Toward a New Classification of the European Languages--Medved Sem SpecGram Vol CXLVIII, No 2 Contents How Many is Umpteen?--Ura Hogg

Foreign Policy Recommendations for a Brighter Linguistics Future

by M. Hadrian Thumpsem, Tang Maike, and Vicces Mehély

Linguistics currently faces a bleak future of funding cuts and glutted job markets. While many remedies have been proposed, all these nostrums are doomed to fail because they incorporate misguided humanitarian ideals. Linguists must remember that it is good intentions which pave the road to self-imposed poverty. There are certain facts we must accept forthrightly if the linguistic enterprise is to flourish. Linguistics produces nothing, not even a marketable service. Does any serious reader not believe linguistics would collapse overnight if it weren't firmly lodged in academia? Yet would any of us practice linguistics were it not a valuable science? That is the root of our malaise. Linguists have traditionally secured funding as part of a package in which the humanities as a whole are granted a certain sum on the grounds that the humanities have a definite if indirect benefit for society. While this is a laudable technique, in the present era of funding cuts it must be supplemented by other methods. Lest any reader balk at them or quibble about the details, remember that we must not fall into the error of misplaced concretes: There is no linguistics outside the brains of linguists. What we need are jobs for the boys (and girls).

The raw material linguists must be able to command are pure homogeneous speech communities. These are, after all, the basic model of society we posit in our research. However, just as our funding is disappearing, so are pure homogeneous speech communities. Indeed, one could argue these processes are not unrelated, but that would digress. Just as other scarce natural resources are conserved by the state, so too must pure homogeneous speech communities. Fortunately, domestic policies pursued by our domestic bureaucracies are doing an enviable job in such areas as the inner cities in preserving largely untouched speech communities outside the mainstream; if current trends continue, in fact, these communities will be hermetically sealed-off villages in an urban jungle providing never-ending opportunities for field research. In fact, the only problem is, Where are linguists in all this? We have left the field to bureaucrats, a group as useless in the market as linguists but rather less intelligent. Make way, we say to them.

Yet it is myopic to focus exclusively on domestic affairs; after all, there are several thousand languages outside our borders. American linguistics blossomed under the study of American Indian and Filipino languages by Bloomfield, Sapir, Whorf, and their peers. And how could such an anglocentric view of language as Chomsky's come to the fore in any but the post-Vietnam era? This is because scientific investigation has always benefited from imperialism. Our task then is clear: We must establish a Bureau of World Ethnography modeled closely on the Bureau of Indian Affairs. (To prevent institutional rivalries, we suggest the BWE be placed under a new Department of the Exterior.) Some regions have priority, of course, like New Guinea, the Philippines, and Indonesia. Other regions like Taiwan have criminally mismanaged their aboriginal resources and assimilated many non-mainstream pure homogeneous speech communities. However, there is still time to put a halt to such waste. We do foresee a few political problems, but they are easily solved. Incorporation of New Guinea, for example, might draw protests from Australia, but since they are a nuclear-free zone their bargaining power is somewhat diminished. And we should remember that there are numerous aboriginal language families in Australia. Do the Australians have the resources to manage this wealth wisely? Far from it.

Imagine then, if you will, a bright future in which every valley of New Guinea is wisely managed by linguists for linguists. Future generations of investigators will be eternally in our debt. For example, even though the Roman Empire unified much of the known world and recognized the cultural autonomy of subject peoples, they did not take positive steps to safeguard the diversity of their empire. And where does that leave us today? What grammatical descriptions do we have of Lydian, Phrygian, Iberian, or Thracian? None! That is because they did not have linguists, and that has diminished the value to humanity of the Roman Empire. An empire that places all pure homogeneous speech communities under the enlightened guidance of a benevolent bureaucracy of linguists and isolates them from each other can only work to the preservation of the diversity that is rightfully the watchword of our present age. The benefits to linguists will be substantial as well. Uncultivated, the members of pure homogeneous speech communities are cautious and resentful of outsiders, and it wastes valuable research time to gain their trust--time that could be better spent on unraveling phonotactics or teasing out kinship systems. Under the BWE, they will welcome us as conservators of their cultural heritage and divulge their mysteries freely. Consider it a reduction in transaction costs, if you will. Finally, this regime will be the most liberal in world history, for whereas in earlier empires the subalterns had to keep quiet and work hard, under our guidance they will be free to say anything they want.

Toward a New Classification of the European Languages--Medved Sem
How Many is Umpteen?--Ura Hogg
SpecGram Vol CXLVIII, No 2 Contents