April 21, 2006

Ali G in the land of colorless green ideas

If you've had enough of linguists talking about Ali G (the fake purveyor of Jafaican), why not watch Ali G talking about linguistics? A YouTube video has been circulating with Ali G, aka Sacha Baron Cohen, chatting in his inimitable way on linguistic topics with none other than Noam (or "Norman") Chomsky. And apropos of our recent discussion of Multicultural London English, Ali G wants to know the linguistic future of his four-year-old cousin Sanjeev, who's got a Bangladeshi mum and a dad from Staines (represent, West Side). He's shocked to learn that Sanjeev might grow up bilingual, because... oh, just watch the video.

It's unclear whether Chomsky is in on the joke, as he plays the straight man throughout the inane questioning — though he does crack a smile by the end. It's possible that Cohen set this up before his Ali G persona was widely known in the U.S., or perhaps Chomsky's just not a fan of the HBO show. (The interview apparently never aired on HBO but was included as part of the bonus material on the Season 2 DVD, released last September.)

Posted by Benjamin Zimmer at April 21, 2006 06:00 AM