A Brief History of Linguistics and of the World’s Languages
As told by Prof. Harold Twistenbaum
The first human words appear to be wh-words, which explains the fixation in modern linguistics over these species. Puzzled by Adam’s First Wink and funny head gestures, Eve begets language with wha’?, soon to be accompanied by the locative counterpart. Who, serving no purpose at the time, had been spared the abuse.
The split of the Mother Tongue happened the very first day when Eve decided not to stoop to Adam’s level. The emerging Father Tongue died out, its words being homophonous and homosemous with onomatopoeics.
The First Great Leap Forward came when Eve accidentally invented bodily recursion. Watching Adam eat his words (literally; see the previous paragraph), she invented Intendo Fodro, a language where funny thoughts and intensions reverberate in the brain (then a small wet thing), and cause cancer or migraines unless spurted out. The spurts are what we now call sentences, as contemporary evolutionary bitisticists inform us (migraine is pre-proto-Afro-Hittite for ‘Language’ with a big L). Recursion came for free because it’s a recurring disease.
The Second Great Spit—sorry, Split—took place in Africa, when natives spoke when they weren’t spoken to, thereby inviting unavoidable helpful repairs. “Watch that tone” reverberated throughout the continent, leading to what are now known as tone languages.
Ergative language means the language of the working class. The split came when the self-deorganising habits of the tribe took their toll. Philoactivists and phobiphilists blamed the system for that, which led to accusative languages. Their origins have been mistakenly identified to be in the Urals, but that’s bad geography, unhelpful morphology (more on this later) and nontransparent semantics—ah well—because it emerged in a land which isn’t green but is called that, in a land which isn’t. But denotational problems could not shackle the working class speak. The language of the Orals resists—not resist—rational inquiry by writing on air.
The blossoming of accusative languages—the birth of civilisation—took place under the watchful eye of the Romans, with the ideal of forcing every language to have a subject, an exemplar of Roman generosity and evenhandedness. These Roman ways wasn’t—weren’t—heeded by the hoi polloi. The indomitable Gauls caved in, but other Roman subjects resisted, and they paid for it with their lives by falling victim to pro-drop (Cretan for ‘small-thingy’), and to idiosyncratic and somewhat oblique arguments from the Senate, back then known as The Lexicon. All cries for mercy, which the gathered public shouted when the poor subject tried to hang on to life by the head—I mean thread—proved futile.
Futility, therefore, remained a universal trait, a matter of principles, subject to variation and relaxation in the last resort, as Gauls and their cousins-twice-removed to the north of the Channel revolted to drops on the head (which, incidentally, created the wealth of weather verbs up in The Island expletiviously). Futilitynessity turned out to be too much, or perhaps too early, putting recursion to shame in certain parts of the world, but surviving in the Wholly Land (which is Aramaic for ‘no trees’), in secret sects, and among—who else—the unfathomable savages.
Pigeonholing-the-world’s-languages-the-Roman-way (which is one word in Eskimo as well as in English) could only foster revolution, and so it did. The spectre was haunting the Tower of Babel (with the morphological bracketing [spec-tre], meaning the root of the problem tree, or tree problem; or the Island variety [spect-er], which means more expectations). The Senate was dissolved, the deep structures of the establishment were disbanded, and the Universal Grammar—techy for Unborn’s Gab—was left to, uhm, rot. The desenatisation continues, and the movement is now dubbed antiresenatisationism.
Scientists advise (myself included—HT) that we should keep calm.