The Incipient Colonialism of IPA—Wallace Workaday SpecGram Vol CLXXXVII, No 4 Contents SpecGram Film and Media Club—Manfred M. McManus

Letter to the Recently Discovered Murapirã People

G. Stuart Dent

Hi there! I’m a linguistics graduate student at the University of the Northwest Corner of the Land of Enchantment, and documenting your language will be my thesis project!

I was supposed to fly down to Brazil this weekend and make the arduous journey to your little out-of-the-way corner of the Amazon, but, you know, coronavirus. Wait, maybe you don’t know? It’s this massive pandemic that is killing lots of people and shutting down pretty much all travel worldwide. My university has decided to do this project using videoconferencing tools to protect you.1 You’ll surely be disappointed since—instead of joining you in your rainy tropical community all full of bugs and snakes and other dangerous creatures—I’ll be communicating with you while wearing pajamas in bed from my climate-controlled apartment all full of beer and cheese puffs and a nonthreatening cat called Mr. Doodles.

At this point, you probably have a lot of questions. How dangerous is this coronavirus? What is a graduate student, and how did we get to be lucky enough to interact with one? Most of all, what do all the weird scribbles on this piece of paper mean? You should probably go somewhere to get an answer to that last question. (Note to self: Should I translate this letter into Brazilian Portuguese?2) According to internet maps, the nearest real town is a mere 43 miles3 away, approximately north-northeast (18 degrees east of geographic north). You can use the enclosed compass and global map of magnetic declination to aid you in getting there.

You may also be wondering about the magic flying creature that delivered this package. It’s called a quadcopter drone, and, boy, it ain’t cheap to rent one of those in your part of the world!4 The package has a satellite smartphone, a charging cable, a US-to-Brazilian electrical plug converter (in case you have access to a working outlet in your corner of the rainforest), and a hand-crank generator (in case you don’t). You can play around with it all, but don’t bust our budget by using too much data. Oh, and try not to get any of this stuff wet.

Let’s chat every Thursday, starting around 4:15 pm your time. Your phone comes pre-installed with videoconferencing software. Just type in the eleven-digit room number and hit connect. We’ve also included some instructional videos. Depending on your level of proficiency, you might want to start with “Tips and tricks for effective videoconferencing”, “What is the internet?”, “What is electricity?”, or “There are numbers larger than two???”


1 They could care less about me.

2 Never mind; my friend Lisa says that just about everyone speaks English. Hey, maybe I can teach you some of the world’s language!

3 Lisa says that you may not be familiar with miles, which are used in the United States of America but, inexplicably, not in most of the rest of the world. One mile is equal to about 1.609 kilometers. Hope that helps!5

4 I really hope you didn’t destroy the drone. You should have seen what happened when Lisa tried to contract the Sentinelese. We did not get our deposit back on that one!

5 Also, the “3” is a footnote, not an exponent. Simple dimensional analysis shows that you don’t measure distance in cubic miles, duh!

The Incipient Colonialism of IPAWallace Workaday
SpecGram Film and Media ClubManfred M. McManus
SpecGram Vol CLXXXVII, No 4 Contents