The Collected Wisdom of Linguists, Part Α—The SpecGram Council of Sages SpecGram Vol CLXIV, No 1 Contents The No. 1 Linguists’ Detective Agency—Keith Slater

Ruminating on Consonants

Werinda Clover
X. Quizzit Korps Center for Advanced Collaborative Studies

X. Quizzit Korps Center for Advanced Collaborative Studies; Animosi Mugiendo

During a recent winter evening when my e-book reader’s battery had died, I whiled away the hours by perusing several recently published phonetics textbooks, and discovered, to my astonishment, that none of these books includes a single mention of ruminant consonants. And yet what language does not have ruminant consonants, either on the surface or somewhere hidden in its deep structure!?

As Crudbottom and Fartyblartfast state in their recent article on virtual sub-phonetic Chomskyan universalification, I was not the only one to have researched this most perplexing issue: How cud this be?

Ruminant consonants are perplexing because they involve activation of the molar perplexus, a little-known nerve complex with little-known unsympathetic function. First observed by oral surgeons at the Experimental Wikidentistry Institute in Wirschreemen, East Germany, in 1964, this nerve, when stimulated with a rapidly rotating pointy metal object, appears to produce rhythmic convulsions in the arms and trunk muscles of subjects along with articulations we now know we can classify as complex clusters of ruminants. In addition, one of their most salient characteristicstheir instantiation as a single feature bundle that “reappears” several times as it gradually undergoes assimilatory processeshas led them to be mis-analyzed in the literature as sequences of separate consonant phonemes rather than as trans-temporally realized units.

While recent investigators have chewed on the possibility of analyzing them as an example of consonant harmony, we prefer to break away from the herd and take an approach to the problem that opens the previously fallow fields of onomastics, omastics, and abomastics to effective mastication.

Herbacious (1979) and Bovin-Laitman (1989) both mulled over whether ruminant consonants were simply re-occurrences of previous phonemic acts or whether they were instead an original instantiation of the well-researched +PIZZA +CABBAGE phenomenon, reported by Fartyblartfast (1901, 1955) in his articles on the reflux linguistics of the Obecity tribe of the Lower Belt of the Panttrouser Peninsula. Both authors came to the same conclusion: ruminant consonants are worthy of further study, and likely constitute a unique subbranch of the fields of phonology, mixology, and edamamology.1

For the uninitiated, or for the benefit of the graduate student in search of an innovative and attention-getting presentation for LSA 2013, it is worth regurgitating the facts: ruminants, being both {+open} and {+constricted}, are most correctly described not by the place of blockage in the vocal tract but rather through obtuse, clumsy (and quite possibly misspelled) reference to the substance or substances causing the constriction. Thus, we have the calxo-velar, calxo-uvular, and the difficult calxo-pharyngeal series, the herbo-velar, herbo-uvular, and herbo-pharyngeal, and the less complex, if waterier, sputu- series.2

Thus, in order to fully digest this most interesting phenomenon, we must continue to trace the route by which these sounds are processed after production, according to the well-established principles of Transintestinal-Surgico-Neurolinguistics, which I need not trace here.3 First, the post-molar consonant enters the œsophageal stream, accompanied by excess corporeal fluid in the case of the sputu- series, but accompanied by spontaneous laryngeal spasm in the case of the rest. Then, upon entering the oral cavity, the consonants are re-articulated several times at varying positions throughout the cavity, producing a characteristic series of clicks, tones, and other phonemes. The precise nature of the phoneme uttered will, of course, vary according to the temporal duration of the initial blockage, its placement in the transintestinal system, the language normally spoken by the producer, and their adherence to Gricean norms.

In an uncharacteristically brilliant piece of analysis by Crudbottom, it has been definitively shown that the subset of these consonants which can be analyzed through analysis of nearby upholstery as ejectives, are, in fact, pleas for help in some contexts, both supporting the Gricean maxim of quantity and proving once again that grammars, like bilabial closures, leak.

Ruminant consonants provoke bucolic linguists to deep introspection, and must not be omitted (nor emitted, come to think of it) from phonetics textbooks, nor from the meditations of thoughtful linguists. Do not be cowed by the objections of your publisher; do not gaze sheepishly at your editor.

In short, be outstanding in your field.

1 The study of Japanese appetizers.

2 Attempts by linguists at Wirschreemen to study the calxo-glottal, herbo-glottal, and sputu-glottal series in the 1970s were abandoned after the loss of 14 undergrads, two teaching assistants, and Herr Crudbottom’s cat. We assume this last series to be potentially (that is, underlyingly) present in many, if not all ruminants, but that these appear only occasionally on the surface level. The correct analysis of these last consonants would no doubt set new, meatier standards in phonology, permanently stalling the theoretical competition: showing them all to be the bull we always knew they were. The steaks are high; who will move us forward?

3 For those who are not familiar with this branch of linguistics, I suggest the following book by Fartyblartfast, Crudbottom, and Schrödinger: The Discovery, Re-Discovery, and Quantum Uncertainty of My Watch in the Stomach of My Possibly Non-Existent Cat (Trouser Press, Lower Standards, Penn).

The Collected Wisdom of Linguists, Part ΑThe SpecGram Council of Sages
The No. 1 Linguists’ Detective AgencyKeith Slater
SpecGram Vol CLXIV, No 1 Contents