On Saving Endangered Languages as Part of Doing Doctoral Research—Albertrinette Q. Yue-Ramirez SpecGram Vol CLXIV, No 4 Contents Trilabial Bill!—Mary Pearce

Letters to the Editor

Dear Editors of SpecGram,

I began reading with much interest van der Meer and Çelebi’s article on the “Hidden Secrets of Alphapointillism”. My interest quickly turned to dismay, which eventually gave way to outright horror. What absurd hogwash! Time travel? Really? Have you even heard of “peer review”?

Any enigma-unravelling cryptologist worth their salt must take into account the mysterious name of the painting: “rkasmsursa”. It’s clear that this is an anagram. A few minutes with paper and pencil reveal “Marr asks us”, a clear reference to speculative Soviet linguist Nikolaj Marr.

This explanation doesn’t require as much time travel or rifts in space-time, and thus is to be preferred over van der Meer and Çelebi’s more complex theory.

Chanelle Tuggle
Friesenegg, Austria


Dear C-Tug,

Your theory is probably theoretically better than the one our dear friends Jon and Lagâri came up with, though it isn’t clear what Marr is asking of ushowever, not much he ever said made sense, so that may not be so detrimental to your theory.

In practice, though, your theory is clearly inferior because it only rated the letters to the editor page, rather than a full-color, multi-page spread in the sweet spot of a top journal.

So sorry, you lose.



Dear SpecGram,

I’d like to let you know about an interesting turn of phrase that has recently developed within the History Department of Iotopía University in Herodotus, Indiana: “an historical accident”.

It does not refer, as one might presume, to an actual accident of history. Rather it is a euphemism for the treatment of the more pretentious members of the department, doled out by the rest, for using the construction “an historical” in any context.

The new social norm is to pop someone in the mouth whenever they utter this linguistic abomination, and to refer to the incident as the recipient having had “an historical accident”.

R. S. Tottle
Dean of Humanities


Dean Tottle,

We are aghast at the notion that members of academe would run around like unruly school children, “popping” one another in the mouth merely for speaking out of turn.

On the other hand, as linguists committed to the notion of descriptive, rather than prescriptive, language science, we’ll have to allow it.

Keep up the innovative languaging.


Overly esteemed members of the SpecGram Editorial Board!

The question of the origin of the Basque language has haunted our community for a very long time. Nevertheless, with all modesty and humbleness that characterises our profession, I pride myself to have finally solved the riddle and to provide in these pages an irrefutable proof of astonishingly close relatedness of two languages whose geographical distance is only superficial. Consider the following sentence:

(1) Hori bakarrik da.

meaning ‘It’s just that.’ in Basque. Now, consider the equivalent sentence in Japanese:

(2) こればかりだ

Not only is it homophonous to the Basque sentence, but also homosemantic! Go away with your talk about coincidence and statistical probabilities and what not. You cannot argue against such a fact.

In light of these data, we can advance the following hypotheses: 1. Japan was colonised by Basque emigrants; 2. The Basque Country was settled by the Japanese; 3. Both Japanese and Basque come originally from Mars (this is, by the way, the opinio communis). 4. A fourth and further hypothesis, which I consider the most likely one, is that of the Japanese archipelago having broken off from today’s Western edge of the Pyrenees.

In order to evaluate the above hypotheses, more data needs to be elicited. We will also need more information about ethnographical and geological data which could help in this task. Specifically, genetic testing, run also on Martians as soon as we meet them, needs to be conducted among speakers of either language.

With that, I shall retire to feed the cat. I hope to see vivid discussion of the subject in future issues of your journal.

Most humbly yours,

Gotthülf von Unbehagen, PhD,
Dr. habil. h.c. mult., agrégé de grammaire
Department for Basic –onomies,
Advanced –emics and Expert –ologies
Original International University of Pangaea


Ach Mein Gott,

Fortunately, we have recently upgraded the Managing Editor’s former information systems assistant, RoboFetch 2000, to an actual information system. Rob, as we call it, was able to calculate the odds, using both a frequentist double-tailed p-test and several thousand Bayesian simulations with randomly assigned priors. In all cases Rob’s results converged on a 143.2% probability that Basque and Japanese are related, with a relatedness ratio between 10-8.2π and 0.9923, so your results are neither particularly informative nor insightful.

On the other hand, Rob’s results are publishable; and we may have just published them. Oops.



Speculative Grammarian accepts well-written letters commenting on specific articles that appear in this journal or discussing the field of linguistics in general. We also accept poorly-written letters that ramble pointlessly. We reserve the right to ridicule the poorly-written ones and publish the well-written ones... or vice versa, at our discretion.

On Saving Endangered Languages as Part of Doing Doctoral ResearchAlbertrinette Q. Yue-Ramirez
Trilabial Bill!Mary Pearce
SpecGram Vol CLXIV, No 4 Contents