Special Supplemental Letter from the Editor SpecGram Vol CLXXV, No x Contents

Towards a Detailed Biochemistry of Innate Mental Structures:
Consequences of an OT Approach to the Contemporary Novel

Mongo Yalbag
Independent Scholar1

One of the many innumerable benefits of the Chomskyan revolution is that we can see clearly that everything in the human mind is synthetic a priori, except for the parts that are analytic a priori. As the great man (pax eocum) himself has stated, even the concept of “carburetor” is innate. Besides the fascinating fact that both UG and the concept “UG” are therefore innate,2 this has deafening repercussions for the less well-endowed humanities. In particular, it has been stated that there are only seven plots, a limited number of fundamental mythological elements (eleven or so), and thirty-one Russian fairy tales. Note that 7, 11, and 31 are all prime numbers, as are 2, the basis of binary branching, and 3, about which nothing need be said because all of it’s already inherent in your thoughts.3 The significance of this is clear.

While this thus gives us the basic structures of human thought, its mental DNA and the rudiments of its number theory, if you will, it remains to flesh out (as it were) all the different ramifications of this, and in particular the processes by which the mental DNA is expressed in fully-developed conceptual thought. For example, why are there rules of good writing? How can we speak of “good” and “bad” writing at all? And if so, why is there so much disagreement over what is which? More than that, why do the same professionals who propound rules of good writing with legally binding force so readily waive those same rules when praising overrated blowhard mediocrities who couldn’t write one unambiguous word when seventy-four vague or mutually contradictory words arranged ungrammatically would be ever so much better?4

To investigate this question, I decided to study this matter empirically with the benefit of the modern computer, building on recent revolutionary advances in genetics, philosophy, and the better sort of theoretical linguistics (not the kind this journal goes in for). The rules of good writing laid out in several guides for novice writers were distilled to their UG essence and several contemporary authors ranked by the faithfulness with which they met the resulting system of constraints. The results are baleful.

Theoretical Background: Philology Recapitulates Ontology

The first question we should answer when beginning any investigation is what methodology to follow. In linguistics, the answer once upon a time was to follow psychology, specifically behaviorism (structuralism), then later to follow computer science (generativism). The very terminology of current theoretical linguistics is chock-full of computer terminology, as certain benighted critics have pointed out, supposing somehow that this is a demerit. However, if we look at the issue philosophically, we see the limits of such approaches: The psyche is programmed by genetics, and computers are programmed by psyches. That is, such approaches put the cart before the horse. Clearly, then, for a full and complete understanding of language, it is necessary to start from first principles and model the use of language with the tools of the field that studies how the psyche itself is programmed, biochemistry.

One might retort that biochemistry does no such thing and then mutter something silly about neurochemistry, much like a particularly dull child saying that biology doesn’t study horsies but rather zoology5 does. Merely stating this objection fully shows its inadequacy, so let us proceed. As Chomsky (pax eocum) has revealed, the basic elements of what we might call human concepts (as opposed to the concepts of science) are innate, and thus clearly genetically encoded. It is the job of true linguistics to determine the structures of human thought from the genetic codeall else is mere taxonomic frippery or typological frillery.

As the smarter sort of modern person knows, the biochemistry of the organism is encoded in the DNA (or the RNA in certain cases) by triplets of nucleotides corresponding to amino acids that are combined into proteins. It is these proteins and the timings of their activation, also encoded in the DNA, that are the motive spring of biochemistry; the action of the proteins builds all the rest of the biochemistry of the organism in conjunction with the chemicals and under the influence of the conditions (temperature, pressure, etc.) in the organism’s environment. The similarity to minimalism is obvious and need not be belabored for the smarter sort of modern person.6 The important question is how the basic elements of human concepts are encoded in the genetic code. The obvious answer is that this is the explanation of the supposed “junk DNA” or “non-coding DNA” that “litters” the human genetic sequence.

In an earlier study, this researcher took the “junk DNA” sequences as recorded by biochemists and compared them with the sets of basic concepts and ideas discovered by millennia of idealist philosophers and lesser thinkers to determine their respective codings. This left a lot of codons unaccounted for, which later research showed to code 897,435 previously unsuspected innate ideas.7 In particular, the coding for “UG” per se and for its principles was discovered by comparing the genetic sequences of such luminaries as Chomsky (pax eocum), Fodor, and Katz with the genetic codes determined through genetic samples (posthumously obtained where necessary) of Bertrand Russell, A.J. Ayers, Rudolph Carnap, Hans Reichenbach, Nelson Goodman, David Lewis, and other victims of stunted philosophical development; the latter group were discovered to have variant supposedly non-coding genomes that presumably block the expression of UG and similar fully human concepts.8 Provisional treatment details for social health professionals have been devised9 and are being tested by laboratory sociologists. Details may be found by reference to the cited publications in other, far greater journals.

