The Divine Future of Linguistics, Part I
by John Miaou
with the assistance of the editors of SpecGram
Linguists need money. A lot of money. Unfortunately, sponsors do not always give linguists money. This sorry state of affairs needs to change, and it is in our own hands to rectify it. SpecGram has already offered some suggestions on how to achieve this by selling naming rights and advertising space. Here we will suggest another way out of our discipline’s financial misery.
Taking our lead from various bogus religions and cults created to milk money out of their memberships, we intend to reform linguistics as a religious movement. We will organise regular fund-raising events during conferences, gather collections during seminars, and sell specimens of specially-crafted religious iconography, such as photos of somber-looking professors, jewellery in the form of syntactic trees, clay replicas of tape recorders, old airline tickets from linguistic fieldwork, autographed blackboard erasers, and small bits from Chomsky’s own pens. Furthermore, we can expect rivers of donations from ignorant faculty-fearing students. As a religion, any money we make will naturally be tax-exempt!
In order to achieve status as a religious movement, we need to re-design our activities to be more like a church’s. We also need a more clearly-defined liturgy. Our dear professors can become our priests, linguistics departments can serve as our places of worship, academic seminars can become our sermons, and the annual LSA meetings can henceforth function as our very own Synods. Luckily the discipline of linguistics is already sufficiently fractioned and filled with ideological infighting, so that particular aspect of religion we need not emulate. New theories and dogmas are constantly spawned from old ones.
We need to recognise a set of sacred scrolls, too. Fortunately, these already exist. There are in fact numerous linguistics textbooks that are treated as immutable dogmas in various departments. Furthermore, famous textbook authors should from now on be referred to as Prophets. In addition to our ordinary textbooks, we need a set of secret, unpublished scriptures that are considered essential reading for those students who wish to pass their degrees. Naturally we will charge a humongous fee to access these secret, unpublished texts, which can consist of anything from seminar handouts, scribbled field notes from personal notebooks, and random extracts from rejected book manuscripts.
We also need a celestial collection of deities, semi-gods and idols; even demons, goblins and gargoyles. More specifically, we need our own God, preferably several. Indeed, a whole pantheon of Gods of Grammar has already been outlined in the pages of SpecGram in Ǣlfgār λ. Garcia’s article on Divine Unification Grammar.
In order to keep the linguists happy and loyal, they need to be encouraged to participate in this New Global Linguistic Congregation. Besides the purely formal hierarchy (from students to professors), we intend here to establish a parallell, more spiritual hierarchy aimed at recognising those tireless members of our Global Linguistic Congregation who have done more good than harm to linguistics. For this, some of us will be acknowledged by being elevated to Sainthoods and Guardianships.
Saints are protectors of specific linguistic segments and units, while Guardians are protectors of classes of elements. Indeed, any vowel, any consonant, any phoneme cluster, any secondary articulation, any suprasegmental phenomenon, and any graphic symbol, as well as every little diacritic no matter how funny it looks, will be be assigned a Patron Saint or Guardian. For instance, we have elevated Franz Bopp to be Patron Saint of [bʰ]. Similarly, Joseph Greenberg is now the Guardian of All Implosives, Jacob Grimm is the Patron Saint of [i], while Otto Jespersen is the Patron Saint of the Wee [i].
The number of Patron Saints and Guardians that can be recognised is virtually limitless. There exists, for instance, an infinite number of points in the IPA Chart between, say, [i] and [e], even without considering the many varying phonation types. By extending Sainthoods and Guardianship also to elements of morphology, syntax, pragmatics, etc., any past, present and future linguist can be assigned a Sainthood or Guardianship. Even though Sainthoods and Guardianships will ordinarily only be awarded to those linguists who have passed on to the Great Heights Beyond the 3rd Formant, a handful of still-sounding linguists have been recognised.
This is just the beginning!
