When I first came across the Gricean associations of the otherwise respectable linguolabial trill, I immediately informed a make-up artiste I knew who had unfortunately drawn her eyebrows too high that morning. She looked surprised. Artificial pigmentation aside, it is clear that viewing the noble linguolabial trill as a mere breach of the Gricean maxim of manner is a disservice to linguistics.
The uniqueness of this trill is, of course, that it unites two large, consciously movable places of articulation. The lips and tongue are, in the majority of cases, like the dipole of a Maxwellian magnet: interdependent yet impossible to meaningfully unite. When they meet, it is wholly natural that they should mutually vibrate with delight, like the response of freshly laundered cotton socks on the windswept washing line of signification. The linguolabial trill therefore instantiates hybridity, issuing forth from a place of finiteness and ephemerality yet pointing forward to a post-
For many linguists, the phonemic repertoire of English, with its stops and lesser trills, vowel sounds and plosives, will suffice. Yet those of us who set out, like a naturalist seeking new species of butterfly, to find rare and beautiful phonemes can only laugh like a pleasèd nymph at their limited commitment. Can /b/ embody both disbelief and derision? Can /æ/ symbolise at once the noise elicited by last night’s curry and the regret that followed?
I think not.
When one confronts both the historiographical void of the linguolabial trill and its delightful playfulness, it is impossible to return to the academe without wishing for deeper analysis. This trill calls for analysis both from theories of play and phonotactics. It is at once the sad trombone of a data-
Once rescued from its unfortunate and passé connotations of infantility and intestinal flux, the linguolabial trill becomes the new poster child of the lengths linguists can go to in the quest for writing research. Writing itself, being a psycho-
The restoration and reintroduction of our friend the linguolabial trill is not yet complete, however. To fail to ignore the spark of recognition, it must be cast into the symbolic idyll with a phonetic representation tied around its neck. The International Phonetic Alphabet is the East and the symbolic representation of the linguolabial trill is the moon. Arise fair moon and scale th’unbending beam of the morning sun for thou, her maid, art far more fair than she.