Letters to the Editor SpecGram Vol CLXII, No 4 Contents Google Results Support an Anglo-Genesis Model of Language Degradation—U. Pendleton Start

Pinnacle Sherpa is a Normal Language
A retraction of all previous conclusions

Keith W. Slater
Linguists’ Rehabilitation Unit, Mayo Clinic, Rochester Minnesota

In Slater (2006), Slater (2010a), Slater (2010b), Slater (2011a) and Slater (2011b) I reported on an amazing series of recent changes that have occurred in Pinnacle Sherpa. In response to a massive elaboration of evidential distinctions, the language split almost overnight into four distinct languages: two used only by younger people and two used only by older people. Both age groups have one mediated and one non-mediated language. The mediated young people’s language is written logographically. Both of the older people’s languages are undoing their history of linguistic changes, and are thus sisters of Proto-Pinnacle Sherpa, despite being chronologically younger. Finally, the entire Pinnacle Sherpa community exchanges languages weekly, proceeding in a circular fashion, to commemorate the important festival called the Day of Rotation.

Judging by the reception I have been getting at conferences and in the popular press, these developments have captured the imagination of both armchair and professional linguists worldwide.

It turns out I was wrong. Completely.

All of the fieldwork for my study of Pinnacle Sherpa has been conducted via electronic mediaI have never visited the community in person. In pursuit of the next major surprise, which I (and, no doubt, my readers) have come to expect with metronomic regularity, I invested another few hundred hours on Skype calls, instant messaging and so on. For the first time, I also created a Twitter account, and this has been key, revealing the most startling results of all.

In fact, a close examination of the voluminous twitter feed data (each instance of which, I am told, may be colloquially referred to as a “twit”) has turned up the astonishing fact that all of my previous conclusions are totally unfounded.

None of what I have reported in these previous articles is correct at all. Pinnacle Sherpa continues to be spoken by all segments of society. There has been no significant complexity added to the original evidential system. There has been no bilateral modal split into mediated and nonmediated forms. Old people and young people alike use the language pretty much as it has been spoken for the last several generations. No surprising changes have taken place at all.

In fact, it turns out that the consultants I’ve been getting my information from are not even Sherpas. Instead, they are enterprising Gurungs, who seem to think it is funny to play jokes on the scholarly community.

I apologize for any inconvenience this series of ultimately misleading articles may have caused. I can only hope that in the future no community will be quite so deceptive.

Though it appears that scientific knowledge has not been appreciably advanced through this series of articles, I am at least satisfied to report that I have received several institutional promotions, primarily on the basis of these articles, plus a series of lucrative book deals, and have toured 24 countries as an invited speaker.

Quite apart from the factuality of the data I have reported, of course, I (and indeed, all my readers as well) remain greatly indebted to those Gurung speakers who have so generously shared their time and their, shall we say, creativity, with me.

But let me say that I will never again take someone’s word for their identity via Skype.

Letters to the Editor
Google Results Support an Anglo-Genesis Model of Language DegradationU. Pendleton Start
SpecGram Vol CLXII, No 4 Contents