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Language unites and divides us. It mystifies and delights us. Patrick Cox and Kavita Pillay tell the stories of people with all kinds of linguistic passions: comedians, writers, researchers; speakers of endangered languages; speakers of multiple languages; and just speakers—people like you and me.

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We Speak: Ciku


Why doesn’t Ciku Theuri sound Black? Her friends wanted to know. Eventually, she wanted to know. Ciku tells the story of how she came to speak the way she does—and how others, from Ohio to Kenya, perceive her speech. (Spoiler alert: she does sound Black.) Also in this episode: why many Americans choose the voices of Black celebrities for their digital assistants. This is the third in our four-part series on speech, identity and bias.

Ciku Theuri is a producer with WBUR/NPR public radio show, Here & Now. Nicole Holliday teaches linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania. Much of her research is focused on one question: What does it mean to sound Black?

Music in this episode by Blue Dot Sessions, Jobii, and Podington Bear. The photo of Ciku Theuri is from her graduation at Oakwood University, Alabama, in 2015. Read a transcript of this episode here.


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 2020-08-05  22m