While it is safe to say a good deal of debate has ensued, (1) the critical response merely represents the dying gasps, or rather escaping plumes, of punctured bags of hot air,10 and (2) in any case the debate is far above the mental acumen of this journal and its readers. Therefore, this article will eschew further review of real science and of the debate concerning the same and instead discuss something more in line with this journal’s editorial policy and practice, bad fiction.

The more astute reader who somehow wandered into the shabbier sections of the reading room and found this issue might well ask, “Why? For Chomsky (pax eocum)’s sake, why, dammit, why?” The answer is that the researcher needed a mental break from more rigorous research, had tired of backgammon, and was feeling unduly charitable. Besides, real scholars won’t read it even if it’s listed in the researcher’s CV and regular readers of this journal won’t understand it anyway, so this article’s pure gravy. So, let us proceed.

We may take the following statements as axiomatic for our purposes: Writing is the application of the scriptual faculty to linguistic utterances. Similarly, linguistic utterances are contextually-indexed statements of propositions in linguistic form. Propositions are encodings of descriptions of some aspects of some part of {that which {be}}. For a sufficiently well-developed system of logic, therefore, we may derive the output of the scriptual faculty from a sufficiently articulated description of the set {that which {be}}, and vice versa, and thus we conclude that the criterion for evaluating a piece of writing is how well the output expected from the description of {that which {be}} matches the logical form of the sample.

However, it is clear that no sample of writing can have an LF that is a one-to-one match with the output of the description of {that which {be}}: Only this researcher has actually managed to produce such LFs in explicit form, and these LFs are unattested in any corpora since they’re not actually legible English, and in addition most authors are constitutionally incapable of handling even the most basic figures of the syllogism, never mind first-order predicate logic; naturally, this paper flies so far above their heads it might as well be made the state bird. While this means that we must abandon the expectation of finding ideal prose, it does provide us an ideal case against which to evaluate actual prose.

This consideration makes our choice of analysis compulsory. One might argue that the fact that Optimality Theory has been applied to everything in language is no excuse in and of itself to apply it here, but if Optimality Theory weren’t true it wouldn’t have been applied so widely. Clearly, then, we must apply Optimality Theory to prose evaluation. The execution of this program is trickier than it might first seem, yet not so tricky as it might seem on further thought: Surely there are as many readings as there are readers, but, as contemporary linguistic theory teaches us, this proliferation of LF candidates is due solely to performance error and may be abstracted away. Once we have obtained an LF, it must be evaluated against standards of good writing, which obviously may be stated as a large set of constraints. It is in ranking these constraints that a sure lightness of touch, a léger de main if you will, is needed; fortunately, this is easy to program. The ranking of constraints obtained in this way can then be compared against a theoretical ideal ranking derived from first cognitive principles to indicate just how close a sample of prose hews to the requirements of good writing.

Details of Implementation

First, the researcher collected every guide to clear writing, book on creative writing, and progeny and epigone of Strunk and White he could find and over the space of several days collected every rule and tip therein specified.11 These were then classified by the level of prose organization to which each applied and reduced to a symbolic representation in this researcher’s pioneering ΔΤΧ-calculus, which supplements the untyped lambda calculus with such operations as vindalooing, tandooricization, chutnification, pakorafication, and a restricted one-order-raising de-opacitizing UG operation.12

As an illuminating example, the following representations of the principles of stylistic clarity on the syntactic level were obtained for various subclasses of adverbs of manner; all symbols are to be understood in the customary manner except as noted in this researcher’s monograph Regular Extensions of the λ-Calculus to Contemporary Theories of Theta Role Assignment, Event Schemata, Government, Binding, and Semantic Feature Analysis, Vols. 17–19, Appendices A–L, N–FF, Ж–Ұ, and ק–客 (Xerus & Ratufa, 2011):

  1. [Ć↑hδ]æ(x, y) ⇒ (x) \ ®(y, ξ|щϡ)]

  2. ©£[¶(t) ⊗ Ξχ(z), Ƹǘ(ἄ↕ᵿ), Ӝʱ{t0, ♂, ☺}] ⇑ Δt ⊕ ﻚz(ῢ) ⊥ 簧(z, t; ﭗ)

