Evidence in Defense of the Strong Whorf Hypothesis—Reed Steiner SpecGram Vol CXCI, No 2 Contents Rasmus Rask Mini Puzzle XII—Lila Rosa Grau

Quick Tips for Linguists and the Linguistics-Adjacent

Haystie ad Weisz

Known for her all round loquaciousness in linguistics-adjacent knowledge nodes, Ms. ad Weisz is proud to give you her quick tips, in the form of brief how-to guides.

How to do statistics in R: Shout, “Argh! They’re making me do statistics. Don’t they know I’m a linguist?”

How to get into computational linguistics: Throw data at a wall. Photograph the stuff that sticks and say you used a multi-level neural-competitive stochastic process. Collect money from VC investors.

How to gather field linguistics data: Go to somewhere no one sane wants to visit, like a dangerous jungle or the USA. Make stuff up. No one will check. On the off-chance they do, chant “language shift” and “contact linguistics” until one of you dies.

How to become a professor: Be born twenty years earlier than you were.

How to translate the Bible into English: Walk into a room with a sign saying “I want monolinguals who don’t understand how language works to criticize me.” You’ll be surprised at how similar the results actually are.

How to deal with data that disproves your theory: 1) Blame the method. 2) Argue it’s all a misunderstanding. 3) Say it’s a trivial case and doesn’t matter. 4) Call it “the exception that proves the rule.”

How to diagram a sentence: Find a daddy long legs, squish it, write random letters next to its body parts. Ask college undergraduates to copy your work.

How to master English orthography: You can’t.

How to do sociolinguistics research: Find a pub. Buy everyone a round. Encourage two regulars to fight. Start recording.

How to do phonetics research: Gargle absinthe. Record the sounds you make.

How to do psycholinguistics research: Make up a thousand unnatural sentences that nobody would ever say. Chain some poor sod to a computer and make them read those sentences until they fall asleep out of boredom. Find a way to claim that the results showed us something really important.

How to do neurolinguistics research: Do psycholinguistics research, but with even more and more boring sentences, and mess up the poor sod’s hair while you’re at it.

How to do semantics research: Start an argument online about whether pizza is a sandwich. Also write some capital vowel letters upside down.

How to do language acquisition research: Record the utterances of a child living in an isolated environment with no normal human contact, such as a cave or the home of a language acquisition researcher.

How to do historical linguistics research: Find random scribbles on yellow paper or a random rock. Transcribe them, adding extra marks. Done.

How to do xenolinguistics: Summarize the plots of the Jodie Foster 1997 feature Contact and/or the Amy Adams 2016 movie Arrival, under headings such as “logically necessary communicative constraints” and “universal semiotic imperatives”.

How to write a historiography of linguistics: Divide time into two broad epochsBCE (Before Chomskyan Era) and CE (Chomsky is Excellent). Write at length about Chomsky.

How to become a successful creative writer: Write creatively and hire an excellent illustrator.

How to do Optimality Theory: Sprinkle some asterisks on a table, adorn the leftmost column with obscure Unicode symbols (bonus point if you can find a use for the snowman), and fill the top row with random small caps letters. Refer to the result in Frenchit’s more rigorous that way.

How to achieve international renown as an adult second language interactional linguist: Record groups of adult second language learners speaking TL. Transcribe ad nauseam and conclude brilliantly that adult second language learners appear to exhibit a lower range of lexico-grammatical structuresand are less accurate and fluentthan native speakers.

How to do pedagogical linguistics: Discuss at great length a TL structure/pattern/schema that adult second language learners use less than fully accurately. Suggest “teaching” as a means to enhance learners’ competence.

How to study language contact: Learn quite a bit about a language. Attribute anything you don’t understand (or don’t like) to some other language that you don’t know anything about.

How to teach phonetics: Practice tongue yoga. Add random elements of uvula kung fu. Bestow the results on undergraduates.

How to write a dissertation in Linguistics: Make claim. Give example. Discuss. Repeat six hundred times.

How to write a publishable paper in Linguistics: Make claim. Give example. Discuss. Write conclusion that refers to “parameters”.

How to apply natural science methodologies to solve long-standing problems in Linguistics: There’s no method heredo whatever you like.

How to study distributively modified multiply negative sentences: Almost no-one absolutely never just shouldn’t.

How to study deontic modal logic: You not only may but you gotta.

How to study embedded doxastic modal logic: I believe you reckon that everyone thinks that you consider this important.

