Stepfather Goose or Just Take a Gander—U No Hu Lingua Pranca Contents When I Heard the Learn’d Syntactician—W. Kruck

Language’s Revenge

Terence G. MacNamee

dedicated to G. Westphal-Montt

As I with a bunch of data
Was working hard and deep,
My left hemisphere gave up the ghost
And I drifted off to sleep.

I dreamt my soul was restless
And left its corporal seat;
I went to the beach where the mind of man
And the sea of nature meet.

A group of restricted relatives
Were sporting in the sand,
As a blocked and starred non-sentence
Swam sadly from the land.

A phonology tree grew near them
With underlying roots;
There were phonemes on its branches
And allophonic shoots.

As I watched the shifting stresses,
Something made me jump—
A morpheme leapt out from a phrase
And bit me in the rump.

And all at once behind me
I heard an angry yell,
Like a hundred immediate constituents
Or all the hosts of hell:

“In vain do linguists seek to reach
Explanatory adequacy;
You competence models will never exhaust
Our phenomenology.

Your depredations on us
Would infuriate the saints,
With your transformations, ad hoc rules
And terminal constraints.

We are not feature matrices,
Nor phones, if you’ll allow;
We are the vowels of Ancient Greek,
And we’re coming to get you now.”

I heard them charge as if they meant
To push me in the deep,
When my biorhythms suddenly jumped,
And I awoke from sleep.

The morphemes stood upon the page
As they would speak no more;
The Naturalness Condition held;
And all was as before.

[Both MacNamee and Westphal-Montt submitted copies of this poem.Eds.]

Stepfather Goose or Just Take a Gander—U No Hu
When I Heard the Learn’d Syntactician—W. Kruck
Lingua Pranca Contents