On THE Speculative Grammarian—A Letter from the Editor-in-Chief SpecGram Vol CLXXIII, No 1 Contents Linguistics Nerd Camp—Bethany Carlson

Letters to the Editor

Dear Editors,

In a recent editorial article, you seemed to assert that no linguistic theory has ever persisted for more than twenty years. Leaving aside the obvious counter-evidence presented by those few individuals who continue to teach Relational Grammar, Tagmemics, and Government and Binding (among others), I would like to call your attention to Optimality Theory.

According to Wikipedia (accessed today), Optimality Theory “was originally proposed by the linguists Alan Prince and Paul Smolensky in 1993.” This disproves your assertion; as it is now 2015 (or possibly later, as I have heard that your editorial and publication processes border on glacial), OT has now been in existence for over twenty years. In fact, given the rapidity with which OT swept to prominence in the early days, it has actually been the dominant phonological model for more than twenty years already.

Please retract your patently untruthful claims, and thereby restore my good opinion of your publication.

A. Founa Lowjist
Founder and Professor, Department Linguistics
Upper University of Lower Uppsala

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Dear Dr. Lowjist

Thank you for your pedantic attention to minor details. We are tempted to refer you to any number of good books on the use of hyperbole in linguistic theorizingpossibly you have even read Langacker’s work in this vein?

However, restraining ourselves from making such recommendations, we instead will simply defend our assertion by pointing out that, while OT was proposed as a theory of phonology, by the 15th year of its existence (dating conservatively) it had become instead primarily a theory of syntax.

We trust that you are cognizant of the difference between these two subdisciplines.

Therefore, OT as a phonological theory did not in fact last even a full twenty years. The duration of its tenure within Syntax is still undetermined, but syntacticians as a class are an even more impatient lot than phonologists, so we don’t hold out much hope for a record here, either.

—Those of the Editors who wish to remain anonymous

Dear Editors,

Neil de Veratte’s claims are ridiculous and unscientific, and based on intuition. However, we have fired up the Bigdatatron and found statistically significant correlations between a language’s robustness and its prescriptivism, its speakers’ production of butter, and its speakers’ production of unvoiced nasals. The last may be spurious, however. We would be willing to share this data with de Verrate for a small finder’s fee.

Of course, correlation is not causation, and it may be the case that robustness causes prescriptivism, rather than the other way around. Or it may be that increased butter production (and hence increased consumption) may lead to slipperier tongues and hence a need for corrective prescriptivism. We can also provide the experimental services needed to prove causation, if de Veratte is willing to pay for the kidnappinger, “experimental de-patriation”of a sufficiently large n1 of native speakers of a sufficiently large n2 of languages.

Also, to meet the needs of de Veratte’s proposal to introduce arbitrary changes, our record of success in these matters is unrivaled, and speaks for itself.

Valkyrja Shaltboulderskill
Head Word and Liaison d’Obje t’Oblique
Ask Us About Our Current Efforts in French Spelling “Reform”!

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Dear Valerie/Valencia/Valentina,

You ΓΧ types never give up do you? Haven’t you done enough weird/bad/undeserved things “both in Language and among languages”? Now you have to go after science/math/statistics?

On the other hand, statistics already has a reputation so weird/bad/deserved that you probably can’t do too much harm. You deserve each other.

Leave poor Neil alone!


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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 the Speculative GrammarianA Letter from the Editor-in-Chief
Linguistics Nerd CampBethany Carlson
SpecGram Vol CLXXIII, No 1 Contents