  3. Ѭ₮(g, p; 乾) ∠ (f, k)13

  4. ㅙ(Řt, ♫) × Å[ ॠ(q, j);t, śn)] ∕ שּׂ(ὓd; ⌂)

In the end, a set of 47,976,542 constraints were obtained. The results were, like the majority of the works examined, not pretty.14 The most egregious violator of the mentally-innate, synthetic a priori constraints on good writing15 was then selected for detailed epidemiological analysis, for his writing is not just bad, it’s septic. This study thus investigated the question, “Why doesn’t everybody realize that this guy16 is lumpen-academia’s Danielle Steele?”17


To investigate the question, “Why doesn’t everybody realize that this guy is lumpen-academia’s Danielle Steele?”, or, rephrased slightly, “Why do supposedly literate adults condemn genre fiction as esthetically sterile, then turn around and praise this guy for doing exactly the same things?”, this investigator first compiled a detailed list of the constraints violated by this guy’s novels and used a Hamming-distance–based metric to approximate the deviation of this guy’s oeuvre from the canons of good taste. The result? It’s in press at a more suitable and far more prestigious publication,18 but in short, the writing is sheer mental halitosis. It’s not simply excused out of politeness, moreover; one gets the distinct impression that putatively literate people actually like itpeople claiming to have literary standards and enlightened views of the characters of women.19

To test this, the Amazon readers’ reviews for this guy’s oeuvre were collected, collated, interlinearly glossed, bracketed, indexed, spindled, bent, torn, folded, teased, pondered, poked, jabbed, looked askance at, dissected, reanimated, and examined for regularities, all with very fine-toothed combs and the finest statistical software one can download for free. (The methodological principle was followed of excluding reviewers living in Maine or New Hampshire; not only do they provide a ready-made fan club for the author, their continued residence therein is proof they have no taste, and thus have self-selected for exclusion from the study.)20

Such analysis yielded the very interesting regularity that many of the one-star reviews (55,346 of 67,453) began by stating, “While I greatly enjoyed [another selection from the oeuvre], this book stank up the joint.” Occasionally there were such gems as the claim that the characters are all “one-dementional,” which if unintentional is truly introuvable. Post hoc analysis21 showed that the alternate choice was always the first of his books the reviewer had read. A table was then made allowing correlations between the favored novel and the current novel, and closer examination showed that there was remarkable transitivity in the population: As many people loved Wine Shack Guidelines22 and hated A Concubine for a While as loved A Concubine for a While and hated Wine Shack Guidelines, for example (within the bounds of statistical significance after taking into account publishers’ sales figures), and each population loving A gave the same reasons for hating B as lovers of B gave for hating A, often reducing to A being a tepid retread of B or vice versa. Thus, one review (since removed)23 stated, “I loved A Dirge for Sassoon Niceguy, so I immediately went out and bought Wine Shack Guidelines. What a disappointment! Where Sassoon Niceguy was the most vibrant midget in American letters, Wine Shack Guidelines was a charnel-house of the imagination that only brought tears to the eyes as a side effect of prolonged projectile vomiting induced by the ipecac syrup of the prose.” Curiously, this was balanced by a review (since removed)24 of A Dirge for Sassoon Niceguy, “When my mother gave me a copy of Wine Shack Guidelines, I was sure I had found the next master of modern literature. What a disappointment this one was! Sassoon Niceguy’s the biggest, loudest, bloviatingest, and yet shortest blabbermouth I’ve ever read about, and the story’s so over the top in its unbelievability that it should be used as a cautionary example in writing classes.”

Truly this was a remarkable result! What could explain it? It’s not that any one of his books is any less wretched than the others, for this study found that all of his books are equally horrible in all the same ways. Instead, it is only a question of the order in which a Gentle Reader is exposed to them. Clearly, that is, there is a sort of mental immune system at play: On first exposure, the novel slips through the Gentle Reader’s usual defenses, but that suffices for the mind to produce antibodies that cause an immediate allergic reaction upon later exposure.

To examine the consequences of this earth-shattering25 discovery, the remainder of the one-star reviews were examined, almost all of which required two (9,742 of 67,453) or three (845 of 67,453) exposures to this guy’s oeuvre to provoke the allergic reaction, and all displaying the same transitivity of reactions to other novels of the oeuvre. This allows us to rate the strength of the reviewers’ respective mental immune systems and correlate this with other factors. This latter task will be detailed in another study at a more reputable journal; instead, we must examine the consequences of this finding for cognitive science and public health, as well as the fact that this guy’s oeuvre also has 74,836,562 positive reviews.26 The short answer is: We’re doomed. The long answer is that just as the death of harmful memes does not usually kill off the harmful people propagating them, so a dearth of taste does not usually bear dire real-world consequences for the tasteless, so yeah, we’re doomed.


