Google Translate Acquires New Languages—Adham Smart SpecGram Vol CLXXII, No 1 Contents Do You Suffer the Embarrassment of Loose Vowel Syndrome?—Dr. Goodword

The SpecGram Linguistic Advice Collective

Are you in a world of linguistic hurt? The SpecGram Linguistic Advice Collective (SLAC) will offer you empirical, empathic, emphatic advice you can use!*

Remember, if you can tell the difference between good advice and bad advice, then you don’t need advice! So, if you need advice, trust usand cut yourself some SLAC!


Dear SLAC,

As a conlanger, I am often urged by my peers to employ historical processes in creating my conlangs. This leads me into a quandary. You see, I am keen to create a language with a triconsonantal morphology (this being something of a rite-of-passage in the conlang community) and I have no idea how such a thing could have evolved. Do real linguists have any ideas, or should I just make something up?

—Diachronically Challenged

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Dear D-to-the-C,

You’re never going to be a “real linguist” until you realize that “making something up” is what “real linguistics” is actually all about.1

—SLAC Unit #54726579

1 That, and using excessive quotes.2

2 And footnotes.3

3 Footnotes on footnotes are particularly nice.4

4 But recursive footnotes are considered harmful.4

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Dear Diachronically Challenged:

Few explanations in historical linguistics are as traditional as the argument from simplification; one need only posit a more complex preceding state to render a current complex one a natural result. In this case, that state included pentasegmental roots, consisting of a tri-consonantal core with a discontinuous vocalic “outrigger” element on each side, e.g. “a____k_t_b____u”. The outriggers would, of course, intercalate with neighboring roots, thus making the result marginally more pronounceable. Over time, the outriggers were reanalyzed as being markers separate from the core they had previously been attached to, leaving only the three consonants, just as the pentasegmental roots were reduced versions of the earlier septasegmental ones.

As to why anything even remotely like this would ever happen in the first place, you’ve already provided an explanation: conlangers compulsively design discontinuous roots. Ergo, many Afro-Asiatic languages are conlangs. The now-extinct language family originally present in the Af.As. area was either so boring or so absurd that a conlang took its place.

—SLAC Unit #42696c6c

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Dear Challenging Diarrhea,

You are laboring under more false assumptions than the proverbial hippopotamus. Linguists have theories, not ideas. They do not “make things up”they regularize data (and purely for pedagogical purposes, at that). They do not recognize “historical processes”, inasmuch as anything truly historical deserves the properly theoretical appellation “change,” not the wantonly pedestrian tag “process.” But, more fundamentally, “real linguists” in fact no longer consider anything historical worthy of their attention; only the synchronic measures up to the standard we require for the application of our theoretical machinery.

So stop bugging us and get on with your quaint hobby, if you really must.

—SLAC Unit #4b65697468

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Oh, dear boy, dear dear boy:

(I suppose it possible you’re a girl, but what with pursuing conlangs and all, clearly not a very girlish one, so let’s just consider you a boy.) You need first of all to stop: Just stop and take stock of your life and ask yourself some hard questions.

Do you really want to start dabbling in tri-consonantal roots? Why do you feel your life is so empty and devoid of meaning that you must start down that road? Just think of the Arab-Israeli conflicts, the Ethiopian civil war/Eritrean war of independence, or...hmm, well...And beware, the temptation is always there to move on to yet harder stuff: Ejectives and pharyngeals. Not an auspicious end in sight, is there?

Do you really want to start dabbling in language diachrony? Why do you feel your life is so empty and devoid of meaning that you must start down that road? Just think of the dry as dust philologists stuck in 4x6 windowless cubicles checking David Eddings’ diachronic atrocities against Middle English dialect dictionaries and slowly going insane. Not an auspicious end in sight, is there?

And finally, do you really want to continue dabbling in conlangs? Why do you feel your life is so empty and devoid of meaning that you must continue down that road? Just think of the fate of poor Vaux des Campagnols, a long-forgotten city of 100,000 or so that disappeared and was erased from all reference materials in the space of one night in 1927 due to civil strife between rabid Esperantistas and deluded Volapuksters. How can you for a moment believe that you can succeed in surviving malign cosmic forces that a city full of stout Bordelais was unable to contain?

You have fallen in with a very bad crowd, fractious and fractured, and in my experience often sallow and hygienically challengedlike historical linguists without the sullen despair. Ordinarily I would ask you, do you not have loved ones who would miss you if you jumped off a cliff with the rest of this crowd of drugged lemmings?, but the very fact that you’re pursuing conlangs suggests strongly that you don’t. Instead, I can only urge you to look to what little might remain of your better nature and just say no.

With worry,
—SLAC Unit #4d696b61656c

* Advice is not guaranteed to be useful, practical, or even possible. Do not attempt at home. Consult a doctor (of linguistics, philology, orin a pinchanthropology) before undertaking any course of treatment. This advice is not intended to cure or treat any disease or condition, inherent or contingent. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental, except when it is not. “Empirical” means that we asked at least two other “people” whether our advice was good; one or more of those “people” may be voices in our own heads. “Emphatic” means that you may print out a copy of the advice for personal use in a medium, semi-bold, bold, heavy, black, or ultra-black weight of an italic or oblique typeface using an enlarged font size. “Empathic” means that deep down, in the darkest recesses of our blackest heart of hearts, we really, really care ♥just not necessarily about you.

Google Translate Acquires New LanguagesAdham Smart
Do You Suffer the Embarrassment of Loose Vowel Syndrome?Dr. Goodword
SpecGram Vol CLXXII, No 1 Contents