, and I think Thatcher did, because she'd have been taught to at grammar school. My dad does for that reason (nearly 70).

Only people under 65 I can think of learnt their English in expat/overseas English speaking colonies, like Kenya or Malaysia. My parents told me to do it before I went to boarding school, but I never have, because no-one else did.
Yada yada yada from Seinfeld


May 17 2013, 16:53:49 UTC 4 years ago Edited:  May 17 2013, 16:54:10 UTC

The famous "four candles" sketch?

Loads and loads of that 60s and 70s comedy is based on puns, homophones and other types of wordplay, so I could probably keep going for hours!

ETA: Oh sorry, didn't mean that to be a reply to you!
That's perfect. What a great example.
There's been a really charming update of it for the wired age:
I can think of lots and lots of stand-up comedy clips, but I take it from your examples you're looking more for bits which mimic real-life interactions?

(Also, I guess it goes without saying that you're looking for examples which are in English even if some of the words and phrases under discussion aren't.)
Exactly right. Thank you for these. In principle, stand-up comedy clips would work well, too: "Here's what the standard perception of X is; now let's talk about the linguistic principles behind it."
A couple of accent-based comedy clips:
Indian Call Centre Scottish Accent -
Scottish Elevator Voice Recognition -

and a fluff news story about iPhone voice recognition having trouble with Scottish accents, which includes a clip from the above elevator comedy routine:

And for some linguistic confusion (possibly deliberate syntactic ambiguity? I don't actually have any linguistics training), Abbott & Costello's famous "who's on first" comedy routine: (film of them doing the routine; "who's on first" skit starts at about 0:40) (version with only audio & typography; kinda fun)
A fun video on Siri voice recognition:

The classic Eddie Izzard buys a cow in Friesland video:

Here's a funny one I'm sure you've seen before: And I'm sure that you, too, have spotted the underlying flaw in the gag, namely the gap between perception and production. (That is, I know Germans who lack this distinction in their speech, but I've yet to meet any who can't hear it in others'.)