The Meadian Median—Questioning the Average Preponderance of Fake Data—Nizgul Gibblefist SpecGram Vol CLXI, No 2 Contents ’Trilaas Outside Manila!—An Anthropological Linguistic Followup on Multi-Trill Counting —Claude Searsplainpockets & Helga von Helganschtein y Searsplainpockets

On the Wild Extrapolation of Rhodes’ Tame/Wild Scale

Fugacious Ƕ. Bangzerrungen
FG Klopstock Universiteit

Hinton, Nichols, and Ohala’s 1994 book Sound Symbolism contains a chapter by Richard Rhodes, entitled “Aural Images”, in which Rhodes proposes a scale for onomatopoeia ranging from tame to wild.

Rhodes discusses what he calls “true onomatopoeia”, in which a word “is directly shaped by the sound it represents.”

This definition of onomatopoeia is, however, too loose to be of much use to us. But in order to tighten it up we will need to recognize that the class of words we want to treat as onomatopoeic is quite diverse phonetically in that such words fit on an analog scale, ranging from the very precise imitations of the impressionist to words such as [imitative bird names like whippoorwill and chickadee]. Let me call the ends of this scale wild and tame. At the extreme wild end the possibilities of the human vocal tract are utilized to their fullest to imitate sounds of other than human origin. At the tame end the imitated sound is simply approximated by an acoustically close phoneme or phonemic combination. (Rhodes, pg. 279)
wild    tame
[ʔw̰̉æ̰̉ʔˑw̰̉æ̰̉ʔ]quack, quack
[u˔ː323u˔ː323] hoo/hoot
[bæ̰̉ʔæ̰̉ʔæ̰̉ʔæ̰̉ʔ] baa
†The unusual symbols used here are to represent a laryngealized vocoid, to represent a pharyngealized vocoid or sonorant, to represent a raised vocoid, and superscript numbers to represent pitch contours with 5 representing a low pitch ca. in the middle of the second octave below middle C and 1 representing a high pitch ca. middle C. (endnotes; Rhodes, pg. 291)

This unexpected bit of linguistic scholarship has led to numerous interesting and fruitful discussions. Not least among them has been a discussion of the appropriateness of endnotes in our modern digitally typeset age. (See also Pullum, G.K., 1991, “Stalking the Perfect Journal”, pp. 59-66 in The Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax.) In large part because of the endnote-related inanity, a discussion of Rhodes’ somewhat eccentric transcription style ensued. To wit:

The extra little hooky thing looks like a half-long symbol, but I have no idea if that’s really what Rhodes intended. (Typesetters can be so ... willful.) [Tensor, T., 2006, personal communication.]

At this point in the conversation, perhaps, an ad for the Girls Gone Wild series of adult videos was playing on the television. Suddenly it all became clear. Not only had Rhodes discovered an interesting and useful feature for describing and classifying onomatopoeia which was also as likely an element of Universal Grammar as any other I’ve seen proposed, but in fact he had discovered a higher-order principle governing, in part, cultural epiphenomena as diverse as onomatopoeia, girls, and typesetters.

This is not the first analysis to apply linguistic principles and processes to non-linguistic entities (see Shovel, S., 2004, “Cultural Grammaticalization”, SpecGram CXLIX.2, and Pulju, T., 1988, “A Stratificational Approach to Making Macaroni and Cheese”, PsQ XVI.1), nor the first claim that “a researcher will advance an analysis to deal with a highly localized, recalcitrant problem without realizing that the analysis itself is a revolutionary advance” (Weaselflinger, B-B., 2008, “UXn: The Implications of Sampson’s Proof of Universal Science”, SpecGram CLIV.1), but it may yet be the most important (or at least the wildest) case to date.

It is clear that in the case of onomatopoeia, tame is unmarked, and wild is marked, since the tame versions can be written with conventional orthography, while the wild ones require pushing the IPA to its limit. Similarly, tame girls are unmarked (so much so that they often go unnoticed) while it is sufficiently notable when a girl goes wild to be worth the effort to record the event for posterity. The unmarked value for the tame/wild parameter for typesetters is unknown, but hypothesized to be tame as well. However, this article itself is indeed a test of typesetters’ markedness. If typesetters are tame by default, this article will appear, well-formatted, and whole. If not, the wild typesetter is likely to take offense at some of the the remarks herein made by a snooty academic and the article may suffer some delEterI0us ty pe    s e   tt  i    n g.

Bangzerrungen is a doody head! Bangzerrungen is a doody head! Bangzerrungen is a doody head!

The Meadian MedianQuestioning the Average Preponderance of Fake DataNizgul Gibblefist
’Trilaas Outside Manila!An Anthropological Linguistic Followup on Multi-Trill CountingClaude Searsplainpockets & Helga von Helganschtein y Searsplainpockets
SpecGram Vol CLXI, No 2 Contents