Charles Darwin thought that languages encapsulated everything a society knew, which is why none of our immigrant grandparents ever figured out how to set the clock on their VCR. If a society hasn’t progressed enough to have a word for eight, they’ll go to bed at 7:00, like Benjamin Franklin’s archetype of a hale, rich, and sage gentleman.1 Language thus also encodes the sum of the ignorance of all our forefathers, probably because they wouldn’t listen to our foremothers.
Some care must be taken before making expansive claims about language. In one well-
Building on the recent discovery of the Mirapurã people in western Brazil, our newest paper, “Everything That’s Wrong with the Mirapurã Language, Part 1 of 9” demonstrated that the language that they speak doomed them to being left behind while Western Europeans conquered the Americas. Although the manuscript followed in the intellectual tradition of Victorian-
For our expanded control group, we use the following set of 24 languages: Calabro-
The common lore is that it is best to use R to solve for p and C to find r, so long as you mind your p’s and q’s. Hogwash!9 Instead, we use homebrew Excel scripts based on spreadsheets uncovered by forensic investigators after the collapse of Enron. Statistical linguistics is exactly like using controlled blackouts to extort a state to pay exorbitant energy rates, but with different variable names.10
Our critics contend that our methods and interpretation are regressive. Indeed, we use a probit regression because we have a hypothesis and we probably want to probe it. Our model is very fancy with lots of Greek letters, but we omit it because we don’t have a proper Greek font on this computer. Also, we intend for this manuscript to be read by linguists, and we hear that they are allergic to anything mathematical.
Rest assured that our model has lots of dummy variables, or at least that’s how we choose to interpret our critics’ comments about it (and us). Controlling for non-
At very high statistical confidence, we find that the existence of inflected imperfect subjunctive forms is predictive of high religiosity, as measured by the metric of an almost fanatical devotion to the pope. We leave it to the reader to comment on the significance of this, but our Protestant editor noted that it is helpful to have an irrealis mood when attempting to contemplate the idea of papal infallibility.14
Also at very high statistical confidence, we find that having contracted forms that combine prepositions and definite articles is strongly correlated with one’s ability to cook pasta perfectly al dente. Mirapurã pasta is generally very squishy, which is unsurprising given that the wheat is omitted in favor of any one of a variety of unsavory items in the “long objects/
Another finding is that the existence of both inflected preterite and imperfect verb forms is strongly correlated with basic historical knowledge, as measured through awareness of Christopher Columbus’s discovery of the New World. One particularly egregious example arose when a Mirapurã speaker said something that translates as “You are Columbusing”; this simple sentence confuses the present and past tenses, incorrectly uses imperfective aspect instead of perfective, confuses a noun for a verb, demonstrates a misunderstanding of personal pronouns, and is historically off by more than half a millennium.
At the edge of statistical significance, the Mirapurã were slightly more likely than the control group to root for A.C. Milan over Inter Milan, with the caveat we forgot to randomize the order in which the options were presented. An anonymous reviewer suggested that the lack of a Mirapurã word meaning “soccer”, “football”, or indeed any ball game at all may also be relevant, although we fail to see how.
How can a grammatical concept such as combined preposition-
Finally, we note the difficulty in precisely controlling for educational effects. It has been established that education and climate are linked, with lower educational attainment in more tropical environments. This is evident from the locations of the great universities of the world, both globally16 and subnationally within the United States. Public funding of education may also be a linked variable. The Mirapurã people lack even the prerequisites therefor (a public to speak of, funding or the mathematical basis on which to create such a system, and educated people to serve as teachers), so we code this as zero, a concept they also lack.
According to our results, the sad plight of the Mirapurã people is entirely due to deficiencies in their language. In a previous paper, we humbly recommended teaching them a language more conducive to prospering in an advanced, technological society. While this recommendation was well-
Having learned our lesson, we now advocate for a softer approach. Rather than replacing their language wholesale, we recommend identifying all of its grammatical deficiencies and correcting them one by one. Although there is a tried-
bribe proposal to build the Cross-
1 Though they’ll probably be none of those things.
2 See our book, The Feminine Myst... Eek!
3 That hypothesis was first put forth by Darwin in his unpopular sequel On the Origin of “Genera”.
4 Interpretation is complicated by the fact that they have sexy knees.
5 Although he may just have been unhappy because that’s kind of his thing.
6 We’ve got “Big BALLS”.
7 “BALLS in your pocket”.
8 “BALLS to the wall”.
9 Coincidentally, that’s almost identical to the recipe for a Mirapurã “delicacy”. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves...
10 Thanks to Homie O’Morpheus for the suggestion.
11 Including mud huts, shanties, lean-
12 We’re not entirely certain which one is considered good in the Mirapurã culture. This method is nonetheless sufficient for our purposes to divide the population into two groups, at least if one is unconcerned about the sign of the correlation, as is typically the case for supply-
13 Although our subjects objected to all of the head measuring, their objections would have been even greater had the institutional review board approved our proposed more accurate (though more invasive) methods.
14 The only people who are never wrong are economists.
15 Specifically, the noises of disgust they made when tasting Mirapurã “cuisine” were often palatalized.
16 As readers may guess from the preceding paragraph, one of the authors spent a lot of time at the Università di Bologna, the oldest continually operating university in existence. These readers will be pleased to know that the trespassing charges have since been dropped.
17 Perhaps a bit too well-
18 Even to us, and we’re experts at conveniently overlooking contrary evidence. Seriously though, haven’t you guys heard about email?
19 Though we’ll rely on foreign cooks for the restaurant.
|The SpecGram Linguistic Advice Collective|
|SpecGram Vol CXCI, No 1 Contents|