So yeah, we’re doomed...unless we do something about it. In the first clinical study directed towards treating innate bad literary taste, the exact allergic reactions to this guy’s output were determined as follows: (1) A sample of one-star reviewers of five novels (sample size determined for statistical significance at the p < 0.001 level) was selected for determination of their genetic sequence (giving of consent determined where necessary by introspection by this researcher) and then compared with this guy’s genetic sequence and the genetic sequences of the active posters on this guy’s largest and most positive online fan club (obtained by means that confidentiality forbids detailing). (2) Regular discrepancies in mental-coding genomes between the two groups were then separated into novel-specific triggers for allergic reactions. (3) Biochemical analysis was performed to determine flaw-specific anti-allergens that were administered through dissolution in a neutral beverage to voluntary subjects who tested positive for the allergenic literary traits. (4) Reactions of the subjects of the study to the novels in question were measured before and after administration of the beverage, with ethanol-based drinks as the control substance—even those, it turns out, don’t help the better literary mind overcome its defenses. The basic result was heartening: You really do have to drink the kool-aid to like this guy.

However, research certainly couldn’t stop there; that would merely allow all the members of the reading public to like something that is very, very bad for them. While this would also boost readership of this journal and thus increase the prominence of this researcher’s work, it was realized victory on those terms would be both empty and pyrrhic, and if there is one thing this researcher opposes, it is empt-pyrrhicism. Therefore, a second study was performed in which novel-specific allergens were administered to the members of this guy’s fan club. Membership plummeted overnight.

While the details of the program of treatment need to be worked out for all the authors in greatest violation of the constraints of good literary taste, the general lines to be taken by public health institutions are clear: The respective allergenic substances need to be administered in tandem with a new program of prophylactic high school English in which only bad authors will be read. This will immunize an entire generation against bad literature, after which we may assume the book market will automatically respond to the changes in demand due to universal enlightenment. Other measures will be held in reserve in case this doesn’t work.


To the better sort of reader, any conclusion would be superfluous. To the regular reader of this journal, it would be pointless.

1 Corresponding address: Mongo Yalbag, c/o Bill’n’Jake’s Tire Repair, 412 Real Slim Shady Blvd., Bugsplatt, AK 71427; upyoursquine@yahoo.com.

2 The interested reader is directed to Yalbag, M. (2014). “Up yours, Quine: On UG as the universal salva veritate,Speculative Logician 7(3):16–56, and is also urged to introspect deeply.

3 Certain speculative purveyors of putative truths on Usenet have been accused of seeing a trinity in every triad and thus of mixing medieval Scholasticism with numerology. It is unclear to me why this seems to have been intended as insulting.

4 More precisely, a comprehensive semantico-syntactic analysis of Henry James’ complete writings found that he used a mean of 73.3 superfluous words in the surface output for each distinct word in the underlying representation of a given sentence. Post hoc analysis revealed that the old boy just couldn’t stop shoehorning in the blather, resulting in some of the most spectacular violations of verb valency and theta role assignment found outside child language and L2 learner studies. Suffice it to say a forest of trees died to provide the leaves on which were written the forest of syntactic trees necessary to show this.

5 Mispronounced [zuw]-ology, of course.

6 Who is, of course, the only sort of person one would expect to have read this far. This researcher therefore predicts from first principles that the editors of this journal have not read this far, and thus that this footnote will remain unchanged, including the statement that Trey Jones and Keith Slater receive major kickbacks funnelled through an account at a leading Cambridge, MA, financial institution to soft-pedal the few critiques of minimalism they actually do publish.

7 Yalbag, M. (2012). “An experimental determination of the genetic encoding of the innate elements of human thought,” Speculative Generativist 5(1):2–463; Yalbag, M. (2012). “A lexicon of the genetic encoding of the innate elements of human thought,” Speculative Generativist 5(2):2–673.

8 Yalbag, M. (2012). “The genetic cookbook for philosophy: The identification of the non-ideal in philosophy and philosophers,” Speculative Logician 5(2):3–75; Yalbag, M. (2012). “(Hans) Reichenbach Falls and the Rebirth of Sherlock Holmes in Philosophical Genetics: Genetic Disorders in Mentally Disordered ‘Philosophers,’ ” Speculative Epistemologist 74(3):15–47.

9 Yalbag, M. (2012). “Dietary, breeding, and culling suggestions for the amelioration and elimination of stunted philosophical development,” Speculative Sociologist (Special Issue on Scientific Intervention in Society) 16(4):4–76.

