Teaching Linguistics—A Letter from the SpecGram Editorial Board SpecGram Vol CLXXX, No 1 Contents Linguistics Nerd Camp—Bethany Carlson

Letters to the Editor

Editors of SpecGram,

One of the difficulties with teaching linguistics is coming up with data for problem sets. We of course want the data to be naturalistic, but not too complex or irregular. It feels like a lie of omission to leave out crucial but irregular parts of a paradigm to simplify students’ homework; doubly so when the language source of the data is identified. The last thing we want is for students to feel that they’ve learned a real world “fact” that is untrue.

Some professorsand the TAs who ape themconcoct data from thin air. While this seems harmless enough, graduate students should be aware that this is the thin end of the wedge and can lead to a harmful spiral into obsessive “conlanging”, as those who construct languages refer to it.

Best, really, to just take the advice of the Natural Language Research Approval Committee & Dr. Augh and stick to Turkish.

Dr. H. O’Muerk
Professor of Academic Conundra
Universitas Ūniversa, U.S.S.R.

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Dear Doctor O’Buerk,

Recent research by the SpecGram Constlangoleurious Interns indicates that people who disapprove of conlanging are generally motivated by the fear that somebody else is having more fun than they are. In your case, such fears would appear to be entirely justified.


Dear Eds.,

I have some advice for colleagues who want to attract a higher caliber of students to their programs: recruit students from the STEM disciplines. At first blush, it may sound like a hard sell, but point out to them that the big scary “Phonology Filter” they’ve heard aboutwhere the proverbial wheat capable of abstraction is separated from the proverbial chaff that couldn’t cogitate its way out of a paper bagis only slightly more difficult than high school geometry proofs. (Don’t tell that to non-STEM students, though, or your entire program will quickly become a ghost town.)

For those that catch the linguistics bug but can’t fully commit, encourage a double major or at least a concentration in linguistics. Alternatively, lead them toward NLP and AI and point out that they can abandon “real” linguistics for nearly pure statistics (ooooo, machine learning!) for real money at big tech firms after graduation.

Yours DIR.EV,
Dr. P. Lunder
Dean of Student Acquisition
Rangoon-Sacramento Polypolity Polyglottal Polylyceum
Go Ran-Sac P-P-P-Pirates!

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D\d\dear D\d\das B\b\booty,

Your approach seems illegal, immoral, and fatteninglike all good things! We love it! No wonder you’ve been so successful in academia.


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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.

Teaching LinguisticsA Letter from the SpecGram Editorial Board
Linguistics Nerd CampBethany Carlson
SpecGram Vol CLXXX, No 1 Contents