Let it be known by all, and let them hear who have ears, and let them see who have eyes, that the linguists hereby recognised as either Saints or Guardians will from now on, till the end of all utterances, be regarded as Divine Protectors of our Holy Field of Language. Any one of them may be summoned for inspiration in times of darkness and silence. Should a word be too hard to pronounce, or a sentence too difficult to parse, you may kneel in solemn prayer and humbly ask for moral encouragement and guidance from the following revered linguists.
[Note: This is only part one of the list. Part two will appear in an upcoming issue of Speculative Grammarian. —Eds.]
|SOUNDS, PHONETIC SEGMENTS|
|Guardian of All Nasals ||Paul Passy (1859-1940), for founding the IPA|
|Patron Saint of [m] ||Baudouin de Courtenay (1845-1929), for his part in popularising the concept of a phoneme|
|Patron Saint of the Pressed Nasal [ṋṋ]||Ludwig Noiré (1829-1899), for his yo-he-ho theory|
|Patron Saint of [ŋ] ||Alexander Gill (1564-1635), for having introduced the letter ŋ to denote [ŋ]|
|Guardian of All Plosives ||Rasmus Rask (1787-1832), for discovering Grimm’s Law before Grimm did|
|Patron Saint of [b] ||Plato (428-348 BC), for explaining that [b] has no noise or voice, nor any explanation|
|Patron Saint of *b ||A.E. Meeussen (1912-1978), for preferring voiced plosives to voiced fricatives in his Proto-Bantu reconstruction|
|Patron Saint of *bʰ ||Franz Bopp (1791-1867), for his contributions to Indo-European studies|
|Patron Saint of [p] ||Vicki the Chimp (1940s-?), for saying ‘papa’|
|Patron Saint of [ɖ] ||Pāṇini (4th century BC), for his early description of Sanskrit sounds|
|Patron Saint of [t] ||Kenneth Pike (1912-2000), for offering MaIlDeCVveIcAPpaatdtltnransfsSiFSs as a non-exhaustive explanation of [t]|
|Patron Saint of [t̪] ||Archibald N. Tucker (1898-1970), for his contributions to East African linguistics|
|Patron Saint of [g͡b] ||Kay Williamson (1935-2005), for her contributions to West African linguistics|
|Patron Saint of [k͡p] ||Ida C. Ward (1880-1949), for her contributions to West African linguistics|
|Patron Saint of [q] ||Sībawaihi of Basra (760-797), for having successfully classified voiced and voiceless sounds in Arabiyya, except for [q]|
|Guardian of All Implosives ||Joseph H. Greenberg (1915-2001), for his studies of glottalic consonants, especially implosives|
|Patron Saint of [ʘ] ||Tony Traill (1939-2007), for his studies of !Xóõ phonetics|
|Patron Saint of [ǀ] ||Patrick Dickens (1953-1992), for his part in developing a Ju/’hoan orthography|
|Patron Saint of [ǃ] ||Jan W. Snyman (1941-2002), for his many contributions to !Kung linguistics|
|Patron Saint of [ǁ] ||Oswin R.A. Köhler (1911-1996), for his studies of the Kxoe language|
|Patron Saint of [ǂ] ||Douglas M. Beach (19??-19??), for his studies of Khoekhoe phonetics|
|Guardian of All Taps, Flaps & Trills ||Peter Ladefoged (1925-2006), for his occasional insistance that taps and flaps are separate classes of sounds|
|Patron Saint of [ʙ] ||Johann Gottfried Herder (1744-1803), for insisting that there exist no language whose sounds can be totally reduced to letters|
|Patron Saint of [r] ||William Labov (1927- ), for creating modern sociolinguistics with, for instance, his studies of New York City [r]|
|Patron Saint of *β ||Carl Meinhof (1857-1944), for preferring voiced fricatives to voiced plosives in his Proto-Bantu reconstruction|
