SpecGram Vol CLXXXIX, No 2 Contents Letters to the Editor

Happy—and we genuinely hope it will be!—New—and it most certainly is denotatively; hopefully also connotatively!—Year—this lexeme’s pretty objective so we can’t really add a comment (other than this comment which is in effect a non-comment)*

by 01.01.21 Editors Yan F. Urst and Dan U. Errie
with the assistance of January D’Munph, aged 21
additional material by Herbie ’n’ Yu Yi-Ah

So 2020’s part of history; gone, flown, disappeared, taking with it a rough-and-tumble, rollercoaster of an OTT water chute theme park ride of a year and leaving in its place but the haze of lazy memories of past crazy days. Odd that disaster should strike so much in such a year; after all:

But if 2020 is rich in collocations and cultural connotations, 2021 is an anno of veritable linguistic celebration. We’ve gathered together a few top linguisticky 21s with which to see in this newest of New Years.

Early formulations of Chomsky’s Principles and Parameters period theorised that there would be 21 principles (and maybe only 42 parameters). In the end they found three-and-a-half, four of which were later found only to apply to certain varieties of English and French when viewed in a particular light and on a Tuesday (and by linguists who believed in P&P).

Charles F. Hockett, having added 3 features to his original list of 13 to make the 16 not-at-all ad hoc features we’re familiar with today, was in the process of adding another 5 (for a total of 21) when the inevitable occurred. He did, however, live to the age of 84, which is 4×21.

Edward Sapir and fire prevention engineer, BS B. L. Whorf had transcribed a whole 21 sentences of Hopi between them (2 of which made reference to time) when Benjy boy came up with the amazing idea that Hopi makes no reference to time.

No subparts of the standard IPA chart can be expressed neatly in units of 21 or multiplicates thereof.**

Father Francis Xavier Morgan forbad a teenaged John Ronald, of whom he was custodian, from seeing fellow orphan, the older (and Protestant!) Edith Bratt, until the age of 21. John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (almost) completely obeyed, writing to Edith on the eve of his 21st birthday (3rd Jan 1913), meeting her 5 days later at Cheltenham whereupon she broke off her engagement to George Field (whom history fails to remember). Cue her conversion to Catholicism; dancing ’mid the hemlocks in Roos; 4 kids; and a retirement in Bournemouth the level of material comfort of which most of us can only dream ofall because there was a hole in the ground in which a Hobbit lived. Go Lúthien!**

The average human has read fewer than 21 articles of SpecGram.**

Some alphabets have 21 letters.**

Some languages have 21 phonemes/consonant phonemes/vowel phonemes.**

Some linguists have written and sent 21 emails in a day.**

Some lists of linguistically interesting/significant phenomena have 21 itemsbut not this one.**

So there we go. 2021: a linguistically auspicious year. We’re already planning the January editorial for 2022 but all we’ve got so far is ‘two little ducks’. So do please send in your linguisticky 22s; otherwise, we’ll have to come up with something prosaic, generic, vanilla and ostensibly fantasticaland we would never do that!

Happy 2021 from SpecGram!

* Abbreviated version for easier reading: ‘Happy New Year’.

** Actually true (as opposed to simply ‘true’).

Letters to the Editor
SpecGram Vol CLXXXIX, No 2 Contents