The Quasi, Pseudo,
Faux of Linguistics
Professor of Genuinity in Linguistics
The Δίς Λεγόμενον Centre for
Authenticity has, rightly, infiltrated itself across the disciplines: the transformation of (the coincidentally triune P-ness of) philosophy, psychology, and performance attests to the centrality of authenticity in contemporary academia. However, the construct of authenticity—and its shadow, the perennial enemies of authenticity, the inauthenticities of the crypto, the quasi, the pseudo and the faux—is yet to assert itself in, around, among and over the sciences of language; to which lacuna this article addresses itself.
If, at one extreme of a notional cline of linguist-icity lies the technical symbology of the professional linguist, be she a logician, semanticist, syntactician or phonetician, à l’autre bout de la gamme, one finds situated the folkloric naïveté of the hoi polloi, the masses, the babbling proletariat. A phalanx of questions arises, first among which being the perennial ‘Who owns language?’ and its disciplinaritic cousin ‘Who owns linguistics?’ However, here, we consider an issue replete with a greater reciprocity: of these two archetypes, the professional linguist and the folkloric linguist, who is each to the other, and in what ways is authenticity, howsoever conceived, perceptible by the one in the linguisticisationalisms of the other?
Can either be authentic? To itself, perhaps yes, but to the other, inevitably, no. To disentangle this spaghettic paradox, we evoke the faux, employing and then deploying the terms fauxkloricist of language (that quotidian use-eur of language) and the fauxnetician of language (the linguo-professional). As this nomenclature implies, in respect of the faux, each is equally other to the other. The tree diagrams of the Chomskyan acolyte reveal little to the fauxkloricist, a smokescreen to the very orderliness they attempt to convey. Meanwhile, the inevitably-perceived-as-half-baked pronouncements of the fauxklorist on the ‘deviance’ of dialect from ‘proper’ forms of the language, decline of ‘standards’ and the malign tendencies of ‘txtspk’ serve only to alienate the fauxnetician from her splendid ivory-towered isolation bent over a desk scattered with the paraphernalia of linguistic technocracy.
However, although the fauxkloricist of language inevitably annoys and frustrates the fauxnetician by means of his rough-hewn quasi-grasp of the issues; and the fauxnetician bedazzles and berates the fauxkloricist with ‘findings’, ‘principles’ and even ‘knowledge’ (!) that appear to the latter as at best squawks of the bourgeois hegemony of the academy, an inadvertent mutuality manifests itself between the two in respect of the crypto. It is only by fusionalising the faux-nic dyad articulated above that authenticity and anti-crypticity can be hoped for.
It is in the unintentional, tacit and perhaps necessary reciprocity of the faux that the crypto manifests itself. Although an ostensible engagement of fauxnetician with fauxkloricist is mandated by the exigencies of the dynamics of the academy that necessitate its ongoing answerability to ‘society’, this engagement is rarely reciprocated by the fauxkloricist; worse, it seems to us, the dynamics of the faux render such engagements crypto in any case, the fauxnetician hiding herself and her linguidentity behind the artifices (arty faeces?) of questionnaire, journal paper, or occasional radio interview in which the directness of the questioner is countered and countermanded by a cryptic obliqueness in responses.
As to the pseudo, again an asymmetry manifests itself. The fauxkloricist can be accused of none: she does not know what she does not know and her ignorance (if it is ignorance) is authentic to itself. Only the fauxnologist can be guilty of the pseudo. In projecting a complexity where there is none (or less), or in adopting a (perhaps unintentionally) misleading and discombobulating polysyllabicity, the pseudo asserts itself, at once emanating from and buttressing the fauxnicity of the fauxnetician. The language sciences esotericise themselves, disenabling an authenticity outside of the emergent lingua-pseudocracy itself.
This leaves us with the quasi, the final enemy of authenticity. We impute a meta-ontogeny to the quasi: in the presence of the faux, the crypto and pseudo, the quasi is as unavoidable as it is undesirable. This may, we reaffirm, be a sin forgivable in such a-laic disciplines as quantum physics and philosophy, but with linguistics, whose object, language, uniquely among the sciences, is under the stewardship both of layperson and specialist, the quasi cannot be tolerated, even if it can, as here, be conceptualised, contextualised, analysed and rhetoricised.
If the termemes textocratised out above number four, and if this four can be taken to symbolise, say, the regularity of the square or, by cultural connotation, the prototypical four pillars that support the roof of some temple to a pantheistic deity, let these four sides, these four pillars, the crypto, the pseudo, the quasi and the faux, respectively implode and totter so as to usher in a much needed reinvigoration and revitalisation of the language sciences where layperson and specialist commune and converse in a softly rolling meadow of the anti-faux, the non-cryptic, the a-pseudo and the quasi-less world of shared aims, visions, modes of speech and forms of words: one unified, inclusive, open-all-hours, open-water, open-access and open-minded linguistics, a beacon of authenticity and an altar of transparency. Amen!