|Patron Saint of [ɸ] ||Diedrich Westermann (1875-1956), for his contributions to African linguistics, and his part in developing the Practical Orthography for African languages|
|Patron Saint of [ð] ||Henry Sweet (1845-1912), for his studies of English, Anglo-Saxon, and Icelandic|
|Patron Saint of [ɀ] ||Clement M. Doke (1893-1980), for his studies of Shona phonetics|
|Patron Saint of the Nasal [s] ||Charles de Brosses (1709-1777), for his insistance that [s] is a nasal consonant|
|Patron Saint of [sn] ||John R. Firth (1890-1960), for his work with phonaesthemes|
|Patron Saint of [ʂ] ||Bernard Karlgren (1889-1978), for his work on Chinese dialects|
|Patron Saint of [ɧ] ||J.A. Lundell (1851-1940), for devising Landsmålsalfabetet (the Swedish dialect alphabet)|
|Patron Saint of [h] ||Louis Hjelmslev (1899-1965), for recognising that [h] is a valid phoneme in French|
|Guardian of All Vowels ||Daniel Jones (1881-1967), for having defined the cardinal vowels|
|Guardian of All Artificial Vowels ||Christian Gottlieb Kratzenstein (1723-1795), for his attempts to replicate Russian vowels with a set of tubes|
|Guardian of the Vowel Chart ||Christoph Friedrich Hellwag (1754-1835), for his pioneering vowel chart|
|Patron Saint of the Wee [i] ||Otto Jespersen (1860-1963), for his contributions to sound symbolism|
|Patron Saint of *i ||Jacob Grimm (1785-1863), for having described the Germanic Umlaut in which a historical [i] plays a significant role|
|Patron Saint of [ɨɨⁿ] ||Morris Swadesh (1909-1967), for explaining that what the cow really says is [ɨɨⁿ], sometimes [mmɨɨⁿ], but never [muu]|
|Patron Saint of [eɪ] ||Eliza Doolittle (1891–1960s?), for learning to stay mainly on the plain|
|Patron Saint of [ɛ] ||Robert Robinson (17th century), for his early attempts to explain the articulation of English sounds|
|Patron Saint of [a] ||John Wallis (1616-1703), for his early description of the production of English sounds|
|Patron Saint of [ɑ] ||Alfred C. Gimson (1917-1985), for his work on Received Pronunciation|
|PHONETIC FEATURES, SUPRASEGMENTALS & VARIOUS OTHER THINGS|
|Guardian of All Phonetic Oppositions ||Nikolay Trubetzkoy (1890-1938), for his contributions to phonetics|
|Guardian of All Phonetic Features ||Roman Jakobson (1896-1982), for his contributions to phonetic feature theories|
|Patron Saint of the Whole Vocal Apparatus ||Johannes Müller (1801-1858), for his early physiological description of speech production|
|Patron Saint of the Artificial Vocal Tract ||Wolfgang von Kempelen (1734-1804), for his talking machine|
|Patron Saint of the Vocal Cords ||Antoine Ferrein (1693-1769), for his attempts to describe how the vocal cords work|
|Patron Saint of the Whole Tongue ||Alexander Melville Bell (1819-1905), for his description of the role of the tongue in the production of sounds|
|Patron Saint of ʰ (aspiration) ||Dionysius Thrax (170-90 BC), for his analysis of Greek plosives|
|Patron Saint of the Advanced Tongue Root ||John M. Stewart (1926-2006), for his pioneering studies of ATR harmony in Akan|
|Patron Saint of the Downstep ( ꜝ ) ||William E. Welmers (1916-1988), for recognising tone-terracing languages|
|Patron Saint of the Foot ||David Abercrombie (1909-1992), for giving phonetics feet|
|Guardian of Slurry Speech ||Charles H. Hockett (1916-2000), for his discussions of Slurvian|
|Guardian of Sound Symbolism ||Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767-1835), for his statements about sound symbolism|
|Guardian of Collective Illusion ||Edward Sapir (1884-1939), for explaining how we get to hear things that aren’t really there|