To Whom It May Concern—A Letter from the Managing Editor SpecGram Vol CLII, No 1 Contents Assistant Professor’s Song—J. M. Unger

Re: Choose Your Own Career in Linguistics

A Letter to the Editor

The Editor,


Readers should note that the articleChoose Your Own Career in Linguistics in SpecGram CL.αdespite appearancesis not a game, or a mere interactive text adventure! It is a highly sophisticated applied expert system, diligent use of which will enable the user to simulate the actualities at very little personal cost but time. Yet experiencing all of its tracksalbeit virtually rather than in actuality, be it saidwill provide the participant with a wonderful, exhilarating experience that may

“Linguistics occupies a special place among the social sciences, to whose ranks it unquestionably belongs. It is not merely a social science like the others, but, rather, the one in which by far the greatest progress has been made. [...] The linguist will often find scientists from related but different disciplines drawing inspiration from his example and trying to follow his lead. Noblesse oblige.”
—Claude Lévi-Strauss

either (a) forewarn participants of some of the pitfalls that careless career decisions may drop them into, or (b) get participants to lighten up.3 As to result (a), may your correspondent13 attest its efficacy in this regard from, nay, not bitter, but rather, wry, and personal, experience. As to result (b), if one were to explore the philosophic track through the expert system,9, 10 one might take a philosophic11 view which would tend to this result.

Your correspondent wishes to take this opportunity to heartily commend Speculative Grammarian for once again proving that a linguist’s notion of practical meta-linguistic activity is not entirely restricted to the time-honoured forms of satirising overblown, non-contentful and meandering, sesquipedalian dissertations upon nothing, in which more of substance is learnt, from interminable footnotes, about the author and his14 egotistical preoccupations with his own being and opportunistic activities than is learnt, from the ostensible body, about the ostensible topic.

Regrettably, the article fails in two not insignificant details: first, the lack of provision of a map of its content, perhaps in the form of a state diagramwhich lack is but slight and could easily be remedied by any competent Comp. Ling. graduate; which fact might cause one to wonder whether the Editor did not have such a resource at his, her or its15 disposal; but which lack could not, however, be remedied by a neophyte linguistics undergraduate; second, the complete absence of any verifiable statistics with which to quantify the proportions of erstwhile linguistic students following any particular track or achieving any particular state embedded in the model. Perhaps a minor revision of this particular expert system could address the first lack, and one may confidently expect the publication of Choose Your Own Career in Linguistics 1.1 in the near future in an upcoming issue of SpecGram. However, the second fault is not so easily remedied, and would require

“... Philologists, who chase
 A painting syllable through time and space
 Start it at home, and hunt it in the dark,
 To Gaul, to Greece, and into Noah’s Ark.”
—William Cowper

substantial field research to address. Seeing the pressing need for such information to be made available for the benefit of aspiring linguisticists,20 or to be withheld for the benefit of practicing linguisticists; in short, being aware of the economic value16 of such information, and being unwilling to let the grass either grow under one’s feet or in one’s back yard, your correspondent has already made several applications for research grants18 to acquire such verifiable statistics; indeed, it is only fair to warn your readers that the present subject is now the subject of U.S. and international patent applications.19 The resultant expert system will far exceed the capabilities of the present one, or even of a version 1.1 as outlined above. Its commercial value is ungainsayable, thus one may confidently predict the upcoming release of several major versions and upgrades of a new and altogether improved expert system, TikTok (TM), beginning in the northern spring of 2008. For further design details, please see my upcoming monograph Know your Place: the revolutionary design of TikTok (TM), to be published by Psammeticus Press at $499.95.

Yet more regrettably, it is readily apparent that the present model must be adjudged grossly deficient in this respect: considered from a games-theoretic perspective, the only actor with choice appears to be the prospective, practising or erstwhile linguisticist. Yet experience and intuition suggest that the choices of the linguisticist may have little effect on the outcome. Though this state of affairs may be seen as undesirable, nay, deplorable, of what use is it for us to deplore the reality of our lives and of the system in which we find ourselves embedded, yea, each as a “fairly well compensated but readily replaced cog in a large soulless

“But to the purposefor we cite our faults
 That they may hold excused our lawless lives;
 And partly, seeing you are beautified
 With goodly shape, and by your own report
 A linguist, and a man of such perfection
 As we do in our quality much want—”
—William Shakespeare

[REDACTEDCLASSIFIED] machine”?21 Why “kick against the pricks”?22 Your readers may rest assured that your correspondent is aware of their plight and hears their cries.

Hence a follow-up volume to Know your Place: the revolutionary design of TikTok (TM), is presently in the planning stages, in a more populist vein, tentatively entitled The Well-Adjusted Cog, sub-titled: Implementing TikTok (TM) Around The Block, sub-sub-titled: A Place for Every Linguisticist (or Linguist), and Every Linguisticist (or Linguist) in His, Her or Its place. This will, indeed, be published initially in weekly installments, available at newsstands around the nation, modestly priced at $19.95; a separate teacher’s guide will also be published. Finally, TikTok (TM) accreditation courses given by the newly-established TikTok Institute, resulting in the award of the title Certified TikTok (TM) Professional. The TikTok Institute will, of course, apply pressure to industry bodies and lobby elected24 representatives in every jurisdiction23 to have linguistics taught in high school, and in due course, from kindergarten onwards.

