Literature & Language

Immerse yourself in the world of words, written & spoken, from mythology to the media

Are all human languages the same?

Professor Simon Kirby

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?

Thu, 12 Jan 2023 6:00 pm UTC

Why do languages die?

Dr Diane Nelson

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?

Thu, 5 Jan 2023 6:00 pm UTC

Why do we tell winter ghost stories?

Dr Lucy Arnold

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?

Tue, 20 Dec 2022 7:30 pm UTC

How did language begin?

Professor Simon Kirby

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?

Tue, 6 Dec 2022 7:30 pm UTC

Could anyone become perfectly bilingual?

Antonella Sorace

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?

On demand
Watch now
How do languages evolve?

Professor Simon Kirby

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?

On demand
Watch now
What do flowers mean to us?

Prof. Kasia Boddy

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?

On demand
Watch now
Does love get better with age?

Dr. Jessica Riddell

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?

On demand
Watch now
What does fiction say about the world we wish we had?

Prof. Matthew Beaumont

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?

On demand
Watch now
Why does comedy make us happy?

Prof. Angus Fletcher

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?

On demand
Watch now
Were the first thought experiments in Shakespeare's plays?

Prof. Fathali M. Moghaddam

Scientists have long used thought experiments to further their understanding of the world. But was Shakespeare the first person to do it?

On demand
Watch now
How do the stories we tell shape who we are?

Prof. Ann Phoenix

Conversation is a continuous act of curating, connecting and analysing the events in our lives. How do we decide how we want to be seen?

On demand
Watch now
Can life be both wonderful and terrible at the same time?

Prof. Shannon Murray

The modern world is increasingly polarised; we see things in black and white. How can Shakespeare teach us to hold two conflicting ideas in our heads simultaneously?

On demand
Watch now
How are truths made?

Prof. Lisa Dickson

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?

On demand
Watch now
What's the connection between stories and memory?

Dr. Michael A. Yassa

Stories make it easier to understand complex topics and make sense of our lives. But why does the brain work this way?

On demand
Watch now

Online live interactive talks with experts

Come learn from the best in their fields, and ask them your questions

Find an upcoming live talk

High-quality recorded talks on-demand

Watch recordings of 100+ past talks at your own pace

Browse on-demand talks

The Garden is a community for the curious, a place where inquisitive minds can come together to learn from world experts, and each other, and join in conversations about topics that spark their curiosity.

Find out more

With our monthly membership we aim to give anyone, anywhere, access to the knowledge, ideas and people who have shaped — and continue to shape — our understanding of the world.

Start free trial