We Got One Wet, And Now They Are Multiplying—Letters from All of the Editors SpecGram Vol CLI, No 3 Contents Linguists Seek Increased Funding To Fight Potential Aphasic Flu Epidemic—SpecGram Wire Services

to the

double-dot wide-o To the most respected ,

In the fall I’ll be a first-year grad student in linguistics at R––– University. A couple of the current fourth-years told me that the International Phonetic Association was adding several new symbols for sounds that have previously been considered to have questionable status as phonemes. They said that the most contentious new addition was double-dot wide-O, a nasal-ingressive voiceless velar trill.

I’ve leafed through several back issues of SpecGram, Language, and a few other journals. I’ve searched the Linguist List archives, and scoured the web. I can’t find anything it (though right hook v showed up numerous times).

I trust the scholarship of SpecGram implicitlydiscovering your journal last year is what made me want to abandon my degree in electrical engineering to become a linguist in the first place. Please help me unravel the mystery.

J–––– J––––––


Hey J. J.,

We’ve elided your name and upcoming academic affiliation because there is still some chance that you will have a career once your linguistic intuitions mature, and we wouldn’t want you to do yourself irreparable harm this early on. Thank Bloomfield you didn’t post this on sci.lang

You haven’t taken phonetics and phonology yet, have you? Get a phonetics textbook out of the library over the summer. Learn what “nasal-ingressive”, “voiceless”, “velar”, and “trill” all mean. Put them together yourselfpreferably while in a public place, but one where there are no linguists around to sully the self-discovery process. Then contemplate the carefully constructed, nearly iconic shape of the symbol. Look up “onomatopoeia” for good measure.

You’ll get it eventually. Seeing this old chestnut trotted out again brings tears to our eyes.



To whom it may concern at SpecGram,

I recently came upon the most delightful new word, yod-dropper, which lends itself particularly well to usage as a mild, unintelligible insult (the kind one applies to people in a non-random manner for the purpose of biased observation and data-collection on their reactions based on their perception of the word as either a compliment or insult) to the majority of the American populace (owing to the low probability of their potential recognition of previously supplied word and the inherent yod-dropping property of most dialects of American English). Enjoy!

Leela Kaul


Dear Leela,

Being a generally classy kind of outfit, we try to rise above our baser instincts, thus it is beneath us to engage in petty humiliation of our linguistically colleagues and acquaintances.

Oh, who are we kidding? That’s a good one. It does strike the perfect balance of unintelligibility and apparent insultingness. It also features a great back-door escape hatch with that “data-collection” angle, should one be pressed to explain.




Speculative Grammarian accepts well-written commenting on specific articles that appear in this journal or discussing the field of linguistics in general. We also accept poorly-written articles that ramble pointlessly. We reserve the right to ridicule the poorly-written ones and publish the well-written ones... or vice versa, at our discretion.

To the ,

Having painstakingly correlated the many laments over the imminent demise of the English language, from the 18th century right down to today, I have discovered that there are recurring patterns with ever shorter wavelengths (so to speak) that enable me, after complicated calculations, to say with certainty that English will cease to exist as of March 31, 2058. After that date, those of you who are still around will have to communicate in some language that has been less profligate with its inherited store of meaning. I just thought you’d want to know.

Language Hat


Dear Hat,

Having looked over your calculations, we’ve come to share your concerns. The board of SpecGram is bullish on , though. We recommend crash courses in one or both of those languages to our readers who intend to live long enough to see the Era of English come to a close.



More-or-Less Esteemed SpecGram ,

Why do you have random equations on the cover every now and again? It looks like someone vomited up a partially digested math textbook all over an otherwise perfectly good linguistics journal. Why on earth would you let that happen?

Arçuri Gorynychov
Profesora Diacritica Gratuitosa
University of Gílðèrlåndîã
Þlüñkêrštøn, Gílðèrlåndîštãn


Dear Arçuri,

It is true that from time to time we have included an equation as the “tag line” on the cover of our august journal. This is a long-standing SpecGram tradition dating back, according to stories handed down from to , to around 530-535 C.E. when then Managing Ismāʿil Safavī first included the Pythagorean equation (a2 + b2 = c2) on the cover.

Safavi did this in order to convince the legal goon-squad of Emperor Justinian I that SpecGram was not in violation of certain little known and poorly understood provisions of the Corpus Juris Civilis which regulated periodical publications in the . The study of language was not then widely as a (a problem which persists to this day in many places). However, because the content of SpecGram was quite incomprehensible to the lawyers, and because equations featured prominently on the cover, Safavi was able to convince Justinian’s legal goons that the journal’s subject matter was in fact an obscure branch of , and thus, like other scientific journals, SpecGram was immune from the heavy publishing taxes levied by the Emperor to cut down on the number of pretentious poetry quarterlies being printed in Constantinople.

Only three volumes of SpecGram were printed in Constantinople before our offices were relocated to Scandinavia. It turns out that in-depth discussion of the exotic languages of the Vandals, Ostrogoths, and Visigoths, with whom Justinian had begun fighting in earnest in 533, did not endear the and publishers to the Emperor and his cronies.

Nonetheless, the tradition of including on the cover equations and formulae from many disciplines continues, in part as a tribute to Isma‘il Safavi’s cleverness, in part because it gives many linguists something to scratch their heads over (hint: this issue’s cover has an equation from the field of biology, not pure ), and in part because it saves our numerous subscribers in Istanbul from having to pay certain excessive import taxes, which scientific publications are exempt from to this day.


We Got One Wet, And Now They Are Multiplying—Letters from All of the Editors
Linguists Seek Increased Funding To Fight Potential Aphasic Flu Epidemic—SpecGram Wire Services
SpecGram Vol CLI, No 3 Contents