I Heard It Through the Grapevine—Part II—A Survey of Current and Historical Evidentials—Reportedly of Interest to Linguists—G. O’ßip & Scutt LeButt SpecGram Vol CLXXV, No 1 Contents French Love, Poodles and Google Translate: A New Methodology to Build Language Families—Isabelle Tellier

The Devil’s Dictionary of Linguistics and Phonetics

by David Krystal
Compiled by Adam Baker

C-command. A f-formal r-relationship m-made n-necessary by an u-unfortunate e-early c-commitment to b-binary t-trees.

Computational linguistics. A sub-discipline of linguistics practiced by malicious killjoys who have no regard for the claims and generalizations of others.

Consonant. A category of segment often occurring between vowels. See entry for vowel.

Glottochronology. A misguided effort to measure the rate of linguistic change objectively. The only ridiculous linguistic theory to date to be widely acknowledged as such.

Grammar, Generative. An approach to linguistics developed and popularized by Noam Chomsky in the 1950s. Generative grammar is commonly held to have been a significant influence on the work of Panini, and later on the Neogrammarians.

Lexicon. A repository of facts from which linguists can no longer derive any generalization.

Linguist. A practitioner of linguistics. A linguist’s work is to uncover the cognitive, historical, and grammatical principles that order change and variation in the world’s languages. This is done so that the linguist can offer a more satisfying alternative answer to outsiders’ queries as to how many languages the linguist knows.

Neurolinguistics. A sub-discipline of linguistics focused on the relationship between the brain and language, which is investigated with equipment you can’t afford.

Null. A formal device for representing things that should be there but are not, such as dropped pronouns, traces, and good jobs for linguists.

Particle. In physics, a fundamental entity that accounts for the mysterious properties of matter. In linguistics, a fundamental descriptor for mysterious elements of grammar.

Philology. A quasi-linguistic enterprise generally run out of English departments, where tweed is preferred to the cotton blends favored by proper linguists.

Phoneme. A fundamental element of phonological theory, which was in fact relevant to phonological theory from approximately 1939 to 1968.

Plosive. A sound made by completely obstructing the flow of air through the vocal tract. In airports and other high-security areas, the term stop is preferred.

Pragmatics. A sub-discipline concerned with the use of language in context; promoters of the dismissive phrase, “It’s just a matter of semantics.”

Prosody. A sub-discipline concerned withlet’s just acknowledge itevery element of speech that isn’t represented in Latin script.

Rhotics. A class of sounds with various phonetic properties, often with ambiguous phonetic characteristics and strong sociolinguistic significance. Some languages (e.g., Hawaiian) avoid rhotics altogether because of markedness; in other languages (e.g., English), speakers send their children to speech therapy.

Semantics, Formal. A sub-discipline of linguistics with a striking-yet-unexamined fixation on boys kissing their mothers.

Semiotics. The study of signs. Ferdinand de Saussure emphasized the distinction between the sign and the thing signified, which was of immense practical importance to his countrymen, who before de Saussure could apparently not distinguish between a potato and a picture of one.

Sociolinguistics. A relief program for linguists who cannot afford to travel overseas for fieldwork, but are instead put up by their parents for the duration of their dissertation research.

Spectrogram. A visual representation of the acoustic speech signal. In the 1950s the speech spectrograph made segmental representations of speech problematic, which accounts for its prominence in phonological research.

Syntagmatic. A make-believe term invented in the mid-19th century, purely to irritate students of linguistics seeking a definition of it. Paradigmatic was originally part of the joke but seems to have caught on for real.

Syntax. The study of the constraints on sentence formation in a language. Syntax has classically been held to be autonomous from phonology, semantics, discourse, and other possible entry points of falsifiability.

Tree. A graphical representation of the syntactic structure of a sentence. Linguistic papers traditionally include one tree, at the beginning. Thereafter the reader is enabled to generate them at will for all subsequent examples.

Vocal tract. The anatomical space beginning with the diaphragm and ending at the lips and nose. Subject to substantial inter-speaker variation, the supralaryngeal vocal tract is made up of diverse anatomical structures, and is controlled by hundreds of thousands of motorneurons; it is commonly represented with the two-tube model.

Vowel. A category of segment often occurring between consonants. See entry for consonant.

See also: Fascicle 2.

I Heard It Through the GrapevinePart IIA Survey of Current and Historical EvidentialsReportedly of Interest to LinguistsG. O’ßip & Scutt LeButt
French Love, Poodles and Google Translate: A New Methodology to Build Language FamiliesIsabelle Tellier
SpecGram Vol CLXXV, No 1 Contents