How to study quasi-sentences: Like this. Which is important.

How to study noun-noun compounding: Attend a noun-noun compounding study feasibility liaison meeting away-day and develop a noun-noun compounding scholarship impact analysis protocol plan.

How to study global brand management imperatives: Just do it.

How to study hedging: It may not always be possible in any particular circumstance (and moreover, at least potentially, as the result of up to a highish number of mitigating adverse factors) necessarily to be able to consider moving towards formulating some kind of approach to aiming to achieve this in principle.

How to be about to study tense shift: I just did.

How to study pronouns: Who? Me?

How to study durative aspect: Just keep doing it.

How to study telicity: Find it purposeful.

How to study agentivity: Take the initiative.

How to study the pluperfect: I’d already started.

How to write a grammar: Spend twenty years studying a language people use to do everyday stuff. Write about it in a way no one outside of your department will ever understand.

As a bonus, Ms. ad Weisz has also provided some not-quite-so-quick tips:

How to do English language teaching:
Option 1 (for non-native speakers): Pursue a degree in English or related field followed by a doctorate in the same; publish; get a job in your own country providing grammar-focused English language provision.

Option 2 (for native speakers): Get a 2:2 in history or whatever; declare yourself an English language teacher; travel wherever you want in the world teaching idioms, singing songs and playing games.

How to join the fun and games of the Esperanto movement:

  1. Learn “Dr Esperanto’s” “international language” in approximately 6 weeks.
  2. Feel relatively esperplena.
  3. Locate small pockets of enthusiasts either online or in musty community venues talking haltingly yet endlessly about the accusative in less accurate Esperanto than your own.
  4. Abandon all espero(n).

How to study phonology: Keep under-specifying each and every segment you encounter in the language until it all boils down to the archiphoneme |Ɔ|. Devise fancy new brackets for your newly-invented-found new-brand-new archi-hierachi-proto-hyper-phonome. Derive all surface vowels and consonants from it using “secondary articulations”. Write to a newspaper declaring you finally found a language with only one vowel and no consonants. Kidnap and silence the field phonetician who keeps contradicting you by locking him in an underground room with the three remaining speakers of the language. Denounce the one speaker that escaped as a passive rememberer who is too heavily contact-influenced by some major majority language to be trustworthy.

How to do pragmatics:

  1. Maxim of Relevant Irrelevance: Persistently offer irrelevant contributions to conversations, with the only exception to this being your insistence on the relevance of said contributions.
  2. Maxim of Irrelevant Irrelevance: Occasionally be irrelevant in your insistence as to the relevance of your irrelevancies.
  3. Maxim of (Good) Manners: Sit up straight, don’t talk while eating, wash behind your ears, kiss granny when we leave, and tidy your room.
    1. Sub-Maxim of Culturally Relativistic Manners: Modify the above as relevant in the event of doing fieldwork in a culture which exhorts members to wear large earrings, sport decorative body markings, drum/chant loudly, and attack neighboring communities.
  4. Maxim of Flouncing: In the event of communication/cultural breakdown and interpersonal antagonism, scream “Why, Grice, why?” and flounce out.

How to achieve immortality in the syntax-semantics interface in three easy time-bound steps:

  1. Arbitrarily select some element of the mess chaos spaghetti soup infinitely rich and perennially fascinating confluence of systems of systems of systems that is the syntax-semantics interface as a starting point. (Possible starting points may include: ostensibly highly regular mappings between pairs of nearly synonymous structures; verbal lexical semantics; constructional schemata; semantically rich lexical specifications.) [Time required: 3–5 weeks.]
  2. Construct an elaborate formalism built upon the starting point in 1. and use it to capture some other strategically selected aspects of the mess chaos spaghetti soup infinitely rich and perennially fascinating confluence of systems of systems of systems that is the syntax-semantics interface. [Time required: 3–5 years.]
  3. Defend formalism against all responses/critiques/challenges by a) strategically selecting further data to support the case made in 2.; b) complicating and enriching the formalism e.g., with arrows and Greek letters; c) responding at best tangentially to valid critiques and challenges. [Time required: 30–50 years/until retirement.*]

    * Optional Step 4: Integrate morphology into the formalism. [Time required 300–500 years.]

Evidence in Defense of the Strong Whorf HypothesisReed Steiner
Rasmus Rask Mini Puzzle XIILila Rosa Grau
SpecGram Vol CXCI, No 2 Contents