Regarding the Development and Decay of Mongolian Vowel Harmony: with Special Reference to Copernicus and Galileo—Robert I. Binnick Collateral Descendant of Lingua Pranca Contents Word-TV—Brought to You by Unaccountable Network Executives

Minimalism: The Movie

David Ingram

Stu Slipschitz tugged his pants up over his hefty 46 inch girth and entered the door to Walter’s office.

“Here”, he announced, tossing the manuscript onto Walter’s desk, “is our next blockbuster.”

The manuscript was David Mamet’s latest script, “Minimalism: The Movie”.

“What’s it about?” Walter asked.

“It is a gripping story about a linguistic theory, its birth, growth, and struggle for survival. You’ll laugh, cry, and never think the same way about DPs, merge operations, and even LF. I was so choked up over the loss of d-structure that I could barely talk.”

“Hm, I do think about DPs a lot, but...”

“Not those DPs, you idiot, determiner phrases.”

“Oh,” Walter answered, a little embarrassed. “So who do you have in mind?”

Stu scratched his chin. “I’m thinking we might be able to get Clint Eastwood to direct, and Sean Penn to star.”

“I don’t know if Sean’s available,” Walter mused, “He’s pretty busy these days helping third world dictators and terrorists.”

“I know,” Stu answered, “But I think I know the draw. We’ll make the main character, this Chomsky guy, a gay activist who is beaten up by homophobic, hippy seventy-year-old Generative Semanticists. Sean’ll eat that up!”

“Yes, I like that. I like that a lot! And maybe we can put in some GPSG syntacticians who try to sabotage Chomsky’s blog by inserting bugs that block long distance dependencies. Awesome!”

Stu could hardly contain his enthusiasm.

“Now you got it. The possibilities are, well, infinitely recursive. We’ll have every linguist in the country lined up around the block to watch it.”

Walter suddenly became somber.

“Wait a second,” he asked. “How did that last linguistics movie do that we made?”

“You mean Waiting for Optimality?

“Yes, that one.”

“Well, we actually lost our shirt. Casting Rosie O’Donnell as John McCarthy was a big mistake.”

“I’ll say, a huge mistake. A really really huge mistake. Huge. Really huge. Gigantic...”

“Okay, I get the point.” Stu looked a bit annoyed. “This will be different. Syntax is so much more interesting than phonology, and Sean will be a big draw.”

Walter was now looking skeptical.

“This Chomsky guy is a pretty handsome stud. You really think Sean can do it? You know, he’s, well, not the brightest bulb in the room. This Gnome guy is supposed to be pretty brainy.”

“It’s Noam, not Gnome.”

“Oh sorry. Nome.”

“No, Noam, N O A M.”

“Okay, Nam.”

Stu had stopped listening, and was anxious to make some calls. “I’m outta here,” he said. “I’ll let you know what I come up with in a few days!”

A few days later. Stu is meeting with Clint Eastwood.

Stu: What do you think?

Eastwood: I like it a lot. There’s just one little problem.

Stu: What’s that?

Eastwood: I had a little trouble understanding some of the theory.

Stu: Which part?

Eastwood: The part after “Minimalism is...”

Stu: Oh. Yes that is a pretty big part. But don’t worry. Just make sure you understand the part about nouns.

Eastwood: What’s a noun?

Stu: Okay, just think about the girl. Who’s gonna play the girl?

This was a far reaching question. The ‘girl’ is a student in Chomsky’s seminar who has to come to the blackboard and show how Binding Theory operates in the sentence “Who saw John?” It is a pivotal scene in the discussion of uninterpretable features.

Eastwood: How about Lindsay Lohan? We can put her in a little mini, and tank top. She’ll be hot. Sean’ll like that. We can have him take her under his wing, teach her all he knows about A chains and Agree features...Count me in!

The next day, Stu is meeting with Sean Penn

Stu: What do you think?

Sean: I dunno. There’s no place in here where I wear sunglasses. I gotta wear my glasses, ya know that, right?

Stu: Sure Sean. You can wear them when you get beat up by the Generative Semanticists. It’ll be special.

Sean: Okay. And what about this Minimalism [deleted]. Do I have to understand that crap?

Stu: No, just the part about nouns.

Sean: What’s a noun?

Stu: Never mind. Just fantasize about Lindsay.

Sean: Will do. Though, you know, when I play gay guys, I fantasize about guys. You know that, right?

Stu: Yeah. Sure. Just sign here.

So there you have it, the birth of Minimalism: The Movie. The show premiered a year later to dozens of linguists from coast to coast. The receipts could barely cover the cost of Sean Penn’s glasses, and the studio went bankrupt. Stu now runs a car wash in Encino. Clint Eastwood never directed another movie. Sean Penn went insane from having to listen to himself for so many years, and was institutionalized. Chomsky retired and Minimalism quietly disappeared.

Regarding the Development and Decay of Mongolian Vowel Harmony: with Special Reference to Copernicus and Galileo—Robert I. Binnick
Word-TV—Brought to You by Unaccountable Network Executives
Collateral Descendant of Lingua Pranca Contents