Linguists Don’t Need Prescriptivists—(or Monolinguals—and Pig Latin is Not Enough)—Dr. D. Schkrbtov SpecGram Vol CLVIII, No 1 Contents Another Bunch of Things You Didn’t Know You Didn’t Know—Madalena Cruz-Ferreira

The Theory of Sense
Why No One Should Bother To Find Out If It Works

Prof. Trent Slater
Professor of Unprovable Linguistics Literature

As Professor of Unprovable Linguistics Literature, it gives me great pleasure to introduce to our distinguished readers one of the most ambitious and noteworthy theories to grace the amphitheatre that is the field of Linguistics.1 This theory, unparalleled in its persuasiveness, unequalled in its depth, unrivalled in its ability to inspire experiments that will be ignored anyway since lab work means nothing, is none other than the mighty Theory of Sense.

This theory holds that human beingswe who have been honoured with the cognitive capacity to explore, investigate and write untestable hypothesesare able to immediately decode the real meanings and intentions encoded in such a blunt instrument as the words of one language and transfer the same into a language-free, linguistically neutral understanding of what the speaker actually meant.2 Thus, we can see that meaning generation is entirely outside the field of actual “natural language.”

One of the many applications of this venerable theory is in interpreting, that most vulgar of activities where the meanings of the speaker, as expressed in one language are received by a capable, trained linguist, who then quickly washes the meanings clean of lexical interference, before expressing this meaning in the impure stumblings of another language. In this case the theory of sense tells us what we already knewinterpreters do not concern themselves with such matters as the crude words used to express the speaker’s intention but instead instantly become one with the speaker, grasp their intention and express it without allowing the original language to interfere at all.3

It is thus apparent that, rather than interpreters actually having to go through such a process as learning a language, the most skilled among them can work even without any knowledge of the original language at all. Since meaning is entirely divided from language form, it is quite unnecessary for them to pay any attention to anything but the speaker’s intended meaning. This allows the choice of interpreter to be made independent of the actual languages involved, selection instead being based on more objective categories such as delivery rate, intonation and ability to impress interviewers.

With such important applications, it is vital that such a theory be based on sound, scientific data. Of course, only certain procedures will suffice for these purposes. Laboratory-based experimentation, for instance, will certainly not do for several reasons. The first of these is that, in controlled conditions, variables tend to become isolated from each other and it becomes more difficult to extrapolate data based on single occurrences, given that many experimentalists insist that conclusions only extend to a restricted interpretation of the actual data on file. The second is that experiments will, of course, differ from real life conditions in a number of significant ways. The most important of these is that experimental methodologies must be outlined in such a way as to be repeatable and clear, whereas real-life observational studies are inherently non-repeatable. Thus, since we cannot accurately simulate the real-life of an interpreter (including their waiting time between jobs, their telephone conversations with clients and their games of solitaire), all experimentation is bound to return inaccurate results.

It is my view that the continuation to the process of validating this theory must be left in the hands of the most capable of theorists. Only they are able to separate, as it were, the wheat from the chaff, ignoring extraneous and unhelpful data and creating insightful and interesting models of the processes inherent in the activity of sense-making and sense-communication. This task will, of course, involve in-depth studies and the creation of a specialist literature. It will thus increase the appeal of the field of Translation and Interpreting Studies as it expands to touch on important related matters such as psycholinguistics, Chomskian grammar, computational linguistics and the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis.

We can thus see that this theory deserves its place as the most studied and supported theory in the literature. It is my wish that the Theory of Sense become the standard model, not only for interpreting studies but for linguistics as a whole.

1 I do not mean to say that linguistics is actually a field, filled with bovine noun phrases who emit plosive consonantal syllables before contributing to the micro and macro structure of their surrounding environment with a generous helping of deep structure.

2 Of course, real linguists do not concern themselves overly with what others mean but that matter is beside the point here.

3 Some misguided individuals have sought to challenge this venerable theory by publishing data which suggest that the original language is actually important, often leaving artefacts in the interpreted version or being reflected in the way the interpreter processes the incoming speech. These papers are not worth mentioning for reasons covered below.

Linguists Don’t Need Prescriptivists—(or Monolinguals—and Pig Latin is Not Enough)—Dr. D. Schkrbtov
Another Bunch of Things You Didn’t Know You Didn’t Know—Madalena Cruz-Ferreira
SpecGram Vol CLVIII, No 1 Contents