Letters to the Editor SpecGram Vol CLXXVI, No 3 Contents Linguimericks, Etc.—Book ३२

Syntexit: The Facts

R.A.G. Day

In the international event christened “syntexit” 52% of syntacticians voted Tuesday evening to exit linguistics. Despite a strong call to remain a happily contributing part of the noble field, the masses were led by a few vocal members of the opposition (particularly champions of theories dubbed “archaic”, “inelegant”, or “cognitively demotivated”).

His Excellency Professor Cameron Davidson is stepping down from his roles as Royal Syntactician and President of the International Syntax Guild. The good professor will join the faculty at Katholieke Hogeschool Sint-Djuda Iscariote not far from Brussels. As leaders of various fields are already negotiating the terms of syntax’s withdrawal from linguistics, Dr. Davidson commented, “Some of us will feel this more strongly than others, but we will all be affected.” He was right; on Wednesday, students took 500 points less stock in syntactic research. The market is expected to flatten out thoughperhaps when it hits rock bottom.

The full exit will take seven years and it is unclear whether syntax can return when it changes its mind or whether it will be eternally scorned as the black sheep that is never coming back. “At best, things could remain about as they are now,” says Donna Cambridge, editor of the Reading Textbooks in Linguistics; “At worst, syntax might need its own category at our publishing house. Perhaps some of the working class linguists are willing to take this kind of risk, but most syntacticians are concerned about linguistics as a whole.” Indeed, those poorly paid adjunct syntacticians and research assistants are the ones who will be hit the hardest when textbook prices skyrocket in three to five months.

“There is a weirdly awkward ghost office in the space between morphology and semantics,” admitted Danielle Kang, a linguistics doctoral candidate who was advised this last Friday to abandon her dissertation “Null Sub-Fields: Building a Bridge Right Over Syntax” because it was “too soon, just too soon”. It is still unclear how this will affect the other branches of linguistics, but linking algorithms are already malfunctioning. Role and Reference Grammarians are furiously copying syntactic inventories and repairing algorithms, but their efforts are likely futile in light of the crisis at hand. Talk of argument sequencing and clause structuring has become strangely taboo and will become increasingly so for the next seven years. Other syntacticians view the departure from different angles.

Generative Grammarians are pessimistic about the future of a field that is no longer has ties to an i-language. Degenerative though they may be, they are holding out for another application for deep structure. Constituents are feeling bound between multiple governments. They are unsure if they can make the necessary transformations without the necessary morphophonemic support. Categorial Grammar should remain intact, as there is no reason to change the nomenclature of categories.

Dependency Grammarians sympathize with the linguistic union and are likely to try to separate from syntax as it now stands. In September, 2014, they voted to remain linked to syntax, due in part to the relation of syntax to linguistics. Without this crucial link, they are likely to again attempt to disaffiliate with syntax. Dr. Tesnière MacLucien publicly snorted, “We would sacrifice our link to syntax for dependency on linguistics.”

Any functional grammar that makes extensive use of semantic classification or pragmatic inference is left to wonder whether, when push comes to shove, the data from those adjacent fields will be available or not. “We just don’t know who our allies will be,” sighs Miss Kang, devastated because she and her peers “won’t have the opportunity to land a tenure track in phonetics, sociolinguistics, even language acquisition. We are coming to terms with a much grimmer future.”

Construction Grammarians, however, are confident that rendering consistent form-function pairings should fortify the field wherever it finds itself in decades to come. Called “naïve” by many, the right-wing populist syntacticians with nativist tendencies may be on to something, but in the meantime, syntax will try to establish a new niche in one of the softer sciences, “maybe in cosmetology”.

Letters to the Editor
Linguimericks, Etc.Book ३२
SpecGram Vol CLXXVI, No 3 Contents