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On the Terrible De-Grammaticalization in Hujulukinat

Hans Forz
University of Schellenbutt

Tropical Storm Harvey
Hujulikinat, a previously thriving language of Amazonia, is facing imminent danger from a phenomenon that has up to now escaped the notice of linguists. Indeed, the ailment of this language had been deemed impossible by a number of linguistic authorities that the present author contacted from the field via satellite telephone. The alarming development that has fallen upon Hujulukinat is the seemingly irreversible de-grammaticalization of functional categories into derogative lexis.

Local consultants explain that it all started with the dual marker /kwe-/, which was being reanalyzed as ‘number two’, and so acquired increasingly negative connotations, until the grammatical use was completely impossible. Consider example (1), which used to mean ‘You two have a parrot’.

(1)kwe-ikonrrat irg-ha
DU-2SG EX.2SGparrot-LOC
‘You ****** on your parrot.’

When the local people were looking for help from linguists to restore their number system, they were told that the unidirectionality of grammaticalization was very robust, and that they should not worry about the phenomenon. However, matters were aggravated when the Hujulukinat accusative marker came to mean ‘idiot’, and several conjunctions and complementizers acquired the meaning of primate genitalia.

The local newspaper, still printing in the language of Hujulukinat, had to include a header which
Hurricane Irene
translates into English as ‘If you’re easily offended by words such as and, because, or although, please do not proceed to read any further.’ The problem was that, by the time the header was published, the irrealis marker was already conveying a notion that is unfit to be rendered in this place, such that the message led to a number of small-scale riots at newspaper stands. The editor-in-chief had to make a public apology, which however made things worse, since it contained several instances of the present tense marker which had undergone a similarly catastrophic meaning change.

When turning again to linguists for help, those ivory-tower academics did not stop to consider the deplorable situation of the Hujulukinat speakers, but proceeded to save the unidirectionality hypothesis by inventing a grammatical function DEROGATIVE, which is arguably even more grammatical than all others that have been lost in Hujulukinat.

The present author expresses the hope that not all linguists are as arrogant, and appeals to the linguistic community to engage in a joint effort to restore the grammar of Hujulukinat to its previous glory, remembering the words of the native poet: **** *** **** ** ****!

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