Adminicular Things You Didn’t Know You Didn’t Know—Madalena Cruz-Ferreira SpecGram Vol CLXII, No 2 Contents Phonotronic Energy Reserves and the Tiny Phoneme Hypothesis—Dr. Equus Q. Quagga

A comment on Mr Slater’s (be)musings on Pinnacle Sherpa

by Madalena Cruz-Ferreira

I have been following, with meticulous attention and growing alarm, Mr Keith Slater’s (2006, 2010a, 2010b, 2011a, 2011b) self-labelled “description” of features of Pinnacle Sherpa and, disquietingly, of its users. If what Mr Slater offers can be called a description, then I am Miss Universe.

I am not concerned with Mr Slater’s dilettante skills in tree drawing, or ditto acrobatics in back-and-forthing reconstruction of historical changes, whether in spoken or logographic modes. Like all elite researchers, I completely ignore what is going on beyond my own academic backyard-cum-lab. I am concerned with Mr Slater’s sly slaughter of his informants’ intellectual integrity, of which his report of a “Day of Rotation” (Slater 2011b) constitutes the straw that broke my back.

As other distinguished world luminaries have intimated about other unsettling world developments, I, too, am shocked and saddened to discern in Mr Slater’s writings clear hints of the agenda that typifies other couch-potato fieldworkers: namely, that their exotic informants are lesser human beings than themselves.

Mr Slater claims, no less, that his informants are multilingual. “Multilingualism”, as is well-known, is the label for a degenerative disorder whose pernicious effects on sufferers’ brains my much-missed and equally distinguished colleague, Mr Otto Jespersen (1922), pithily and conclusively clarified: “the brain effort required to master the two languages instead of one certainly diminishes the [...] power of learning other things which might and ought to be learnt.” Mr Jespersen’s observations were, as is also well-known, experimentally and thus indisputably confirmed in Cruz-Ferreira (2008). If what Mr Slater adduces as evidence for this claim can indeed be called evidence, even speculatively, then I am Mr Universe.

Where, pray, is support for the statement that “Competence in both Nepali and English is universal” (Slater 2006)? Where, for that matter, is support for competence in Pinnacle Sherpa(s), when one tiny footnote (the last one, to boot) also claims that “elicitations and interviews have been conducted entirely in English”?

Slater (2011a) adds that “the four speech communities not only have entirely distinct membership, but in fact, they utterly refuse to speak to each other at all” and, further, that “no speaker is willing to use their version of Pinnacle Sherpa outside of their own speech community.” Platitudes, Mr Slater, platitudes. Which other communities boasting distinct membership are ever willing to engage in communication with one another? Mutatis mutandis, would anyone use their version of English outside of their own speech communities?

To his credit, Mr Slater turns out to be right, partly, on one single count: “each group of speakers remains monolingual” (Slater 2011b). Your informants, Mr Slater, are as monolingual as you are, and therefore your peers in fully-fledged humankind. Nobody can “remain” monolingual after being, or having been, multilingual. There is not, and there cannot be, a “Day of Rotation” where language users switch among different languages, because no human culture celebrates its own impairments. Claims such as Mr Slater’s belong in acadetic, not academic, publications.

With this comment, I seek urgent attention to Speculative Grammarian’s declining peer review standards, and public redemption of Pinnacle Sherpa speakers’ linguistic competence.


Jespersen, O. (1922). Language: Its Nature, Development and Origin.

Adminicular Things You Didn’t Know You Didn’t KnowMadalena Cruz-Ferreira
Phonotronic Energy Reserves and the Tiny Phoneme HypothesisDr. Equus Q. Quagga
SpecGram Vol CLXII, No 2 Contents