Episode 55 (Language Versus Reality)

Nick Enfield

Paul’s podcast guest for August 2022 is Nick Enfield, professor of linguistics at the University of Sydney. Inspired by Nick’s 2022 book, Language Vs. Reality: Why Language Is Good for Lawyers and Bad for Scientists, Paul and Nick discuss how language is not always the best tool for conveying and representing reality.

Over the last three decades, Nick has conducted fieldwork on language, culture, mind, and society in mainland Southeast Asia, especially Laos. He won an Ig Nobel Prize for his role in discovering that “huh?” is a universal word in the languages of the world. He has published numerous books in linguistics and anthropology, including Roots of Human Sociality, The Utility of Meaning, The Languages of Mainland Southeast Asia, and How We Talk: The Inner Workings of Conversation.

For a complete list of references that informed Professor Enfield’s Language Vs. Reality, consult this PDF. And check out these other podcasts on which Nick has been a guest:

Sean Carroll’s Mindscape, July 11, 2022
The Neutral Ground, May 12, 2022
Word of Mouth with Michael Rosen, BBC Radio 4, May 10,  2022
The Armen Show, May 19, 2022
Uncomfortable Conversations with Josh Szeps, April 28, 2022
Many Minds, April 13, 2022

You can find some of Nick’s speeches and interviews on YouTube, such as “The Chronicle of Evolution” from 2017 and “Natural Causes of Language” from 2014.

For more information, please visit Nick’s website, especially this page, which lists all of his publications.

(Bach’s Cello Suite #1 in G Major BMV 1007 Prelude (by Ivan Dolgunov) is courtesy of Jamendo Licensing.)