Linguimericks—Book ६० SpecGram Vol CLXXXIV, No 1 Contents Thank You, Interactional Linguist—The Third Autonomous Bilborough Linguistics Circle

The Great Phonetical Epic Hymn

by Mikael Thompson

The Phonetical Di Penates
And the Lares of the Lab
Are our tutelary daimones
When the Gifting of the Gab

Manifests in tender infants
That we study as they learn
To pronounce in every instance
The distinctions they discern

In the speech they hear in stories
And discriminate each sound
Under phoneme categories
That in grown-up speech are found.

And the graphs we graph of onset times,
Or duration of the noise
Of frication in syllabic rhymes
That our discipline employs

To display each regularity
That’s suggested or affirmed
With a scientific clarity,
Mathematically confirmed

By the tools of trade we share with all
The researchers on the staff,
The statistical techniques we call
Common currencyeach graph

Showing diphthongs’ vowels’ formant tracks,
Or phase angles of the tongue,
Each articulator’s movements, max-
imum pressure in the lung,

Intonation in pitch contour line,
Voicing, jitter, shimmer, pulse,
All the measures used to help define
How the vocal cords convulse.

Let us praise then in a joyous din
All the Muses that we serve,
Of the magic number seven, and
All the fields that they subserve:

First, the Vowel Quadrilateral,
Analoguest of our tools,
Yet so simple that it’s natural
That both th’clever and the fools

With it comprehend the ways of sound,
How it’s heard and how it’s made,
And describe the features that are found
As we ply our sacred trade;

Blessèd Linear Predictive Coding that
Helps us tease out the effects
Of the throat’s mucosal coating that
In a manner quite complex

Damps out sounds at certain frequencies,
And allows us to propound
Via creditable syntheses
Simpler versions of each sound

(Well, except for pesky nasals; those
Are a pain for us to grasp,
For the transfer function of the nose
Zeroes out where air flows rasp);

O! Discriminant Analysis
and our Forced Perception Tests,
Which together are the catalysts
That allow us to access

Theoretical confusion rates
For the tokens we suspect
To have lost their former phoneme states
From phonetic change unchecked;

And the gateway to the digital
of the Fourier Transform Fast,
Whose most clever algorithmical
Machinations have bypassed

All the analog realm’s tedium
That we once in days of yore
Had to deal with sans remedium—
Now unmourned forever more!

And Techniques Biophysical,
whose intrusive tools we use
To observe what once was quizzical—
Doctor-robèd newest muse

Of the instruments and technical
Apparatus of her craft:
Like the myograph electrical
And our dear palatograph,

And EM articulography
And radiation’s shining gleam
Giving video fluoroscopy
And the X-ray microbeam,

That all’ve changed the mere suppos’d for fact,
And allow a ringside view
Of the muscles of the vocal tract
And their movements fro and to.

Last, the Source and Filter Model of
The production of our speech,
An achievement that you gotta love
For it’s thereby that we reach

The domain of research physical
And the land of solid truth,
Of our grand techniques linguistical
First and foremost, or at least the feweth.

May the Lares and Di Penates
Keep us honest and upright,
Eschewing empty talk of mentalese
That’s discerned through second sight

Only accessed after lessons in
All the mysteries du jour
And a built-in obsolescence in
All the theories heretofore

So’s to keep the minions on their toes
And to see who spins the best
In the oft-repeated fashion shows
When their theses are assessed

For astute omphaloskeptical
Disquisitions on a theme
In which data’s copacetical
If not taken to extreme;

’Tis the stimulating poverty
Of the academic life
In both intellect and property—
And those lithest in the strife

Climb the ranks in snakes and ladders and
Work their way towards the town
That’s the syntactician’s Samarkand,
Where the blessed may sit down

With the latter-day Plotinus or
Other seers of the truth
Who delight to mock the dinosaur
Of linguistics in its youth.

With a manner supercilious
From philosophists they’ve scrounged,
They emit their super silliness,
Playing science in the lounge.

Deep in armchairs, rugs upon their feet,
Sipping snifters full of port,
Old guard radicals at tenured teat
Sigh and make their verbal sport

With a spastic and stochastic wool-
ly commitment to the facts
And a claim just onomastical
That they’ve got down to brass tacks

On empiricism’s vanities
And th’innateness of ideas
Of carb’retors and of manatees,
With the wisdom of Medea’s

That they make out to be Solomon’s
So’s to cut the Gordian knot
Tying language to the evidence
Of the senses, not just thought,

In their never-ending struggling
T’let the blimp of mind float free
From its moorings so’s to smuggle in
Their belov’d a priorì

To most every field of learning and
Every program of research,
As a part of overturning an-
y approach that bears the smirch

Of th’empirical nonmental world
Here outside the sacred grove
Of th’Academy, well sentinelled
Against heretics who rove

In the richly furnished world of sense
That impinges on the mind,
And display the demmed impertinence
Of proclaiming that they find

Worldly substitutes for knowledge that
Doesn’t grow on bin’ry trees,
Sneering at the mental foliage that
Syntacticians’ expertise

Strips and casts into their doggerel
Using jargon that doth make
For unlettered folk a slog for real,
Like the Enneads opaque.

So all praise for blessed clarity
And the implements we wield
As we seek the greater verity
That our instruments will yield!

LinguimericksBook ६०
Thank You, Interactional LinguistThe Third Autonomous Bilborough Linguistics Circle
SpecGram Vol CLXXXIV, No 1 Contents