The following are a selection of animations and films about language and communication that I’ve made over the years, covering topics from Shakespeare and swearing to emoji and robotics, and from fake news and filter bubbles to comedy and creativity.
A short animation explaining what exactly language is, where it comes from, and how it works. With perfectly justifiable cameos from René Descartes, Alan Turing and Edward Sapir.
A series of very short animations that attempt to squeeze 1600 years of linguistic history into a little over ten minutes. The series looks at how English grew from a small local variety into a major global language, and uncovers the sources of English words and phrases from Shakespeare and the King James Bible to American popular culture and the digital age. All narrated in a reassuringly deadpan way by Clive Anderson. The series won a ‘Learning on Screen’ award in 2012.
A series of twenty short episode teaching a selection of phrases and idioms that were coined or popularised by Shakespeare. ‘Dead as a doornail’; ‘It’s all Greek to me’; that sort of thing. Produced by BBC Learning English in association with the OU. The series was a Runner-up in the ‘Resources for Secondary and Higher Learners’ category at the English Speaking Union awards, 2016, and was nominated for a British Council ELTon Award in ‘Innovation in learner resources’ in 2017.
A short animation which makes a valiant attempt at defining the concept of creativity, and explaining what it has to do with language. The video looks at the ways people use language in creative ways, at the roles linguistic creativity plays in society, and at how we can go about studying it.
A short film investigating the emoji phenomenon, explaining why they’ve become such an important part of modern-day culture, and how they work as a means of communication. Narrated by radio personality Lauren Laverne.
Three short animations about the circulation of information on social media, looking at issues such as sharing, online filter bubbles and the impact of fake news. Narrated by Josie Long.
An interview with broadcaster Evan Davies and journalist James Ball, in which they discuss the importance of narrative for news reporting, and the dangers of letting the story lead the facts.
A short documentary asking whether it’s ever going to be likely that robots will be able to learn to speak like humans; and what the research that’s addressing this challenge can teach us about the complexity of human language.
Six short videos looking at the way comedians manipulate language for comedic purposes. Featuring Charlie Higson talking about catchphrases; Henning Wehn on cross cultural humour; David McGilivray discussing innuendo and puns; Isy Suttie on crafting a joke; and Graham Fellows on creating his character John Shuttleworth.
Why do people swear?
A film all about the linguistics of swearing. Why we do it and what it can tell us about the culture in which we live. Made in collaboration with Tilt, presented by Adam Woollard and Theo Marlow, and with expert insight from Emma Byrne, Jean-Marc Dewaele, Melissa Mohr and Sean Burke.
Shorter versions of the four interview sections of the film are available here:
Melissa Mohr on the history of swearing
Jean-Marc Dewaele on cross-cultural swearing
Emma Byrne on the science of swearing
Sean Burke on swearing, comedy and creativity
A short video, made in the early 2010s, looking at the use of English in European politics, and especially its status as the de facto working language for the European Parliament.
An introduction with David and Ben Crystal to ‘Original Pronunciation’ productions of Shakespeare, and what they reveal about the history of the English language.
Creativity and literary agents. An interview with Jonny Geller, CEO of Curtis Brown, about the role of the literary agent in the creative process.
What’s fake about ‘fake news’? An interview I gave with Hugh Mcfaul about the concept of fake news.
Stories on social media and fake news. An interview I gave with Diggit Magazine, alongside Alexandra Georgakopoulou, about my research into social media and politics.