Show respect to the Gracious Grammarian
Though his foes call him Brutal Barbarian.
It takes chutzpah and nerve
Of a hero and humanitarian.
|1.1|| He is prince without peer. He is hailed as a seer|
By disciples from Dover2 to Darien3.
|2.|| He never need ask “Can you spare a dime?”4|
He’s transformed5 his whole field with his paradigm.6
Though he generates strife,
To a dried up and colorless arid time.7
|3.|| The professor is Prince Of “Pressology.”8|
He also is first in philology,
Which some modern mystics
A field full of pain and pathology
|4.|| Where they sneer at poor Mario Pei,|
Whom they call out of date and passé,
But ignorant laymen don’t know who is Haman9
And who is Queen Esther.10 Their play
|5.|| Still has roles for both Hockett11 and Hall,12|
Two structural linguists whose call
To all girls and boys was “Hark to the joys
Of modern linguistics. Come all!”
|6.|| Once Uriel, Beatrice and Max13
Sang purimspiels,14 danced and played sax.
But Noam The Nasty has fired that cast. He
Has theories not fettered by facts.15
|7.|| The professor gets bossier and bossier|
If you dare to take note of “diglossia.”
“Oh my goodness! Good golly!
It is not what I put in my dossier.
|8.|| There are those whom I scorn. How I scoff|
At ‘sociolinguist’ Labov!17
Talk that’s sociolinguistic
I’ll disrupt it. I’ll sneeze and I’ll cough.”
|9.|| Noam snickers at Uriel Weinreich.|
“Sag mir, ist die Sprachwissenschaft sein Reich?18
No it’s not. It is mine. Others must toe the line.
Die Sprachwissenschaft ist doch nur mein Reich.19
|10.|| It’s the moment of truth. It’s High Noon20|
As my acolytes quote Thomas Kuhn.
The only solution is my revolution.21
To humanity I am a boon.
|10.1|| Language and language laws lay hid in night.|
God said, let Chomsky be! And all was light.22
|11.|| That’s an altered quotation from Pope,23
And it means that they know I’m no dope.
Since the ancien régime makes my acolytes scream,
With the nouveau régime you must cope.
|12.|| Who invented linguistics. Panini?|
Jakob Grimm? I am great. They were teeny.
Guru and Junggrammatiker,24
None may challenge the MIT genie.
|13.|| Are my Colorless Green Ideas25 spurious? |
Don’t say yes or my gang will get furious.
In a space that’s galactic
I’ll explain. Ain’t that great? Aren’t you curious?!
|14.|| Those whose research is only taxonomy27 |
Spurn my cognitive truth. They don’t honor me.
They are silly and trivial,
They will never dethrone me or corner me.
|15.|| They must cheer Chomsky’s charm. It’s no mystery.|
Or they’ll land in ‘the dustbin of history.’28
|15.1|| (Who’s the dustman? My priceless old pal, he|
Is my colleague and friend, Morris Halle.
|15.2||With his help I’ve brought joy to the gloom field|
That was once ruled by someone named Bloomfield.”29)
|1||From the author: “This is my troubled tribute in verse to the greatest guru (?) and the most devilish Doktorvater of twentieth century American linguistics. SpecGram’s advice to prospective linguists brought back memories to me of my own ‘nasty, brutish and short’ student academic career. I have long had a great interest in the field of linguistics and some of its controversies. The series of limericks on linguistics that I am submitting is based principally on my observations as a student at the Summer Institute of Linguistics of the Linguistics Society of America at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in the summer of 1974 as well as some eclectic reading that I have done over the years on the subject of linguistics.”
|4||Cf., “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?”, written in 1931 by E.Y. “Yip” Harburg and Jay Gorney.
|5||Cf., “Transformational generative grammar”.
|6||Kuhn, Thomas S. (1962) The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Univ. of Chicago Press.
Searle John R. (1972) “Chomsky’s Revolution in Linguistics”, The New York Review of Books, June 29.
|7||“Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.” Chomsky, Noam (1957) Syntactic Structures, The Hague/Paris: Mouton, p. 15.
|8||Romano, Carlin (1989) “Slouching Toward Pressology,“ Tikkun, vol. 4, no. 3.
|9||Haman the Agagite, a 6th Century BCE Persian noble and high ranking courtier, the villain in the Book of Esther.
|10||Esther, born Hadassah, was a woman in the Hebrew Bible, the queen of Ahasuerus.
|11||Charles F. Hockett.
|12||Robert Anderson Hall, Jr.
|13||Uriel Weinreich, Beatrice Weinreich, and Max Weinreich.
|14||A Purimspiel is a traditional type of Jewish play with participants wearing costumes that depict the characters in the Book of Esther, which describes what transpired on Purim and why it is an important Jewish holiday.
|15||“Facts without theory is trivia, theory without facts is bullshit.” —Anonymous
|16||Charles A. Ferguson.
|18||“Tell me, is linguistics his domain?”
|19||“Linguistics is after all only my domain.”
|20||High Noon (1952), starring Gary Cooper and Thomas Mitchell, directed by Fred Zinnemann.
|21||Kuhn, Thomas S. (1962) The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Univ. of Chicago Press.
|25||“Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.” Chomsky, Noam (1957) Syntactic Structures, The Hague/Paris: Mouton, p. 15.
|26||Chomsky, Noam (1957) Syntactic Structures, The Hague/Paris: Mouton.
|27||See The State of the Art by Charles F. Hockett.
|28||Cf., “You are pitiful isolated individuals; you are bankrupts; your role is played out. Go where you belong from now on|
|Morphological Spectroscopy: An Anthropological Linguistic Study of the Wuh Nwur Dianz—Claude Searsplainpockets|
|Money-Making Titles Series—Book Series Announcement from Psammeticus Press|
|SpecGram Vol CLII, No 3 Contents|