Quipley’s Don’t Believe It! ... Or Do? SpecGram Vol CXCIII, No 4 Contents Retrofuturological Linguistics, Part II—The Future of Linguistics as Seen from the Past—M’Thoozela Oldman and Azhi Dahāka

On Homeopathic Linguistics

Trent Slater

Linguistics has a long history of borrowing from other fields. From importing physics-style diagrams to piggybacking on biology and acoustics and calling it phonology, we have rarely turned down a good theory or methodology. We have even accepted post-structuralism in some quarters. Yet, only very dilute attention has been paid to the blossoming field of Alternative Medicine.

A Watered-Down Background

Alternative medicine eschews the machinery of modern science, with its constant recourse to evidence and ethics, and mixes old traditions with innovative ideas. This is much the same process as it takes to apply philology to machine translation or to apply Universal Grammar to constructed languages.

Broadly speaking, alternative medicine assumes that tradition and invention can replace tired practices such as double-blind studies, meta-reviews and lab work. Does this not sound appealing? Of course, it is not enough to simply waft around a term and hope that the aroma is therapeutic to those within smelling distance. An accurate puncture must be made at the right point.

In this case, given existing practices in linguistics, vis-à-vis evidence and theory building, it makes sense to adopt the practices of homeopathy via the pathway detailed below.

Homeopathising Linguistics

The basic theory of homeopathy is that the application of a very dilute amount of a substance can produce positive effects when the application of larger amounts would produce negative effects. Thus, a highly dilute solution of the Berlin Wall is viewed as reducing claustrophobia, emotional distress and allergy to concrete and barbed wire. Similarly, a homeopathic solution of bee-sting can reduce the effects of bug bites and stings, buzzy ears and love of flying in ways that science has not yet understood.

What would this look like in linguistics?

Linguistics has, for many years, already embraced the principle of de minimis theory generation. Thus, entire theories may be built on the basis of shreds of evidence, scattered across many sources. Turning this to homeopathic linguistics would simply mean the added application of further dilution and the use of momentary kinetic force (knocking).

In this light, we don’t actually need textual evidence for proto-languages. The parallel existence of scunnered and skin in modern Scottish English may be diluted with litres of water of theorisation to show the existence of *skn as the proto-Celtic word for “sub-dermal skin irritation leading to psychological disturbance”.

Likewise, this proto-Celtic reconstruction may be further diluted with evidence gathered from the existence of scolaire in French and Stockholm in Sweden, to reconstruct *skolm, the Proto-Indo-European word for “hypochondriacal symptoms caused by fear of education in Nordic countries”. Such reconstructions are at least as plausible and supported by evidence as those hitherto available elsewhere.

Further Developments

Of course, there is no logical need to restrict such reconstructions to single words. The same patterns unveiled afore are also indicators of historical migration patterns and language development. We can surmise, on the basis of the skn and skolm reconstructions that the PIE urheimat was not in Nordic lands but was in an area that was afraid of the Nordic education system. We can also notice that it cannot have been in the Celtic fringes as Celtic skin is known to be exceptionally resistant to damage, especially when walking around on a warm day1 without a t-shirt on.

Homeopathising these reconstructions leads us to believe that PIE was first found outside of Northern Europe and away from any traces of the Celts. As salt water can slowly damage skin and nothing is known about the Atlantean education system, we must conclude, on the basis of evidence that is as credible as homeopathy, that the urheimat of PIE was the city of Atlantis. Its subsequent destruction explains cogently why no trace of written PIE has ever been found.

1 A Celtic warm day is around 10°C. Fahrenheit conversion is unnecessary as no sane country with free healthcare and paid parental leave actually uses that scale.

Quipley’s Don’t Believe It! ... Or Do?
Retrofuturological Linguistics, Part IIThe Future of Linguistics as Seen from the PastM’Thoozela Oldman and Azhi Dahāka
SpecGram Vol CXCIII, No 4 Contents