This plan for research, publication and training will revolutionise the lot of the linguisticist (or linguist), who will be in great demand as a teacher (or, at least, a trainer), or at least, as a teacher of teachers (or a trainer of trainers). And the practising linguisticist (or linguist) will gain the great satisfaction of knowing that he, she or it is playing his, her or its part, like a well-adjusted (though readily replaced) cog in a large soulless machine, in enabling others to play their own parts as well-adjusted (though readily replaced) cogs in the same machine. Each person trained in TikTok will finally come to know their own peace (or piece) as a cog in a train of cogs.


H I A W Papi, D. Litt, M. Phil (Oxon.), Ph. D. (Oxon.)

1 A little contemplation moves one to suggest that possibly, just possibly, the full title of this august journal was chosen as Speculative Grammarian simply to encode a subtle bilingual warning. Knowing full well the propensity of speculative grammarians of every ilk, including Chomskian, non-Chomskian, non-non-Chomskian,4 etc. ..., to abbreviate and anacronymise every possible and even some impossible (not to mention non-impossible and non-non-impossible, etc.5) already impossibly abstruse and turgidwhere was I?grammatical terms,6 it would require a leap of but little imagination (with which no speculative grammarian worth his salt1 might reasonably be charged) to envisage the said title being quickly reduced to SpecGram. Knowing also the propensity of said SGs7 to speculate upon possible connections between words of similar form in apparently related languages, who would doubt that said SGs might consider SpecGram to represent a morsel of lentils; or once their minds had been transported to contemplation of the cuisine of India and its other exports, that they might see it as a speck of garam;8 to wit, a pinch of salt.

2 or Madam, or Intersexed Person, or whatever appellative the Editor may deem best applies to him-, her- or it-self.

3 That’s lighten up, not light up, dude! As if any responsible SpecGram reader would encourage others to ignore a Government Health (or morals) Warning!

4 As modern logicians no longer hold with the Law of the Excluded Middle, “tertium non datur”, we can no longer reliably and definitively assert that non-non-X and X are identical.

5 The standard “non ‘tertium non datur’ ” disclaimer applies; see footnote 4.

6 See footnote 5.

7 SG = speculative grammarian; repetition grows tedious; besides, note the first tendency already observed in footnote 1.

8 garam = spice in many Indian languages, borrowed as meaning salt in Malay.

9 As alas, your correspondent did in actuality, before beating a hasty retreat into the intellectually more satisfying, rigorous and, let’s face it, cool, option of a double major including physics; whilst unaccountably diverting, for the other major, to mathematics25 rather than linguistics; which last, thus relegated, became only a pleasant pastime, listening to corroboree songs in the combined music and language lab, whenever the campus afforded no interesting opportunities for student activism, student journalism, ping pong, lightning chess or kibitzing on the 500 players.12

10 Please do not complain that footnotes do not appear sequentially! As they were added manually, so they were added in the sequence in which the words were written, not in that in which readers are most likely to read them.

11 Or more properly, linguistico-philosophic.

12 A more convoluted than this which one will not readily in something approaching English sentence find, it to create possible, but in German more likely, is.

13 I.

14 Invariably, his.17

15 See footnote 2.

16 To apprehend this concept, it was incumbent on your correspondent to make another slight detour from that outlined in footnote 9 above. Had this expert system been available to your correspondent at an earlier date, making that detour, into economics territory, virtual rather than actual, might have saved much grief and consequent soul sucking.

17 There’s a Ph.D. in this observation for the astute and politically correct linguistics graduate; a unit or two of sociology or politics might prove an asset in teasing out the strands of the determiners of single sex domination of even intellectual pastimes; then again, a simple reiteration of the norms of political correctness would probably suffice for making such substantive research unnecessary to the achievement of the goal. A word to the wise: if you can’t understand the previous assertion, don’t ask me to be your mentor.



20 It will profit us nothing to here reopen the old debate, among linguisticists (or linguists) about terminology: whether a linguisticist (or linguist) should be known as a linguisticist or a linguist. That seems as good a reason as most; one trusts one may see the issue vigorously debated once more in the pages of upcoming issues of SpecGram.

21 In the words of the article Choose Your Own Career in Linguistics, at page: You continue working for the government...

22 Richly though they may deserve it.

23 Excepting only Tokelau and Kyrgyzstan.

24 Or appointed representatives, if none are elected in a particular jurisdiction.

25 Mostly, be it admitted, for its superior access to computing machines, to aid in the analysis of chess games and odds on various hands of 500.

To Whom It May Concern—A Letter from the Managing Editor
Assistant Professor’s Song—J. M. Unger
SpecGram Vol CLII, No 1 Contents