New Methods in Linguistic Laboratory Acquisition
For more than thirty years, Obler’s seminal study of Hebrew-English bilingualism in rats (Obler 1978) has served as a model for linguists everywhere, not in how to do linguistics experiments on rats, but rather in “the deeper problem of how to impressively employ all the equipment in our laboratory.”
In these harsh and unforgiving economic times, it is important to be able to justify one’s expensive equipment—and one’s continued employment—along the lines Obler suggests. But, experimental linguists do not live by lab equipment alone! They also need coffee—preferably good coffee—to not only survive, but to thrive. A gaming console goes a long way toward feeding the experimental linguist’s soul as well.
This paper hopes to serve as a model for the next thirty years’ worth of linguists in their efforts to not only justify all the equipment they need, but also all the “equipment” they want. Sample experimental proposals are below.
The Linguistic Effects of Moderate to Large Amounts of Stimulants in Primates and Lower Mammals: The present study proposes to measure the effects of varying amounts of stimulants (caffeine) on the linguistic and quasi-linguistic competence of several kinds of primates and lower mammals (using standard measures for each of rats, cats, dogs, chimps, engineering undergrads, and humans), seeking to find useful correlations between measured effects and the amount of stimulant per unit of body mass and relative neural complexity. Required equipment: commercial capacity espresso machine.
The Impact of Physical and Mental Multi-Modal Multitasking on Conversational Turn Taking: The present study proposes to measure the impact on turn-taking of an increasingly complex series of multi-modal multitasking activities, including those with primarily physical components (as with sporting activities), primarily mental activities (as with using a standard gaming console), and a mix of the two (as with a gaming console with a 3-D movement-based controller). Subjects will engage in trivial small talk, the making of lunch plans, the discussion of whether humans have free will, and a trivia quiz about quantum mechanics, each while also engaged in the various distractive activities. The study seeks to determine the pairwise correlation coefficients of the type of distractive task (physical, mental, or mixed), the complexity of the distractive task, the complexity of the conversational task, the age of the subject, and the mean lag time in turn taking. Required Equipment: health club/racquetball club membership, Wii, PlayStation, assorted current game titles for both consoles.
The Role of Humor and Satire in the Acquisition of Complex Linguistic Concepts: The present study seeks to determine whether undergrads in Ling 101 are better able to acquire complex concepts in linguistics when they are a) presented in a straightforward academic manner, b) presented in a satirical, humorous fashion, or c) depicted as cartoons. Required Equipment: a subscription to and the full back-catalog of Speculative Grammarian.
Afiresay, Illiamway et al. 2009. “Linguists Need Prescriptivists (and probably Pig Latin, too)”, Speculative Grammarian CLVI.1.
Ellen, Woody. 2008. “From the Department of Cheap Research: How to Have a Flashing-Zapping Machine”, Speculative Grammarian CLIV.3.
McBastard, Butch. 2007. “Anti-Rhetoric: A Critical Methodology for Critically Assessing Critical Thinking”, Speculative Grammarian CLII.3.
Obler, Loraine. 1978. “Bilingualism in Rats: A Ten-Year Study, or, How To Employ All The Equipment In The Neurolinguistic Laboratory”, Lingua Pranca.
Phlogiston, Phineas Q. 2007. “Cartoon Theories of Linguistics—Part I—Non-Configurational Languages”, Speculative Grammarian CLII.1.
Wei, Shr Ji. 1990. “Advancing Pedagogical Methodology in the Linguistics Classroom”, Linguist of Fortune, The Journal of the Linguistic Society of South-Central New Caledonia I.1.
X., Suzy. 1989. “The Effect of Coffee Consumption on Adults’ Average MLU at the Breakfast Table”, Psammeticus Quarterly XVI.3.