Files in the Wild—File naming practices as indicators of academic introversion/extraversion—Heyókȟa Wakȟáŋ, Ph.D. SpecGram Vol CLXIII, No 1 Contents Language & Brains—Expirations in Minimalism—Lecture Announcement from Dr. S. Morgenstern

On the Taxonomic Classification of minimalistici
The controversy, and some directions for research

by Athanasious Schadenpoodle

To the toiler in the full-furrowed fields of taxonomy, there can be no surprise attendant upon the discovery that a previously well-established classification has been called into question by closer scrutiny of the species involved, or by advances in the analytic mechanisms underlying the distinctions informing the taxonomy itself. The very act of assigning a token to a type bears the potential of alternate assignment, and each move toward greater abstraction does naught but amplify the range of possibilities. When the specific field one is attempting to segment is that of the family Linguisticus, even less surprise is possible, both because of the prevailing lack of agreement among zoölogists about the criteria to use, and because of the general sense of enervation any analysis of Linguisticus evokes (the latter being, perhaps, one of their defense mechanisms). So it is with a distinct sense of Unüberraschungkeit that this author has noted the recent disagreementone could almost say a kerfuffle, were it not for the air of fraught excitement the term calls forthconcerning the proper assignment of the group initially classed as (Neoplatonicus) Americoformalisticus minimalistici.

This initial classification (like all such in Linguisticus) was provisional, and based primarily on the morphological and behavioural characteristics of specimens observed in their native habitat. Analysis in these terms yields a rather clear result, as summarised below (criteria from Smott (in press); definitions of new terms will follow):1

Nullophagic refluxion
Pseudomathematic coating
Outspecies avoidance
Nonadaptive fixation on generalisation
Transpropriative adaptation
Defensive caveat gland
Vagueness-based exoskeletal reinforcement

Nullophagic refluxion was discussed in Schadenpoodle (2006), as was the pseudomathematical coating on Neoplatonicus droppings, their tendency to ignore other Linguisticus species even when in close proximity, and their sensitivity to being separated from a generalisation even when the generalisation had been clearly defunct for quite some time. Smott (in press) argues that this latter trait is one that has persisted only because the ecosystem in which Neoplatonicus members thrive is not one in which it disrupts reproductive potentialin other words, it is similar to the propensity toward constant yapping in the chihuahua (whose nonadaptive potential becomes rapidly apparent when the chihuahua is placed in proximity to any large predator with a sound-based perceptual faculty2). Smott’s term transpropriation refers to a behaviour Schadenpoodle (2006) mentioned in relation to “[cases] in which the droppings of non-Neoplatonicus are consumed without significant acknowledgement....” The behaviour is rather like what one observes among businesses, where a particular company will copy a competitor’s product but change its outward appearance and present the result as a “rebranded” version of its previous (failed) product. Clearly, minimalistici matches other Americoformalisticus species’ appearance and behaviour on each of these criteria.

However: External characteristics such as those described above do but scratch the surface, as it were, of the relevant features for taxonomy; as anyone working with cladistics knows, there is a reason why the field has its own name.3 In both of the most recent septannual meetings of the Transoceanic Association for the Classification of Academicus, members suggested that the Board encourage research into minimalistici, based primarily on the observations of graduate students doing field research, who were reporting the kind of cross-group aggression behaviours between minimalistici and other Americoformalisticus species that one would not expect if they were, in fact, the same species. In 2008, the decision was made to downgrade the assignment of minimalistici to Americoformalisticus to “probable.” Some members had argued for a more radical shift, but having seen the chaos ensuing from even slight changes in other great works of taxonomy (e.g. pitched battles over definitions of psychiatric disorders in the DSM-IV, or the regrettable involvement of the Vatican Guard in the furore over changes in von Krobplandt’s great work, A Partitioned Mirror: Or, a Schematic and Organized Account of the Principal Varieties of Metal), it was the Board’s considered opinion that any acts of festina should be decidedly lente.

It is the author’s considered opinion that the period in which such caution can be maintained is at an end. The controversies over minimalistici have simply grown too great. The author’s own recent research, as well as published work by Smott and Boðr (2010), and even work in other fields, such as that by Golumbia (2010), have raised a series of questions about the internal anatomy of members of the species. While outwardly, minimalistici specimens appear to be standard Neoplatonicus types of some kind (if not Americoformalisticus itself), their metabolic processes are decidedly anomalous. Currently, three different proposals on how to deal with the various explananda have been put forward:

  1. Treat minimalistici as being a species of Functionalisticus. This is the suggestion made by Smott and Boðr (2010), who argue that the external similarities between minimalistici and the other Functionalisticus species are a result of adaptation by a Functionalisticus ancestor in order to eliminate predation by Neoplatonicus species and others. This would, in a sense, position minimalistici as being somewhat analogous to the viceroy butterfly, which has developed markings strikingly similar to those of the monarch butterfly. Golumbia’s (2010) analysis may be somewhat similar, although its terminology and argumentation style is divergent enough to make it difficult to compare.4 While this position accounts well for many of the structural characteristics of the species, it does not match the paleontological record or the limited available evidence from genetic comparison.

  2. Treat minimalistici as being a species of Neoplatonicus (whether or not species identity is maintained with Americoformalisticus) that has an unusually well-developed capacity for transpropriation and whose nullophagic refluxion has become an ineffective way of dealing with a new environment (this approach is outlined in Schadenpoodle (forthcoming)). Most Neoplatonicus species cope with an environment poor in nutrient-bearing evidence by consuming invented evidence built out of null elements and the like, but if there were some failure of this system due to mutation (or an ever-more-obvious lack of basic credibility), the organism would find itself in direct competition with Functionalisticus species for the same niches, thus favoring transpropriation as the only available coping mechanism. This could lead to adaptations producing a species whose external characteristics and dietary processes resemble those of Functionalisticus, but whose basic biochemistry remains that of Neoplatonicus. This position matches well the paleontological record, but genetic comparative evidence is mixed (more discussion on that point below).

