Relentless Things You Didn’t Know You Didn’t Know—Madalena Cruz-Ferreira SpecGram Vol CLXII, No 1 Contents Ratical Minimalism—Lecture Announcement from Dr. S. Morgenstern
Speculative Grammarian is proud to present yet another irregular installment in the Linguistic Anthropologic Monograph Endowment’s Bizarre Grammars of the World Series.

How to Speak to Foreigners

An Anthropological Linguistic Study of the ʔɪɯnkʈlɳɪɞʃt0

Bizarre Grammars of the World, Vol. 66

A Surprising Introduction

In our recent travels to South America, we came across an interesting band of indigenes living in Cayenne, the capital of Guyane. The language they speak, ʔɪɯnkʈlɳɪɞʃt, is also quite interesting. Our first introduction to ʔɪɯnkʈlɳɪɞʃt came in the form of a bit of eavesdropping. An American tourist (naturally) was trying to communicate with a local street merchant who was clearly speaking Créole Guyanais, but who probably could have held a decent conversation in French. The American, who seemed to only speak English, kept repeating himself, each time speaking more slowly and more loudlyas if that could help the situationuntil his voice was a loud as his Hawaiian shirt.

Before long, many people were staring at the walking Ugly American Stereotype. A nicely dressed and well-groomed young man next to us muttered something under his breath. Neither of us could quite understand it, but we heard enough to recognize an astonishing mix of phonemes. Mr. Ugly American heard it well enough, too, so he asked, “What did you say?” By now we had turned on our tape recorder, and we captured the response, which he said louder this time, but slow and steady:

/ʔaɛʔʔɪɑɒʔ snɛudr jɢuʌʘ estluɔpfɪʊd hmɒoʒnəiʔʃlɪønkwəuɸl hmbɔærrɒiʔŋ/

The tourist replied, with continued surprising originality, “What did you say?” The young man was becoming agitated now, and this time he replied even louder, but his speech was very rapid:

/aɪ sɛd ju stupɪd mɒnəlɪŋgwəl mɔrɒn/

Well, that was clear enough, even to the Ugly American, who was beyond flabbergasted.

A Surprising History

We followed the young man after he took his leave of the unruly tourist, to ask him why he had originally spoken to the tourist in one language, then switched to English, and to learn the nature of the first language, with its very large phonemic inventory. What we learned surprised usboth utterances were in the same language(!), called ʔɪɯnkʈlɳɪɞʃt by its speakers (at least at some speeds).

The speakers of ʔɪɯnkʈlɳɪɞʃt have all recently come from the rural area surrounding Macapá, capital of Amapá, in neighboring Brasil. Originally Hmpɛoʔəurlriɔa member of their relatively small but cohesive group, numbering under 500came to Guyane on a mixed vacation/job-hunting expedition. Her startling success led her to bring first her husband, Edʒɒøŋ, to Guyane, and then her entire extended family. Within 8 months, every last speaker of ʔɪɯnkʈlɳɪɞʃt had left Brasil for Guyane. The secret to their success in finding employment in Guyane inof all placesEnglish-language call centers lies in a surprising coincidence.

A Surprising Transformation

Like any language, when spoken at speed some of the phonetic detail of ʔɪɯnkʈlɳɪɞʃt is elided (cf. the infamous English/Slurvian “Djeet?” and “Nodju?” ). This process is not well-studied in most languages, but we can assume that, like any other language phenomenon worth studying, it is reasonably regular.

Some of the easily-identifiable (but carefully ordered) high-speed elision rules include:

V(V) → Ø / V ___
VsC → sC / # ___
ŋ → n / ___ #
[+nasal] → Ø / #[+fricative] ___
[+liquid +syll] → Ø / [+stop] ___ #
[+labial α-place] → Ø / #h[+nasal α-place] ___
h → Ø / σ ___ C
nk → ŋg
[+fricative] → Ø / ___ [+nasal]
[+fricative] → Ø / ___ [+liquid]
[+retroflex] → Ø / ___ [+liquid]
[+liquid]([+liquid]) → Ø / ___ [+liquid]
[+cons -fricative -approx] → Ø / σ [+cons -glottal] ([+cons -glottal]) ___
[+stop] → Ø / [+fricative] ___ #
[+click] → Ø
ʔ → Ø

What Hmpɛoʔəurlriɔ discovered was that high-speed, heavily elided ʔɪɯnkʈlɳɪɞʃt is surprisingly very similar to Standard American English. So, our friend who first muttered to the tourist under his breath initially spoke “slow” ʔɪɯnkʈlɳɪɞʃt, then sped it up, at which point it sounded very much like English.

A Surprising Technology

And so the speakers of ʔɪɯnkʈlɳɪɞʃt now find themselves working at English-language call centers in Guyane. Hmpɛoʔəurlriɔ and Edʒɒøŋ managed to “work the system” in such a way that their employer was required to make “accommodations” for their “speech pathology”. Namely, incoming calls are digitally sped up, so as to sound like rapid ʔɪɯnkʈlɳɪɞʃt speech. Hmpɛoʔəurlriɔ and Edʒɒøŋ’s extremely rapid replies (and those of other ʔɪɯnkʈlɳɪɞʃt speakers) are digitally slowed down, so as to sound like normal-speed English. Everyone is, as the ʔɪɯnkʈlɳɪɞʃt cliché goes, tɖɪoɜkgəɐarldǂ hpɪaŋǁkr.

Some Unsurprising 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
Somewhere in South America

0 This paper was made possible by LAME grant #23 ↑37 43, and the letter .

Relentless Things You Didn’t Know You Didn’t KnowMadalena Cruz-Ferreira
Ratical MinimalismLecture Announcement from Dr. S. Morgenstern
SpecGram Vol CLXII, No 1 Contents