From the Archives!—SpecGram Propaganda XI—The SpecGram Archive Elves™ SpecGram Vol CLXXIX, No 2 Contents The Language Police—Anita G. Gorman

How Many Languages Do You Speak?

Nate F. Spee-Curr & Nonné Divz Bīīqr
X. Quizzit Korps Center for Advanced Collaborative Studies

It’s an age-old question, and despite our field’s best efforts, it’s also one that won’t go away. So, instead of just complaining about the question, we decided to go out and find some actual answers. The results are provided below.

Archi­phonemicist: I speak |language|that is, an appropriately underspecified version of all of them.

Chomskyan: Universal Grammar shows that all languages are equivalent.

Computational Linguist: There’s Basic, Fortran, Matlab, C++, VHDL, Java, Python, Javascript and, if you’ll excuse my bad language, PHP. Oh, you meant human languages?

Conlanger: Well, I’m not really fluent in any of my languages...

Freelance interpreter: I have two A languages; at least, that’s what I tell my clients.

Historical comparativist: Can I count Romance and Germanic separately?

Historical linguist: I don’t actually speak any, but I have dictionaries and chrestomathies for dozens.

Interpreting Researcher: I have RAs for that.

Morphologist: I’m fluent in prefixes, suffixes, circumfixes, and in-frikkin’-fixes.

Phonetician: I don’t speak many, but I can make all their sounds!

Phonologist: Underlyingly, all languages sound the same to me.

Pragmaticist: I can usually infer the true purpose of any utterance, whether I speak the language or not.

Satirical Linguist: I can order a beer in about twenty.

Semanticist: I’m fluent in the logical representation of the propositional content of all languages.

Sign linguist: I am fluent in ASL, Auslan, BSL, DGS, LSF, YS, and РЖЯ. I can converse in DTS, TİD, and ΕΝΓ, and I have lesser degrees of skill in BIM, BISINDO, FSL, LSC, SVK, TSL, МДХ, and ქჟე.

Sociolinguist: Just one, but I’m familiar with 74 dialects, 128 sub-dialects, and 437 distinct social registers.

Staff interpreter: I have six C languages, two Bs and one A. I am hoping to add Amharic as a C and get my German to B next year.

Syntactician: I can properly apply asterisksin the context of an academic paperto over 1500 example sentences from over 100 languages. Does that count for anything?

Translation Researcher: I am totally still a practicing translator, really. Just wait until this meeting is done, and this conference and...

Translator: You can speak languages? I mean, I can write five but don’t ask me to hold a conversation in them.

Typologist: I speak one OV language and one VO language, so that pretty much represents them all.

From the Archives!SpecGram Propaganda XIThe SpecGram Archive Elves™
The Language PoliceAnita G. Gorman
SpecGram Vol CLXXIX, No 2 Contents