Orbital Linguistics—A Report on the State of the Starfield
by Hu B. Ble and Al Zweistein
X. Quizzit Korps Center for Advanced Collaborative Studies
Orbital Linguistics—recently spun off independently from the long-existing field of planetary phonology1—has entered a period of confusion. Once comprising simply parametric bipolarities circular/ovoid, lunar/planetary and fast/slow, OL has been limitlessly expanded by the addition of the multipolar parameter icy/rocky/gassy and the oddly non-parametric value cometic,2 which appears to have a positive but no negative value. The former have been demonstrated to be relevant to fricatives, but as yet to no other phones, while the latter is demonstrably only applicable to bilabial trills performed by infants and Phonetics Teaching Assistants.
Similarly, calculating stress placement in an OL framework, of course, means reworking the concept of ‘heavy’ syllable, to ‘more massive’ syllable and employing Newtonian movement principles to model feature spreading in three dimensions rather than along a two dimensional tier. However, this innovation is worth the effort, as it makes it possible to predict the precise manner in which bad fake British accents propagate through a crowd of phonologists watching Monty Python reruns.3
Despite their limitations, OL formalisms—freed from the limits of terrestrial space—may be used to more effectively model very, very long-distance dependencies and may eventually be useful in clearing up nebulous relationships between members of diverse language families, opening the way to new insights into *protoplanet and perhaps even *protosolar language groupings. Moving beyond our own stellar neighborhood, OL has also opened up a meaningful referent for so-called “Universal Grammar”, though serious practitioners usually limit themselves to Galactic Grammar for reasons of observability and feasibility.
Returning our attention to the observational fundamentals of the field, it is clear—although phonologists, for obvious reasons, have devoted no little time to feature geometries as a first step toward delimiting the space of possible human phonological systems—that it is time to acknowledge that a contrastive approach is necessary for true progress: put simply, we need feature astrometries. Recent technical advances in intra-oral observational instrumentation4 have rendered traditional feature geometries as obsolete as Ptolemaic epicycles, paving the way for precise measurements of plosive parallax and nasal nutation.5 While to date phonemes could only be detected by the disturbance they produce in the background noise of any one club, café, or lecture theater, higher precision instruments are now able to pick up differences in node dependence and domination. Root nodes stick out clearly from the entire phoneme, and we can even visualise the structure down to individual place features.6
On the theory side of the house, the baroque eleven-dimensional Theory of Strings, with its elaborate P-braned M-Branching syntax trees, has been superseded by the more elegant, though annoyingly diacriticized, Thèòrỳ òf Lòòp Qùàntùm Gràvè Àccènts, with its morphomes, quantumphomes, and spinphomes. At the core of the theory is a framework for non-performative quantization of diffèòmorphologically-invariant ’guage theories, which can be thought of as loop quantization.
These and many other advances in OL are taking off, leading to an integration with prominent theories in the fields of cosmolinguistics, quatrain mechanics, and genitive relativity—and ultimately a unification of all known linguistic forces.
1 The first cautious steps into this new intellectual space were actually taken in June of 1965 when undercover linguist Edith Whittle, at great risk to her own personal safety, executed a series of bilabial ejectives in low Earth orbit, using their thrust to navigate around the outer hull of the good ship Courtenay. Her groundbreaking participation, along with NASA’s other secret astrolinguistic missions, have just come to light thanks to SpecGram’s top notch investigative journalism and will be detailed in an upcoming exposé.
2 Those who have come to the field by way of “feature astrology” will note the use of the universally accepted term “cometic”, not the non-sensical “comemic”—which is itself not to be confused with “co-memic”, which is sometimes used by astromimeticists to discuss binary meme systems.
3 Although adopting an Einsteinian framework would arguably be more precise and account for the time displacement between the release of said Monty Python movies and their current instantiation in modern accented nerdspeak, these formalisms were rejected by most phonologists because, although arguably cooler than their 17th century antecedents, they simply involve too much math.
4 Those familiar with historical observational tools and techniques will be pleased to know that the field has moved far beyond earlier instruments such as the astrolabial, a barbaric device invented by Psycho Brahe; he frequently had it surgically attached to the mouths of prisoners of war taken by the Danish army in order to measure the declination of their native tongues.
5 Plosive (and other) parallax conspicuously stands for non-native speech effects, whereby users consistently miss native articulatory targets, whereas nasal nutation affects natives and non-natives alike, who all use their noses in pretty much the same target ways.
6 These methods have overcome previous difficulties linked to earlier measurements using ‘sound years’, based on the speed of sound, which is 340.29 m/s, and just took too much time to record and analyze.