Inside Story

Current affairs and culture from Australia and beyond

Benedict Cumberbatch and the art of distance assimilation

Inside Language | In the first in a new podcast series, linguist Kate Burridge talks to Peter Clarke about how we merge and lose sounds in spoken language – and how they sometimes reappear

Kate Burridge & Peter Clarke 7 January 2016 66 words

Distance harmoniser: Benedict Cumberbatch. Sam/Flickr


Benedict Cumberbatch set off a small storm when he unconsciously pronounced penguin as “pengwing” in a recent wildlife documentary. For linguist Kate Burridge, it was another case of “distance assimilation,” one of the ways we tend to harmonise the elements of difficult words as we speak. In the first of of a new series, Inside Language, she talks to Peter Clarke.

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Duration: 7 minutes 20 seconds

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An Elizabethan age: Smith’s Weekly’s publicity photo announcing Kenneth Slessor’s appointment as chief film critic. National Library of Australia MS 3020/7/3/118, Box 8

An Elizabethan age: Smith’s Weekly’s publicity photo announcing Kenneth Slessor’s appointment as chief film critic. National Library of Australia MS 3020/7/3/118, Box 8