Reasons Not to Study Linguistics—Part III—Dyspepsia Prater and Cynnie Sizzum SpecGram Vol CLXXXVI, No 1 Contents How We Think About the Sounds of Chinese–Any Implications for Psycholinguistics?—Bii Ming

On the Predicament of the Predicate: A Pristine Proposal

Lois Lingerie
Professor of Mythology in Linguistics
The Δίς Λεγόμενον Centre for Endeepened Ideation

Among the bestial and infernal hordes of rabid terminological Cerberi that prowl hither with a snarling aggression punctuated only by the stalactitic drip of salivation which is itself surpassed by that poised-to-strike slunking thither that bespeaks a readiness to maim the clarity of thought and efficiency of insight that the anti-individuation of terminologicalisms heralds, none is more pesticidal to the tender shoots of linguistic theorising than that of the unnecessary polysemy of the term predicate.

Woe to whomsoever it was, perhaps in the starry towers of Ilium, or yet in echoing sanctuaries of the Alexandrian libraries, or even in the hallowed inner courts of the Tiberian city, that elected, on that dark day, to set apart the subject from the remainder of the sentenceand to curse that second part with the shadowy designation of predicate. This rash decree, the absentee father and gin-soaked mother of the bastard S → NP VP, an idea that renders Duke Vincentio’s Viennese masquerade an innocent bagatelle, cannot but serve to raise the ire of linguists of sense and decency. What of the object, they object; what of impersonal subjects, they implore. What, indeed, of the semantics on which the notion of subject itself (if I am to be permitted a pun) is predicated?

And the terror of the Tesnièrian tyranny of the centrality of the predicate is thereby given a legitimacy which it deserves less that Vladimir and Estragon merit the fulfilment of their Godotic rendezvousial aspirations. Even the momentary distraction that Pozzo’s puerile ponderings and Lucky’s illoquacious dyslogy offered to the rambling minds of that dyad of misfits has no analogy in the dictatorship of Dependency Grammar’s dogma of the ontological and diagrammatic dominance of the predicate.

Yet there is hope. The starry light and bubbling brook of God, Our Father, Gottlob Frege, have each illuminated and irrigated its respective way over the barren, rocky surface of the blackened, inherited legacy of the subject-predicate dichotomy. The argument for arguments ends all arguments and the predicate is now safely contained within its right and proper domain, no longer some crazed feudal lord that can demand allegiance from all elements of the sentence but the Kinglike subject. The victory of valency, the vanquisher and vaporiser of predicational tyranny.

But even here, dangers lurk: tense and aspect, modality and voice hide in the bushes, ever ready to spring a net over the head of the new found innocence of the mono-lexical predicate, enslave it, marry it, and attach themselves to it for ever. Now, linguists of honour and nobility look down, away, off and back as “might have been eating”, “would have had to have drunk” and “could well have been about to have been bought” are analysed, in a world that now teeters on its own axis of insanity, as multi-lexical predicates or some other blasphemous concoction. This is the end of social orderof linguistic order, no lessof personal property, the accountability of the state, of the tranquillity of the tea shop, and the innocence of the child’s seaside stick of rock. In no world but the meta-Ragnarökic can such claims but countenanced, let alone held.

But where there is discord, let linguistics bring union; where there is despair, let linguistics bring hope. Linguists of uprightness and farsightedness will resist the conflagration threatened by such conflation and insist, in a clear, bright, warm voice, that, by Jove, predicators are not predicates and that, by Aphrodite, predicates are not predicators. And now, at last, Herne the Hunter tames that rabic terminological Cerberus with a sharp word and a sharper stick: predicates, arguments and adjuncts are as shapely, well formed and delimited as the shoulder, arm and hand of the best of Olympus’ athletes, and tense, aspect, mood, voice are as separate from the whole as are the fingers of that athlete from his palm and wrist. This, now, is the Land of Linguistics where old maids cycle home down country lanes and warm beer is sipped in study wooden benches around village cricket fields on late Sunday afternoons. And we are happy in it.

Reasons Not to Study LinguisticsPart IIIDyspepsia Prater and Cynnie Sizzum
How We Think About the Sounds of Chinese–Any Implications for Psycholinguistics?Bii Ming
SpecGram Vol CLXXXVI, No 1 Contents