Movies about language and linguistics

There are relatively few movies – either full programmes or YouTube videos – about languages or linguistics. Two sites of interest have just been announced on the LINGUIST list, both of which should have general appeal.

Language Matters. A Film by David Grubin

“Monday, January 19, 2015 “Language Matters”, a new film about language loss and revitalization premiered on PBS. The film discusses important issues related to endangered languages and attempts to document and revitalize them.

You can get a glimpse of the content from the program summary on the PBS web site:
“There are over 6,000 languages in the world. We lose one every two weeks. Hundreds will be lost within the next generation. By the end of this century, half of the world’s languages will have vanished. “Language Matters” with Bob Holman is a two-hour documentary that asks: What do we lose when a language dies? What does it take to save a language? (…)”

More information about the movie, as well as the links to the preview and the full version of the movie are available here.”

Sadly, this movie does not appear to be available in Europe “because of rights restrictions”. (But then we won’t let North American folk watch the BBC, I suppose.)

The Ling Space: A Video Series about Linguistics

“The Ling Space is an ongoing YouTube series about linguistics. We are passionate about sharing linguistic knowledge and sparking scientific curiosity in a wide audience. To that end, we’ve been making videos that are consistent with the state of the field, but also accessible to people without a background in linguistics.

Our videos are generally 7-10 minutes long and touch on a wide variety of both theoretical and experimental linguistics topics. In our 20 videos to date, we’ve talked about phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics, as well as first and second language acquisition, bilingualism, neurolinguistics, sociolinguistics, and historical linguistics.

All of our videos are available for free here on YouTube. You can also find them at our website. There, we have extra materials posted to supplement each episode, as well as tailored discussion forums. We also have an active blog and social media presence, which we use to engage with the community at large.

We hope that our videos will not only interest a general audience, but also prove useful to linguistic educators, who may find that our material supplements a more traditional pedagogical approach. We gladly welcome suggestions about topics that you would like to see for your courses or otherwise, and we are happy to work with teachers on how to integrate our materials into their classes. Furthermore, all of our videos are closed-captioned in English for greater accessibility.

Please do not hesitate to ask if you have any questions, and enjoy the series!”

There are currently 20 movies in the set. I should also point out that their YouTube listing includes a link to Jane Setter’s channel. She describes herself as “Professor of Phonetics at the University of Reading, UK, and also a rock vocalist”, which must be a unique combination (although a large number of eminent linguists seem to have been in rock bands).


Information about the LINGUIST list is here, in case you are interested.