How to earn your degree while watching TV

Do you have a paper on linguistics due but would you much rather spend the day binge watching your favourite television show or series? Don’t worry, I have the solution: why not combine the two?! You’d be surprised how many books and articles are written on the language and linguistics of tv shows every year…

Studies on fictional series often lean towards sociolinguistics and pragmatics (humour and politeness are big topics at the moment), while reality series are very popular because they provide huge corpora of natural language data.

Here is some inspiration from your fellow linguists:

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

  • Adams, Michael P.: Slayer slang : a Buffy the vampire slayer lexicon.

Downton Abbey

  • Ajtony, Zsuzsanna: Translation of irony in the Hungarian subtitles of Downton Abbey.
  • Ajtony, Zsuzsanna: Various facets of the English stereotype in Downton Abbey : a pragmatic approach.

Father Ted

  • Walshe, Shane: ‘Normal people like us don’t use that type of language; remember this is the real world’ : the language of Father Ted : representations of Irish English in a fictional world.


  • Heyd, Tessa: How you guys doin’? : staged orality and emerging plural address in the television series Friends.
  • Tagliamonte, Sali Anna; Roberts, Chris: So weird; so cool; so innovative : the use of intensifiers in the television series Friends.


  • Cichmińska, Monika; Topolewska, Marta: Conceptual metaphors in House M.D.
  • Kantara, Argyro: Impoliteness strategies in ‘House M.D.’.

House of Cards

  • Sorlin, Sandrine: Breaking the fourth wall : the pragmatic functions of the second person pronoun in House of Cards.

Fawlty Towers

  • Greenall, Annjo K.: Gricean theory and linguicism : infringements and physical violence in the relationship between Manuel and Basil Fawlty.

Sex and the City

  • Urios-Aparisi, Eduardo; Wagner, Manuela Maria: Prosody of humor in Sex and the city.

The Weakest Link

  • Błaszczak, Małgorzata: Impoliteness strategies in the British and Polish television quiz shows : “The Weakest Link” and “Najsłabsze Ogniwo”.

The Wire

  • Trotta, Joe; Blyahher, Oleg: Game done changed : a look at selected AAVE features in the TV series The wire.

Reality TV

  • Carvajal, Camilo Andres Bonilla: Word final and intervocalic glottalised /t/ replacement in Estuary English : variety of Essex. | Data from British reality TV show The Only Way is Essex.Thornborrow, Joanna; Morris, Deborah: Gossip as strategy : the management of talk about others on reality TV show “Big Brother“.
  • Corsi, Sara: Som nel norvegese parlato : nuovi spunti tipologici da un’analisi delle frasi relative del corpus del Big Brother. (On som in spoken Norwegian : a typological analysis based on relative clauses in the Big brother corpus)
  • Eberhardt, Maeve; Downs, Corinne: “(r) you saying yes to the dress?” : rhoticity on a bridal reality television show. | Data from Say Yes to the Dress.
  • Harder, Peter: Performance, postmodernity and errors. | Includes an analysis of the language of Danish reality TV star Amalie Szigethy.
  • Horváth, Miloš: Televízne reality show a ich vplyv na jazkovú situáciu na Slovensku. (TV reality shows and their influence on language situation in Slovakia)
  • Johnsen, Odd Egil: ‘Liksom’ som diskursmarkør i norsk talespråk : en studie av Big Brother-korpuset.
  • Novak-Piasecka, Tetyana: Analiza dyskursu medialnego : lingwistyczna analiza dyskursu programu telewizyjnego America’s got talent (‘Ameryka ma talent’). (Media discourse analysis : critical discourse analysis approach to the discourse of the television programme America’s got talent)
  • Zenner, Eline; Kristiansen, Gitte; Geeraerts, Dirk: Individual differences and in situ identity marking : colloquial Belgian Dutch in the reality TV show “Expeditie Robinson”.
  • Zenner, Eline; Speelman, Dirk; Geeraerts, Dirk: A sociolinguistic analysis of borrowing in weak contact situations : English loanwords and phrases in expressive utterances in a Dutch reality TV show.

OK, OK, I’ll admit: you will probably spend considerably more time digitizing, annotating and analyzing language data, and working out theories than actually watching your show… So just make sure you pick a good one!

Eline van der Veken
Editor-in-chief of the Linguistic Bibliography

Pancake sentences

While I was collecting publications for the Linguistic Bibliography, the term “pancake sentence” popped up several times, which made me realize two things:
1) I’m peckish for pancakes
2) I have no idea what pancake sentences are…
Since the second item does not require me to leave my desk, I decided to investigate that one (and maybe have some pancakes later as a reward!)

A pancake sentence describes the phenomenon of the unexpected use of the singular neuter on the adjective, which is encountered in mainland Scandinavian languages (Danish, Norwegian and Swedish). The name stems from the prototypical example below, taken from Enger (2004):

Pannekak-er      er            god-t.                    (Norwegian Bokmål and Nynorsk)

Pancake.F-PL     is             good-N.SG

‘Pancakes is good.’

The expected agreement pattern, namely Pannekakene er gode (both F-PL) occurs as well, but according to Enger, the unexpected pattern above is common and grammatical, and is generally seen as agreement (and not as disagreement) in current linguistic discussions.

Since this phenomenon is sufficiently described and documented, the discussion now mainly focuses on how to capture it in a theoretical framework. So far, several accounts have been offered including generative grammar and construction grammar analyses. However, the name “pancake sentence” probably speaks to everyone’s imagination because it seems to have stuck!

Eline van der Veken
Editor-in-chief of Brill’s Linguistic Bibliography


Enger, Hans-Olav: Scandinavian pancake sentences as semantic agreement. – Nordic journal of linguistics 27/1, 2004, 5-34.

Enger, Hans-Olav: Scandinavian pancake sentences revisited. – Nordic journal of linguistics 36/3, 2013, 275-301.

Haugen, Arne; Enger, Hans-Olav: Scandinavian pancake constructions as a family of constructions. – Cognitive linguistic studies, 1/2, 2014, 171-196.

Josefsson, Gunlög: Peas and pancakes : on apparent disagreement and (null) light verbs in Swedish. – Nordic journal of linguistics 32/1, 2009, 35-72.

Josefsson, Gunlög: Pancake sentences and the semanticization of formal gender in Mainland Scandinavian. – Language sciences 43, 2014, 62-76.

Josefsson, Gunlög: Scandinavian gender and pancake sentences : a reply to Hans-Olav Enger. – Nordic journal of linguistics 37/3, 2014, 431-449.