Rēgēs Inter Rēgulās: Even Better Roman—Pyrrha Pulcheria Titania Maxima Candida, Þн.δ. SpecGram Vol CXCII, No 1 Contents SpecGram Dictionary of the Linguistics of Mythological Beasts—Volume 87: The Werewolf—Val Kiri

The Unlikely Origins of the Ethnography of
Communication in Satirical Linguistics

Prinkle and Patriziana von Herzburgermeister
Co-Chairs in Speaking About Things

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-listener that had gained purchase in the late 1950s and 1960s. It is generally recognised that without Hymes’ contribution, the field of linguistics could have remained trapped in a philosophy of language that emphasised peripheral, indeed incidental, features of language for many decades, obsessed with formal patterns and obstruse technical notation, instead of celebrating the richness and diversity of intuitive, interactional, contextual and dynamic strands of what it means to communicate linguistically.

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-typological jumble’ (Stymes 1983), the SPEAKING framework has yielded insight after insight and has been adopted by Fortune 100 companies since the early 1980s as a means of understanding and improving the efficacy of institutional talk from board meetings down to receptionists’ welcome pattern.

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-field fascination with the satire of the science of language enjoys minimal visibility and has garnered little public manifestation.

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-organised form on the internet. This latter claim may be true but research has failed to locate anything of value that appears to corroborate it. Poorly understood today, it was even more so in Hymes’ heyday. For reasons not yet fully understood, Hymes nevertheless elected to engage with this community to develop the SPEAKING framework and as such satirical linguistics has value in contributing to our understanding of the development of this important piece of linguistic bric-a-brac.

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.

Initial Sub-area Com­ments in rela­tion to the satir­ising of lin­guis­tics com­munity
S Set­ting/scene Satirical lin­guis­tics is rarely seen in publicand when it does appear often causes quite a scene. It’s rich in set ups but sets quite quickly, a bit like jelly.
P Par­tici­pants Lin­guis­tics can be sati­rised alone as a part of self-talk. Most of the par­tic­i­pants wear pants and think of them­selves as fancy pants. Part of par­tic­i­pat­ing is the partyand indeed par­tic­i­pants often wear party pants.
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)-flat is another. Satir­ical lin­guis­tics appears to have orig­i­nated at Rice.
I Instru­men­tal­ities Tuba and bassoon in de­scend­ing chromatic scales, usually a tone-and-a-half apart.
N Norms Abnormal, some­times abdominal ... but ambient and lin­guis­ti­cally ambi­dextrous.
G Genre Various, including occasion­ally, self-ref­er­en­tial pieces purporting to be serious research.

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 scienceto the benefit of all.

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.

Rēgēs Inter Rēgulās: Even Better RomanPyrrha Pulcheria Titania Maxima Candida, Þн.δ.
SpecGram Dictionary of the Linguistics of Mythological BeastsVolume 87: The WerewolfVal Kiri
SpecGram Vol CXCII, No 1 Contents