Now You’re Just A Language that I Used to Know
This parody is dedicated to anyone who’s ever studied a language and then forgotten it. I have no video skills, so I decided to make it an audio recording.
Now and then I think of when we spoke together
Like when your sounds made me so happy I could die
I told myself that I would learn to speak
But couldn’t grasp your strange morphology
But that’s my brain and these are words I can’t remember
You can get restricted to a certain kind of vocab
Memorization of the list, always the list
So when I gave up on your paradigms
You said that I could still read in between the lines
But I’ll admit that I stopped opening the textbook
Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day folks! (Those in the Western US states may have a little longer to wait!).
The keyboard comes from the annual Language Log celebrations. There’s an amusing take on the history of this international day, and the pirate accent itself on Wikipedia. If you’re not so conversant in Pirate, try this handy translator!
"So, you’re a linguist? How many languages do you-"
"Linguistics? Seriously? But you can’t research languages-"
"So, how do you earn money with linguistics-"
"But Linguistics is useless-"
"Wow you must be a grammar na-"
Just in time for back to school, here are some tips for doing better on your linguistics assignments from someone who’s marked a few hundred of them over the years.
1. Read the question. The easiest mistake to fix: if the question says circle the error and fix it, make sure you do both, or if the question asks for three examples, make sure you give three and not two or four. If the question asks for a transcription, don’t give a translation, and so on. Before you pass something in, read it over to make sure the question and the answer match.
2. Use only the necessary words. In grade school, you may have been asked to answer in complete sentences. That doesn’t really matter anymore: what matters is that you show that you understand the material. Linguistics problem sets aren’t essay questions, so a short phrase may be totally sufficient.
3. Use the technical words that you’ve been learning (but don’t use the other ones you found on Wikipedia). Part of what you’re being tested on is your ability to use technical vocabulary, so you should say “transitive verb” instead of “an action word that has both a person who did the thing and a person who the thing is done to”.
welcome to harvard: linguistics 101
Is this reality?
I went to a class on English curse words once, it was pretty epic. The best part was when one student was giving a presentation and the Professor interrupted her, saying “stupid bitch” very loudly, shocking her into silence and cracking the rest of us up. It took him a few seconds until he realised how it came accross and he was quick to explain that he had just added an example to her argument.
Yeah, we were taught this in my linguistics class as well. The point was to illustrate that fluent speakers of a language know the correct way to modify a word even when they haven’t explicitly been taught the rule. Grammar rules even apply to making words which are, strictly speaking, grammatically incorrect. We have an intuition about what is valid.
So at 3:00 this morning
when i had not yet gone to bed but was instead going to deal with my 9th or 10th round of reslife shenanigansi hung up the phone and said ‘geez lou-fricking-weeze’, and it got me thinking about the infixation thing because ‘louise’ has the two vowel sounds in a row (ooh and eee), and a glide from ooh to eee is essentially what a w-sound is, but when i pronounce ‘louise’ out loud i don’t hear the w, i hear the two vowels. But, when i added the infix, it sounded really fricking weird to say ‘geez lou-fricking-eez’, so i added the w-sound back in. *shrug* thoughts anyone?
One of the problems with English “rules” that refer to syllabification is that English doesn’t have very clear syllable boundaries. So, when we have an infix, there is a lot of variability to where it can occur (on a segmental level).
Take the word “balance”:
- ba - lance
- bal - ance
- bal - lance
All three of those options are native judgments for where the syllable boundary could occur. The third option, however seems to be split down the middle of the [l], or duplicates it or something.
I think that’s probably what’s happening in “geez louise”, where “louise” is difficult to split into syllables because of the glide (like the liquid in “balance”).
- lou - ise
- lou - uise
I suspect that there isn’t a [w] in the word, but rather there are two vowel-to-vowel transitions, and the syllable boundary occurs in the middle of a transition, giving the impression of a consonant glide.
But this is something important to think about: what does it mean that there is or isn’t a consonant glide there? Would it sound differently? Or would it be represented different in the mind? How can we tell?
"One morning, I shot an elephant in my pyjamas. How he got into my pyjamas, I’ll never know"
The Groucho Marx joke explained.
The trees and explanations of them are simplified.
I used this website to create the syntax trees. It’s really useful.
An NP is a noun phrase. It’s a noun (e.g. elephant) and everything that goes with it.
A PP is a prepositional phrase. It’s a preposition (e.g. in) and everything that goes with it.
Groucho Marx seems to have been fond of jokes that depend on modifier ambiguity, since there’s also:
Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside a dog, it’s too dark to read.
She got her looks from her father. He’s a plastic surgeon.
A child of five would understand this. Someone fetch a child of five.
From TOWN with Nicholas Crane - Series 2 Episode 3 Huddersfield
It’s great to hear a dialect of your own native language in your own native country as if it were a foreign language - it keeps you curious and fights off the tendency to take your own language for granted!