  3. Treat minimalistici as being a major branch of its own, perhaps a lateral development of Linguisticus Saussurii or even Hjelmslevii (the latter being a particularly audacious proposal by Adenos-Hwang (forthcoming) and one on which the author cannot comment other than to report it for due credit). This would explain the “mixed” results of genetic comparison, but is hard to reconcile with what appears to be a very short timeline for the existence of minimalistici, who have not been found anywhere except where there were previous populations of Neoplatonicus.

At this point, lay readers, or those who work in areas of taxonomy far removed from those focusing on Academicus may be asking why the debate has not simply been resolved via direct analysis of DNA samples. Unfortunately, Academicus, while being quite complex creatures, are prokaryotic, and like bacteria, are able to absorb fragments of genetic material from the remains of other Academicus; some of these leftover fragments can persist for an extremely long time.5 Unlike bacteria, however, Academicus evince traits that are massively pleiotropic, and further, a very large portion of an Academicus’s DNA is thought to be noncoding. Flanderspone (1982) has rather famously likened the attempt to classify Academicus via genetics to that of classifying amoebae via shape; while the true situation is not that hopeless (after all, these are life-forms, they use DNA, and they reproduce (if only asexually)), we are far from reaching a point where a cladistic choice can be uncontroversially supported.

What genetic evidence we currently have about minimalistici are quite ambiguous even by Academicus standards. There has been no full mapping of any Linguisticus genome (or even of a sample’s genotype), but a basic comparison of initial analysis of minimalistici samples with published work on Neoplatonicus and Functionalisticus shows a slight but statistically-significantly higher correlation with the former. Adenos-Hwang (forthcoming), however, has argued that if one removes those sequences known to have been repeatedly “scavenged” in other Linguisticus species (treating them as accidental, as it were), this correlation disappears.6 Given these conditions, the author would argue that the only reasonable course is to treat genetic evidence as coëqual to morphological and behavioural evidence, although advances in our understanding of Academicus genetics may change this in the near future.

We cannot, however, simply shelve the issue in the hope that it will be resolved for us. Such an example of intellectual passivity would not just be a marked disservice to the many promising young scholars we yearly send forth into the field. There is the very real danger that a failure to understand the relations among Linguisticus species – specifically, whether the apparent differences between minimalistici and others are actual species differences or instead manifestations of polyphenism or polymorphism – could leave us ill-prepared to anticipate actual threats that indirectly result from the changing environmental conditions forecast for the near future. After all, we do have at least one example of a creature about which similar arguments revolved in the past – and that creature is the locust.


Adenos-Hwang, Emerald. 2009. Where are the Neoplatonicus of yesteryear? : A competition model. Proceedings of the Gary Linguistics Society, 195-198.

Adenos-Hwang, Emerald. (forthcoming). On relating minimalistici to Hjelmslevii: a modest proposal.

Flanderspone, Omar. 1982. “The Gene Genii don’t go there” Plenary address to the 18th Septannual Meeting of the Transoceanic Society for the Classification of Academicus. Trondheim, Norway.

Golumbia, David. 2010. Minimalism is functionalism. Language Sciences 1(32).28-42.

Smott, Fergus (in press). Linguisticus. In Hartx, Dimitri (ed.), Current Issues in Academic Cladistics. Mykonos: Panthelesian Press.

Smott, Fergus, and Boðr, Otto. 2010. Minimalistici as viceroy. Occasional Papers in the Taxonomy of Academicus 12.13-56.

Schadenpoodle, Athanasious. 2006. A Preliminary Field Guide to Linguists, Part 1 and 2, Speculative Grammarian CL.1 and CL.2.

Schadenpoodle, Athanasious. (forthcoming). Minimalistici: a transpropriation hypthothesis. Occasional Papers in the Taxonomy of Academicus, 14.

1 The author is of the opinion that such visual organizational devices have been too rapidly adopted, leading to a certain passivity of the intellect, but he has been sternly admonished to use them by the editors. Readers should, therefore, be aware that this table has been foist upon both him and them.

2 Adenos-Hwang’s (2009) observations about the rapid decline in Americoformalisticus populations in areas in which Computatus datascavae or Psychologicus neurologii have appeared may be relevant here.

3 Other than the obvious implications for grant-proposals.

4 Golumbia, perhaps as satire, writes as if the species are in fact scholarly positions in an academic dispute over language, an analogy that has a certain appeal. One could, for example, envisage the minimalistici as Renaissance clergy/would-be-scientists grudgingly moving towards heliocentrism while still posing as geocentrists and dutifully bad-mouthing Copernicans to escape persecution by their own Church.

5 This is a sufficiently vexed area that those of us working in it have developed a separate typology for the fragment types, leading to the perhaps unfortunate proliferation of metaphorical labels, e.g. assumptions, postulates, warrants, attitudes, pretenses, and feuds. A wide range of Academicus species may, for example, share PRET35a43.6, a gene sequence allowing the organism to express Greek letters, without any two of those species necessarily sharing that many other gene-sequences.

6 Smott (pc) criticises this on the the basis that by some measures, 85% of the genetic material in a sample is scavenged, and that Adenos-Hwang’s claim, if true, would rule out any utility of genetic classification in Academicus.

Files in the WildFile naming practices as indicators of academic introversion/extraversionHeyókȟa Wakȟáŋ, Ph.D.
Language & BrainsExpirations in MinimalismLecture Announcement from Dr. S. Morgenstern
SpecGram Vol CLXIII, No 1 Contents