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Degenerative Grammar
Our Current State of Linguistic Degradation

D. T. R. O’Rait, D. Bauch, and Wayne N. DeKay
X. Quizzit Korps Center for Advanced Collaborative Studies

“I have always looked upon decay as being just as wonderful and rich an expression of life as growth.”
—Henry Miller

Since the 1950s, linguistics has been wild with excitement over Chomsky’s insights, collectively known as “generative grammar.” As all non-linguists know, however, grammar as speakers encounter it in daily life is actually degenerative. In fact, years of mathematical modeling following the Minimalist Program have shown that the set of all possible well-formed sentences, though countably infinite, actually shows a clear and statistically significant tendency to reduce its cardinality, consistent with the many accounts of degenerating grammar among the young, which have been painstakingly collected by post-Labovian sociolinguists over the course of recent decades.

One such post-Labovian subject, having been vetted and duly warned by her university’s fastidious, comma-watching, prescriptivist Human Subjects’ Review Board, eventually contributed her sage evaluation of the current state of affairs. Quoth she:

“It’s, like, all, like, just gone, man, i dunno. Quit it: u r like so bringin’ me down w/ this.”

Hark, what is that we hear? Degenerative grammar reveals that we can never be sure what is meant. In some cases this is perhaps because speakers are feeling the after-effects of excess reveling (in social pursuits). Or it may be possible that these youths are a linguistic version of Bonnie and Clyde, though without the guile and cunning of the aforementioned; that is to say they are rebels without a clause. Answers like “yes” to the question “How many would you like?” do raise eyebrows, as well as fingers to scratch temples as hearers try to decipher the intended meaning.

Where is the moral fiber of these unwashed youth? Whence has gone the goad of competence, which impelled speakers toward grammaticality? Upon what dark day did performance anxiety become a “hang up” instead of the encroaching night that spurs the runner toward the goal? Or at least some kind of large carnivore, for the encouragement part there, if encroaching night seem not sufficiently suited to the metaphor’d raiment the current sentiment needs be clad in, ere the statement closes with some expression other than a preposition; for, the old among us still know to abstain from such laxity. Or, to put it in terms the depraved youth of our day might understand:

“Dewd, u guys r totes lame.”

Alas, even so-called professional linguists of our day are not exempt from this lamentable degeneration of grammar. Witness the following warning which appeared on a Linguistics course syllabus at a leading university:

“No l8 assnmts’ll b xcptd xcpt 4 orthography 1s.”

Lamentably, it later became apparent from the course gradesalong with the oddly punctual behavior of the students in completing their workthat this piece of text was the sole utterance which they had understood during the entire semester.

What conclusions can we draw from these observations, disjointed and disconcerting as they may seem? Should we fall into the solipsistic trap and conclude that no conclusions can be drawn, because no meaning can ever be truly apprehended? Or should we take a more grandiose view of the sweep of history and realize that just by asking the question we may have become instantiations of the notion that “if it’s 2 Ncomprehensibl, ur 2 old, lol”?

Perhaps the meaning (as well as any non-meaning) of our discussion can be found, as in any degraded exegesis, in random bits and pieces of all the preceding paragraphs. “Rich insights warned, like, degenerative grammar impelled depraved, lame professional linguists: b, lamentably, Ncomprehensibl.”

Given sufficient degeneration, internal meaning may even need to come from the external flotsam and jetsam of the totality of textuality, whence degenerate noise seeks to redeem itself as signal. It’s the main instantiation of ... the auction where dogs have ... then the pit can doom doom ... not INSTR click ... of and of the crocodile... pues la regla ... re- ... will dis- xiao happen ... ex- can ... de- ... gen- [t] ...

Restored Things You Didn’t Know You Didn’t KnowMadalena Cruz-Ferreira
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SpecGram Vol CLXVI, No 4 Contents