The Art of the -ome—Z. En ‘Bud’ Dhist SpecGram Vol CLX, No 1 Contents Collected Graphic Evidence Against the Existence of the Morphome—Anonymous

A Field at War: Curbing the Influx of Lexicalist Morphomes

by Quentin Popinjay Snodgrass, Ph.D.

My fellow linguists: In the past I have been civil. In days prior I believe one might say I have even been charitable to lexicalists. Indeed, one might say (erring, of course) that I’ve been one of the lexicalists’ greatest proponents, speaking and writing about them publicly on more than one occasion. The very mention of lexicalism in the popular media, you see, does the lexicalist agenda far more good than the negative context in which it’s mentioned does it harm. If lexicalism still thrives in linguistics today, it is thanks, at least in part, to my efforts to stamp it out. As fervent a defender of traditional analyses as I am, even I cannot deny this. Recognizing this fact, I have remained silent over the past few months, hoping upon hope that my silence would do more damage to the lexicalist cause than my cogent arguments.

Imagine my shock and disgust when I read about the upcoming workshop at the University of Coimbra entitled “Perspectives on the Morphome”. Think about that: Perspectives on the Morphome.

“Well, what is a morphome?” you might askand rightly so. What is a morphome? Even the rank and file lexicalists can’t agree on the definition of “morphome”, or whether or not it’s even an appropriate tool for linguistic analysis. And yet, what a surprise! There’s a “workshop” dedicated entirely to the morphome. Never mind if morphomes should exist or not; that question is anathema. A minor detail to be swept under the rug. The very fact that it exists is enough to justify a conferenceoh, excuse me: “workshop”. Let’s be sure to use their lexicalist terminology, lest we be censured in “Letters to Language”!

There’s an important modal lexicalists ignore again and again, and it’s one we can no longer ignore if we want to save our field: should. Not one lexicalist will ever deal honestly with the question: Should we do this? “Hey, gather round!” they croon to each other. “Here comes some deviant new theoretical construct! Let’s all get together and celebrate it!” Make no mistake about it: What’s going to happen on October 29th is an orgyliterally: A lexicalist orgy.

Of course, I don’t mean that literallyI never said that; didn’t even imply itI’m just posing the question: Is this what we want for our field? It’s a question that we, the real linguists, aren’t going to be given an opportunity to answer. Naturally, the lexicalists will always make a show of inviting counterarguments. Indeed, read this selection from the “workshop” announcement:

This workshop aims to bring together scholars who share an interest in the concept of the morphome, but who may hold widely divergent views as to whether morphomes exist, what they may be, and how to account for morphological patterns claimed to require the postulation of morphomes.

And yet, who are the invited speakers? Jim Blevins? Lexicalist. Gregory Stump? Lexicalist. Andrew Spencer? Lexicalist. Mark Aronoff? The self-styled “godfather” of morphomes? Let’s not kid ourselves about what’s going on here. Even the puppet “anti-morphome” presentations are by so-called “generative skeptics”another name for “lexicalists”.

So what about the real linguists? Were you invited to give a talk? Was I, for that matter? I would have had a lot of information to shareincluding ground-breaking research I’m working on at this very moment1and I would have shared it respectfully. I’m welcoming of all opinionsof all styles of research, and all frameworksunlike these lexicalists who won’t even allow us to share the same airspace. Chomsky forbid they would hear from anyone who disagreed with them!

I am, if anything, a patient and tolerant man. No one can accuse me of having a single hate-filled bone in my body. I have maintained a respectful silence for quite some time, and have allowed (may Chomsky forgive me) lexicalist ideals to take root and flourish. I came to believe that my actions were doing more damage than good, it’s true. But it’s for the love of this fieldthe love of language and linguistic analysisthat I must break my silence, and speak what’s in my heart. I know it’s not “popular” to talk about what you believeabout what is goodnowadays in academia, but I must be honest with myself, and honest with all of you, my fellow linguists.

Restoring Honor

For too long now, we linguists have allowed morality to take a backseat to “progress” when it comes to analyzing language data, and to answering the big questions, such as: What is language? Why does it exist? And how can it be exterminated? We have allowed the number of languages to which we devote serious critical attention to balloon to the hundredseven the thousandswhile ignoring the orderliness of the pure languages that reinforce what we already know to be true about language. We have turned our back on the morpheme, and embraced lexicalists’ theories of grammar. Quite literally, we’ve regressed: Our front-voweled “morpheme” has become a back-voweled “morphome”.

The concepts of honor and integrity may be dead in the minds of many lexicalists today, but, believe me, they live on, against all odds. It’s our job to restore honor to our research methods; to our frameworks; to our classrooms; to our departments: to our field. Even if you’re not a part of the Natural Language Research Approval Committee, ask yourself as you conduct your research: Does the grammar of the language I’m researching support a traditional linguistic framework? Can my data be used to support anti-morpheme extremists’ theories of grammar? Am I, through inaction, aiding and abetting the expansion of the lexicalist agenda? If you can answer “yes” to any of these questions, it’s upon you to make a change. It’s within your power to affect not only the lives of those around you, but the nationaland internationalmindset of the linguistics community in general.

I believe we’re approaching a last call. We have a choice today. We can continue to turn a blind eye to the expansion of lexicalism. We can do nothing and watch as our universities fall under the sway of wayward frameworks, or we can take a stand today and rededicate ourselves to traditional theories of grammar. We can stand by our principles and refuse to allow our values to be assailed as they will be at the University of Coimbra at the end of this month. You may think it’s just a “workshop”, whatever that means, but I warn you, my fellow linguists, the attacks are going to get worse. We must be steadfast, and stand behind the shield of the One True Framework. Let the lexicalists do their worst: From now on, we will not back down. The NLRAC logo We will stand up to their divisive inclusionism and refute their narrow-minded tolerance.

Mark my words: This will be the turning point in linguistic history. We will not be silent; we will not be ignoredand we shall triumph!

1 See the forthcoming “T-Structure: Deriving Surface Indo-European Languages from Turkish”.

The Art of the -omeZ. En ‘Bud’ Dhist
Collected Graphic Evidence Against the Existence of the MorphomeAnonymous
SpecGram Vol CLX, No 1 Contents