Center Embedding as Historical Inevitability (not cultural imperative, or contact-induced innovation, or anything else anyone will want to claim)—Eve M.Adam SpecGram Vol CLIV, No 2 Contents HanjieLinguru—Trey Jones
Speculative Grammarian is proud to present yet another pseudo-regular quasi-installment of the Linguistic Anthropologic Monograph Endowment’s Bizarre Grammars of the World Series.

I Told You it was Not the Whole (Number) Story

An Anthropological Linguistic Followup on Non-Integral Person in Åriðmatçəl Verbs0

Bizarre Grammars of the World, Vol. 63.5


The lovely Helga Searsplainpockets (née von Helganschtein), having kept me on my toes concerning the appropriateness of the Hockett Syntacular Morphemic Resonance Spectrometer in my earlier work on Spanyol, followed up with a few more questions about Åriðmatçəl after I published my earlier findings. Well, one thing led to another, as inexorable as the Great Vowel Shift: we exchanged letters, met, talked, fell in love, got engaged, married, and began our honeymoon doing more fieldwork on Åriðmatçəl. The usual linguist-meets-linguist cliché; but what a wonderful cliché it is!

Admittedly, we were a bit distracted while in the field, but I am familiar with the Åriðmatçəl and their language, so our full attention was not absolutely required, and we are sure we got the most important details correct.

Linguistico-Anthropological Background

As noted before, the Åriðmatçəl are exceptionally facile with numbers, and verbs are inflected with non-integral grammatical number to indicate a whole host of features, including tense, aspect, clusivity, evidentiality, honorifics, and more. We also reported on what we interpreted as a vector-like representation used to compute Euclidean distances in evidentials. Our recent fieldwork confirms this and more.

Anthropologico-Linguistic Data

Number roots:
0 = uʔu
1 = a
2 = u
3 = o
4 = e
5 = iŋiliŋi
6 = ə
Multiplier prefixes:
70 = 1 = k-
71 = 7 = z-
72 = 49 = x-
73 = 343 = q-
74 = 2,401 = r-
75 = 16,807 = ʔ-
76 = 117,649 = w-
We previously failed to capture an unexpected generalization about Åriðmatçəl phonology. First recall the table of number roots and numerical prefixes, at right (also recall that Åriðmatçəl numbers are, perversely, base 7). Shockingly, it has become clear that the underlying phonological forms of the roots (for value x, e.g., o = 3) and the corresponding multiplier (for value 7x, e.g., q- = 73) are the same! Each is a semivowel phoneme that is realized as a vowel in the case of the numerical root, and as a consonant in the case of the multiplier prefixesall through regular phonological processes! Alas, there is not enough room here to give all the details.

We have discovered further evidence for the vector-based representation of grammatical number in the use of evidentials. Åriðmatçəl has an apparently unique “evidential conflict” marker, -aʔa-, which is attached to the dot product of the various evidential vectors when agreement is either unexpectedly high or low between two different sources!

Finally, and most excitingly, we can personally confirm that the tales of the “transcendental hermits” are true! We visited two rival camps of grammatical gurus and their acolytes. In each camp, there are two wise elders who are trying to construct an infinitely long sentence with certain characteristics such that verbs in the sentence have grammatical number of an ever-increasingly accurate approximation of a transcendental number, related to either π or e:

Those in the desert use continued fractions.
  e = 2 + (1 / (1 + (1 / (2 + (2 / (3 + (3 / ...
  4/π = 1 + (1 / (2 + (32 / (2 + (52 / ...
     Those in the mountains use infinite sums.
  e = 1/0! + 1/1! + 1/2! + 1/3! + 1/4! + ...
  π2/8 = 1/12 + 1/32 + 1/52 + 1/72 + ...

Both are using archaic and arcane grammatical moods of Classical Åriðmatçəl, including the imperative (addition), subjunctive (multiplication), negative (± sign reversalinterestingly no, not, and negative numbers are indicated with the morpheme !i!, the only place clicks occur in the language), interrogative (reciprocation), and energetic (factorial!) moods. Some of the individual verb conjugations take up to 18 hours to say aloudassuming they make no mistakes!

Tentative Conclusions

More research is necessary to unravel the intricacies of this system. Said research will require more and abundant funding.


Claude Searsplainpockets &
Helga von Helganschtein y Searsplainpockets
Honeymooning in Africa

0 This paper was made possible by LAME grant #13.5, and the letter V.

Center Embedding as Historical Inevitability (not cultural imperative, or contact-induced innovation, or anything else anyone will want to claim)—Eve M.Adam
HanjieLinguru—Trey Jones
SpecGram Vol CLIV, No 2 Contents