Literature & Language
Immerse yourself in the world of words, written & spoken, from mythology to the media
Are all human languages the same?
If a Martian linguist were to study the languages of the world, what would they conclude about how many we had? What forces shape our language?
Why do languages die?
It's thought there are more than 7,000 languages spoken across the world. Although this number seems vast, every month one of the world's languages disappears forever. How and why so many languages are dying?
Why do we tell winter ghost stories?
It's well known that ghosts have long been associated with winter cold since ancient times. The idea of something scary lurking beyond the light and laughter have inspired many chilling stories, but where does this custom or ritual come from?
How did language begin?
What makes human speech miraculous is the fact that no other creature in history that we know of has evolved the skill. The origin of language is evolution’s greatest mystery, but how did language begin?
Could anyone become perfectly bilingual?
More than half the world speaks two or more languages fluently. And yet being bilingual is a label often reserved for native speakers who learn multiple languages as children. Can you both 'be' and 'become' bilingual?
How do languages evolve?
Language sets humankind apart from other species. Even our closest primate relatives haven't developed the same ability to acquire & use language. Why are humans the only species with language and how did language evolve?
What do flowers mean to us?
From the meaning of carnations in Sex and the City to sunflowers in the cleanup of Chernobyl and Henry VIII’s ban on saffron dye, flowers are deeply woven into our culture & our history. How have they inspired us & what do they mean?
Does love get better with age?
Romeo and Juliet are often held up as the romantic ideal, willing to risk it all for their one great love. But if Shakespeare really agreed that this is what true love looks like, why are so many of his favourite couples distinctly... middle-aged?
What does fiction say about the world we wish we had?
Imagining new worlds in speculative fiction and sci fi doesn't just help us envision possible futures; it also gives us a way to think about our world as it is now. What do our fictional worlds tell us about the world we want to live in?
Why does comedy make us happy?
Humans have created art to provoke laughter for millennia. Why does comedy work, and what does it reveal about the counterintuitive biology of the human brain?
How are truths made?
What you believe about the world depends on the lens you view it through. What does Shakespeare's Henry V have to tell us about different perspectives and where the real truth lies?