The world of linguistics owes an immense debt to the pioneering work of Dell Hymes, whose foundational notions of the ethnography of communication and communicative competence brought a swift end to the Chomskyan doctrine of the ideal speaker-
Hymes’ legacy goes beyond these two central notions, however, and includes the rightly famous SPEAKING1 framework, a principled, elegant and empirically motivated take on the nature of language.2 Often dismissed by those who misread it as ‘a sprawling octogonic jungle’ (Grimes 1979) and ‘a pseudo-
Now, in a shock linguistics revelation (and there’s not been many of them, in fairness), Knott & Rearley (2018) have recently published Hymes’ original notes on his SPEAKING typology. Curiously, it appears that the first steps in developing the SPEAKING framework were based on observations of that rarest of communities of practice, satirists of linguistics. This community is of course a poorly understood ragtag gang of misfits giggling away off in the darkened shadows of linguistics instead of getting on with something important and serious. Their left-
That said, satirical linguistics can be encountered by those foolish enough to seek it. It is known to arise ad hoc in lecture theatres particularly in the over-55 demographic of linguistics lecturers. However, it has also been claimed to exist in a semi-
Due to our long association with both Knott and Rearley, SpecGram has been asked to make public Hymes’ notes on SPEAKING in relation to the satirical linguistics community. We’re immensely proud of this invitation and are happy to bring Hymes’ groundbreaking insights to a wider audience in the table below.
||Comments in relation to the satirising of linguistics community|
||Satirical linguistics is rarely seen in public
|P||Participants||Linguistics can be satirised alone as a part of self-
|E||Ends||It never ends.|
|A||Acts sequences||It’s all an act, and is largely inconsequential.|
|K||Key||F-sharp (response) is a usual key in which to satirise linguistics. A-(falls)-
|I||Instrumentalities||Tuba and bassoon in descending chromatic scales, usually a tone-
|N||Norms||Abnormal, sometimes abdominal ... but ambient and linguistically ambidextrous.|
|G||Genre||Various, including occasionally, self-
Although sketchy, the seeds of greatness are clearly discernible in the above. Despite its apparently inauspicious beginnings as rough notes on the ethnography of communication of a little understood community, the SPEAKING framework would eventually rise to dominate thinking in the language science
1 SPEAKING consists of settings (or scene), participants, ends, acts sequences, key, instrumentalities, norms and genre.3
2 Originally called the EGO SPANK framework, where ‘instrumentalities’ was ‘orchestration’.
3 List provided in the unlikely event that any reader wasn’t fully aware of the meaning of the crucial acronym.
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