10 For example, one critic wrote that if the theory is true, then the whole project is simply encoded in the genes and therefore has no warrant for truth. If so, then by the same argument their response is also encoded in the genes, and not only does it therefore also have no warrant for truth, it contradicts itself. QED.

11 The following books were used: Strunk and White; Violet Fuchsia, Purple Prose Composition for the Blue-Blood Blue-Stocking; Curdle Boukleps, My Mud Should Be So Clear: Composition for the Functionally Illiterate; D. Launische Forelle & M. Trüben-Bächlein, Stomping in the Mucky Shallows: Techniques for Fishing Successfully in the Stream of Consciousness; Roger Kint, Veridicality Through Appropriation: Telling the Tale as if ’Twere True; Clarity B. Demmed & Fawghee Prattle, The Krakens Come at Night, Mostly: How to Avoid Becoming Selvages in the Sea of Discourse by Weaving a Net of Metaphor; Cletus Berks, The Over-Wrought Urn: Form and Function in an Appalachian Speech Community; Drew L. Speckt-Lipps & Slawberry Chinn, Remember, There Is No Bottom: Writing Professionally in the Modern Literary Market; and Hilbert O’Mulligan, Spicing Up Tab A into Slot B: How to Write DIY Instruction Manuals and/or Modern Erotica.

12 For further details, the interested reader should refer to Mongo Yalbag (2012), “A cookbook of spicy concoctions for the mind: On certain extensions of the standard λ-calculus to the Standard Models (Mark 1–5) of theoretical linguistics,” Speculative Logician 5(4):3–421; Mongo Yalbag (2013), “Arbor Day comes early this year: The new ρ-calculus and the computer generation of syntactic trees from optical-scanning input,” Speculative Generativist 6(5):264–321; and Mongo Yalbag (2013), “Cat’s-Cradle and the Comparative Topology of Thought in the Less and More Literate,” pamphlet in press at Van O’Dee Press, Bugsplatt, AK.

13 Note, as queried by an anonymous reviewer, that this statement does not read: Ѭ₮(g, p; 亁)(f, k). This latter would of course absurdly imply the grammaticality of such sentences as *John loped rambunctiously and the most common reading of *The cat had the runs discharge-freely.

14 This part of the study has been in press at three different publishers, but each publisher has gone bankrupt and its staff moved to Mexico without comment or forwarding address before it could be published, which just shows the lengths to which the lit-crit Mafia goes to protect its malign interests. While there is no definite proof apart from rigorous introspection on the part of the researcher, the stylistic fingerprints of Paul Auster are all over this case.

15 Name omitted, as the identity is less important than the conclusions, and upon the urging of Speculative Grammarian’s legal advisors. Thus, said author is henceforth usually referred to as “this guy.”

16 Name omitted at the insistence of the Speculative Grammarian legal advisors, who this time didn’t even bother arguing that the identity is less important than the conclusions. Speculative Grammarian needs to get better legal advisors.

17 Name not omitted on the grounds that she writes genre fiction.

18 Not to be named so as to better ensure unhindered publication.

19 Using special “feminocentric discourse-analysis software” from Bechdel Works, Ltd., it was found that his oeuvre is indistinguishable from Henry Miller’s in this respect.

20 This assumption was tested by examining the relative rankings given for a selected sample thereof to Nathaniel Hawthorne, Sarah Orne Jewett, Stephen King, and Grace Metalious. Q, as they say, ED.

21 That is, the researcher clicked on the reviewer’s profile and followed up other links, and when necessary tracked down the reviewer in real life and secured an interview by hook, crook, or vague threat involving same.

22 Here and henceforth the names of novels under consideration have been replaced by sufficiently distinct pseudobiblionyms.

23 For confirmation, contact Philendra Q. Vigormortis at pqvluvzcats@earthlink.net.

24 For confirmation, contact Kelli K. Clubfoot at justinbieber4eva@aol.com.

25 Yet, upon introspection, what clearly would have been expected, were we only as clever as our unconscious minds and unexamined innate ideas.

26 Defined as three stars and above. This figure perhaps overstates the positive reactions to the oeuvre, since it includes such gems as “This seller rilly got the buk to me fast, and there was only slite damiges to the cuver” and “I’m giving this book 5 stars because it totally bites,” to which there were 34 replies asking if the commenter knew 1 star = bad, 5 stars = good, to which she replied, “Eh, whatevs.”

Special Supplemental Letter from the Editor
SpecGram Vol CLXXV, No x Contents