Effolk Dialect—Jimmypedia SpecGram Vol CXCIII, No 3 Contents Retrofuturological Linguistics, Part I—The Future of Linguistics as Seen from the Past—M’Thoozela Oldman and Azhi Dahāka

Roll the Random-o-tron of Linguistics Questions!

Ron “The Diceman” McPokertron
Professor of Craps Linguistics

Did you know that “random” rhymes with “fandom”? Now, here at SpecGram we don’t get a whole lot of the latter but, boy, do we do random! Hiring, firing, promotions and remunerationit’s a study in HR unpredictability. One day you’re the Morphology Department’s Cabin Boy’s Deputy Under Floor Scrubber on $140m plus a bonus and three airplanes and the next day you’re Lead Project Manager for Pun Development and Bun Experiments eking out a miserable existence on a dollar fifty a day. And as for the 5-year strategy, you might as well just roll some dice!1

But SpecGram’s interface with the chaotic isn’t limited to the mere trifles of employee management and business development:2 in our core business of linguistics, the randomer it comes, the happier we are. And in few if no areas of our work is this not much less than untrue than in the random linguistics questions of which we are continuously in receipt and on which we are perennially asked to adjudicate.3 Yep, we’ve got random linguistics questions literally coming out of our earssacks of them!4 (Of course from time to time, we also ask ourselves some questions like “Why are we doing this?”, “When we will finally write an amusing piece?” and “What is actually in the left periphery?”)

Anyway, in these times of questioning, when so many certainties are being questioned and the very future of the planet and with it linguistics is questionable, we thought it was unquestionably a great idea to share some of the randomest5 linguistics questions we’ve been receiving with you. If you know the answers, keep them to yourselves! And if you’ve got any other random linguistics questions, keep them to yourselves also!

Roll the Random-o-tron!6


Now that no-one calls using landlines, do we still need phonemes? Can’t we move to smartphonemes?

If I read too much Optimality Theory, can I OD on OT?

If I want to select the best book of the Old Testament on the basis of universal, hierarchically-ordered exegetical constraints, is that the OT of the OT?

If Australian pitch rises and the sun also rises, does that make the sun Australian?

Do I need a vaccination before studying TB languages? And should anyone pronouncing coronal consonants be quarantined?

I wish to learn to use the Force to manipulate the final element of a syllable. Do you know where I can locate Master Coda? (Or Obi Wan Codabi?)

Why does my Mandarin-speaking partner keep taking a falling-rising tone with me?

I want to work in Japanese linguistics. Will I have to prepare a strict CV?7

Are Asian-American accents Mid-Pacific accents?8

My name’s Anthony, I’m 42 and live at home. Whenever my mother summons me to do the washing up she screams “Tone” in a high-pitched voice. Does this mean I will find learning tone languages easier?


I’ve seen a morpheme but has anyone ever seen a lesspheme?

I’m taking a class on morphology. When am I going to learn how to turn into a werewolf?

Why do I feel so alone teaching Mandarin and Vietnamese “morphology”?

If the strong verbs can scare off the weak verbs, why are there so many more of the latter?

When I go shopping, why is there only ever one cranberry left on the shelves?


Should really big and dangerous words be called “Tyrannosaurus Lexemes”?

What’s the best fertiliser to keep your syntax tree branching?


If ∃(x), can I have an omelette?


Before Linear A, did people just write using points with really small r values?

Is a rough breathing what happens when you get that virus that’s going around?

Why do people from the shadier side of town, who carry weaponry and are well known to the police, tend to prefer Greek lexemes with a rough breathing whereas those who drive a nice car, wear sunglasses and converse easily with all manner of folk, prefer Greek words with a smooth breathing?

Historical Linguistics

PIE: did it have a crust? What was it filled with?

Who is the weird uncle of the Romance family?

When did a dog start influencing the Balto-Slavic languages, and why?

Are Greenlandic and Icelandic part of the Landic family?

Is Greenlandic a Bluelandic-Yellowlandic creole?9

At what point did PIE become contaminated with enough germs that it turned into Germanic?

Why exactly did Anglo-Frisian brightening occur in the Dark Ages?

At what point did Middle-Age English get over its midlife crisis and transition to Old English?

Are the Ish, Ease, and Icky language groupings genetic categories or sprachbunds?

Why do Nostratic languages have more nasal segments than non-Nostratic languages?

Questions of Questionable Categorisation

If a theory drops into a monograph and no-one ever reads it, does it still get the author tenure?

1 Which is in fact just what we did to formulate the strategy.

2 The interns are in fact remunerated with trifles. If they underperform, they get trifled; if they perform they get to make trifles for everyone else.

3 Some of the questions we get are relatively predictable though. Like the one from the landlords that they ask every month about rent arrears.

4 Sacks of questions that is, not ears. The overflow and residual ears are kept neatly in the ear store.

5 But not the most randomest; they tend to come from the editorial suite, and are barely comprehensible.

6 In keeping with the randomist philosophy, we’ve randomly derandomised the questions by listing them in orderly, sensible linguistically motivated categories. There is no guarantee that future random questions will be treated thus.

7 We know this one: No, there’s a mora-torium on it.

8 To which our question would be “Hawai’i would you ask that?” As for a response, our own view is an emphatic “Ho, no!-lulu”.

9 To address this question we’ve sent a legion-and-a-quarter of interns to Greenland in blue t-shirts and yellow shorts, with specific instructions to search for Gruellowlandic (and not to consume any of the meagre rations we’ve provided for them until they locate it).

Effolk DialectJimmypedia
Retrofuturological Linguistics, Part IThe Future of Linguistics as Seen from the PastM’Thoozela Oldman and Azhi Dahāka
SpecGram Vol CXCIII, No 3 Contents