The X. Quizzit Korps Center for Advanced Collaborative Studies, in association with Psammeticus Press, recently convened a high-
Panelist #1: If the Poverty of Stimulus argument is correct, shouldn’t we all be speaking Phrygian?
Panelist #2: The word Phrygian is, of course, the result of the Ancient Greeks’ being unable to pronounce the /f/ in the original ethnonym, Frygian, which is itself derived from the root fryg-. Frygian was so called because its ancestor, Proto-
Frygian, consisted entirely of (sometimes explicit) interjections. This not only supports the Pooh- Pooh theory of language origin, but also provides strong evidence in favor of the hypothesis that Frygian (or “Phrygian”) is in fact equivalent to the language commonly referred to as “Proto- World”.1
Panelist #3: The Smurfs wear Phrygian caps, and their language is clearly lexically rather impoverished. Draw your own conclusions.
Panelist #2: A stimulus is, properly speaking, just a small stimus, and so can only refer to matters of no consequence. It is for this reason that stimuli are not necessary for L1 acquisition.2
Panelist #4: The actual story combines poverty of stimulus with the competence vs. performance debate. Instead of saying βέκος, the baby meant to say Becanus. Was this a performance error from a baby who was theoretically able to speak perfectly, or was the baby not capable of saying that name correctly due to lack of input data? Historians now believe that the baby was making two subtle implications: first, that we should all be speaking Brabantic, and second, that Becanus was incompetent.
Panelist #5: That poverty is the first term in that most sacred of ordered trinomials, Poverty, Chastity and Obedience, suggests that we should all be singing (not speaking) the psalms of the Hebrew Bible in a poor (!) Latin translation in plainsong in cowls in a chapel in our bare feet in the cold. It may be a poor stimulus but it is surely a heavenly reward. A-a-
Panelist #1: According to the Chastity of Stimulus argument, swearing is innate, since parents do not teach taboo words to their children, and according to the Obedience of Stimulus argument, were it not for Universal Grammar, we would only be able to speak when spoken to.
Panelist #5: The Poverty, Chastity and Obedience paradigm was later applied to a second language learning context, informed by Krashen’s universally lauded construct of acquisition via reading. This fusion of two approaches suggested that free voluntary Lectio Divina led to rapid gains in learning with a trilingual production of Latin utterances poorly translated from badly written Koiné Greek, itself taken selectively from half-
remembered λόγια in some yet unestablished dialect of Aramaic. A key finding was that the learners’ principal verbalisms were often In principio erat Verbum.
Panelist #2: Hittite, the oldest Indo-
European language, is an Anatolian language (i.e., one without access to atolls). This lends credence to the hypothesis to the idea that Proto- Indo- European originated in a landlocked region.3
Panelist #5: Debates on first utterances go back to the mid-
nineteenth century. Under a Class- Based Structural Poverty of the Stimulus argument (e.g. Carl Marks and Fred English 1848), an L1 acquirer’s first words should be “Workers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains.” However, work undertaken within the Work- Your- Own- Way- Out- Of- Poverty of the Stimulus (Liberty Flame 1886) suggests that a child’s early utterances may be “Give me your tired, your poor; Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Intriguingly, both theories predict a rousing exhortation as the earliest type of utterance. Later work has suggested that this may be a whole load of politics.
Panelist #6: Actually, debates on first utterances probably go back to first utterances.
Panelist #3: Who was it who said that humans invented language to satisfy their need to complain? Obviously what they were complaining about was the lack of a satisfactory theory of language origins.
Panelist #6: If humans invented language to satisfy our need to complain, and language is innate, then really, when I whine about getting bad food and not enough of it, that is in a way an act (indeed, a habit) of Aristotelian flourishing.
Panelist #2: The futility of stimuli enabled Descartes to pronounce his famous statement about the ultimate meaninglessness of human existence: Stimulo, ergo sum.4
Panelist #4: In the US, very little stimulus money goes to those in poverty. According to my Stimulus for Richness hypothesis, we all should be speaking the language with the largest vocabulary. Perhaps this explains why English has become the de facto world language.
Panelist #5: Anyone living in food poverty tends to speak “Please give me something to put in my fridge-
Panelist #3: “Give me”? Or “bake us”? Although that utterance is dangerously ambiguous.
Panelist #1: The question remains
— does our language faculty come from how we are raised or how we are bread?5
Panelist #7: I literally have no idea what anyone is talking about right now. Does that make me a better or worse linguist?7
1 PAID ADVERTISEMENT Panelist #2 has written a book on this subject:
2 PAID ADVERTISEMENT Panelist #2 has written several books on this subject:
3 PAID ADVERTISEMENT Panelist #2 has written a couple of books on this subject:
4 PAID ADVERTISEMENT Panelist #2 has written several books on this subject:
5 At this moment
Panelist #1: ...[D]oes our language faculty come from how we are raised or how we are bread?
Punster: Clearly a question for which we need to refer to Mark Baker. And not today, we should have done yeasterday.
Quipster: I agree we knead to do this.
Gagster: Indeed, it would be inadvisable to go against the grain.
Punster: We don’t want to ask any ol’ crusty heel. That’d just be crummy.
Prankster: You bunch of sourdoughs. You need to use your loaf and find a different roll.
Quipster: Crumbs! This is great stuff.
Prankster: This is all proving too much. I’m going to call the cobs.6
Quipster: You’ll have to butter ’em up first.
Punster: And what will you say when they ask what’scone on? “They’re a bunch of loafers without a rye sense of humor among them”?
Quipster: Wow, I can cut the
tensionhumour with a bread knife.
Punster: And you can cut the wit with a butter knife.
Quipster: I’d agree that the wit is spread quite thinly.
Jokester: I can see you’re all on a roll here.
Punster: So donut interrupt.
Gagster: We probably shouldn’t make so many quips so quickly, or we’ll create a jam. Then the transcriptionist will be toast!
[At this point, the transcriptionist did indeed lose consciousness for a few moments, and the Glorious, Gifted, and Grandiose Leaguesters resumed their peregrinatory perambulations.]
6 Note: Some of these jokes are half-
7 Panelist #7 did, however, note in response to Panelist #1’s question that the language faculty mostly come from responses to job adverts, academic nepotism and the contents of the Dean’s budget. He’s a little confused but he’s got the spirit.
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