The Collected Wisdom of Linguists, Part Γ—The SpecGram Council of Sages SpecGram Vol CLXIV, No 3 Contents Uncovering the Hidden Secrets of Alphapointillism—Jonathan van der Meer and Lagâri Hasan Çelebi

An Introduction to Familial Linguistics
The Syntax and Grammar of Husband, Wife and Teenager

Herr E. Ditarie
X. Quizzit Korps Center for Advanced Collaborative Studies

While hiding in my home office, surrounded by shelves of important-looking dictionaries and grammars for soundproofing, I realised that linguists often miss the interesting related yet mutually unintelligible languages that are practised only a few metres from their labs. So, in an effort to address this important issue, I set out to catalogue the languages spoken in the house of Ditarie; namely, HUSBAND, WIFE and TEENAGER. These languages share many superficial features, including the phonological shapes of the majority of lexical items and some intonational contours, but closer inspection reveals that their sound-meaning relationships are utterly incommensurate.

For example, the seemingly normal word fine has a myriad of meanings when used in the various familiolects. WIFE may indicate that her day was fine, indicating that it was satisfactory or pleasant; HUSBAND may use it to indicate that he finds his wife attractive while pathetically signaling that he is too old to be try to be fly; a TEENAGER of either sex can uses it as a catch-all reply that also indicates their general willingness to murder WIFE and HUSBAND while they sleep, or at least take money from their purse or wallet when they are not looking.

One way to approach this situation, of course, is to create a set of tuples of the general form <a, a'> such that a is all and only the set of sentences found grammatical by a family member, with a' being the set of logical forms onto which a maps; family discourse can then be treated in terms of the sentences found in the intersection of together with the set R comprising mappings between a'1...a'n. There are two major problems with this approach, however: (1) R can be null except for referring expressions tied to food, and (b) there are no convenient Greek letters for h(usband) and w(ife)one might be forced to know the Greek terms, a condition bordering on philology.

Another approach is to borrow from post-structuralist syntactical philosophies and assume that no signifier can be finally and exclusively tied to a given signified. Thus, the lexical item fine may be interpreted either as an affective particle indicating general malaise or paranoia or as a meaningless utterance broadly equivalent to the term och in Scots, well and oh in most English dialects, or the contents of a funding application.

A third approach is to delve into etymology, thereby seeking the primeval, elemental, ergo untarnished meaning that Troglodyte kinsfolk attach(ed) to the words they exchange. Cavernous research unveils that whatever HUSBAND has ever said to WIFE and vice versa, since the inception of articulate speech, is systematically misunderstood, even, and especially, when both speak the same language. On the rare occasions where both might agree and, exempli gratia, reciprocally exclaim fine to mean what it means, ‘finis’ (id est, ‘shut your mouth’), TEENAGER will counterpoint ooooch, f’cryin’ou’loud to mean the same thing, only in the plural (‘mouths’). I could go on, approach-wise.

While it could be postulated that many exemplars of the TEENAGER category have simply not yet mastered adult speech, many authors have noted that this hypothesis encounters difficulty when we observe that TEENAGERs’ speech is highly uniform across disparate family units, but that maturation leads to gender-specific differentiation into the WIFE and HUSBAND categories; why do not gender differentiations display for TEENAGERs as well as for more age-advanced subjects?

Despite the gender-specific differentiation of WIFE and HUSBAND, there is an important generalisation to capture, which is that the gender differences often disappear when either or both are put in opposition to TEENAGER. For example, the rate of addition of novel lexical items in TEENAGER is substantially higher than WIFE or HUSBAND. Also, the adoption of such novel vocabulary (such as the aforementioned fly) into the familiolect of WIFE or HUSBAND almost instantly causes the loss or abandonment of that vocabulary in the TEENAGER familiolect. For these and other reasons, we find it useful, descriptively, to conflate WIFE and HUSBAND into a familial super-group, PARENT, that has as a crucial aspect its definitional opposition (descriptively and authoritatively) to TEENAGER.

All of this analysis, illuminating myriad relations as it has, I have completed, as I said before, in my home office, still surrounded by shelves of genealogical dictionaries and grammars of many language families. Imagine the great strides in familial linguistics that would be possible if I were actually to venture out into the rest of my home and interact, in the role of HUSBAND, with WIFE and TEENAGER! Alas, a lack of research funding (and the fact that WIFE has not finished making dinner and TEENAGER has come home in a foul mood) has necessarily constrained the scope of the present investigation to the introductory survey presented so far. However, researchers who feel themselves to be kindred spirits are encouraged to continue with their own investigations, especially vis-à-vis pop culture (and mom culture, too).

The Collected Wisdom of Linguists, Part ΓThe SpecGram Council of Sages
Uncovering the Hidden Secrets of AlphapointillismJonathan van der Meer and Lagâri Hasan Çelebi
SpecGram Vol CLXIV, No 3 Contents