because the possibility that you are right is slim to none.
In the field of linguistics, Chomsky is King. And we few, but loyal linguists quietly sit in our ivory tower protected by the omnipotent grace of our king, and observe the kingdom of language. We listen and ponder and discuss, and present and applaud.
Jolly good presentation Arthur! I always wondered if full closure occurred at the ariepiglottic location in epiglottal stops. It makes good sense though. Right, well I’m off to the Antarctic again to see whether those darn penguins have figured it out yet.
But once in a blue moon, a wandering linguist in the wild jungles of somewhere hard to pronounce, observes a language that doesn’t quite fit into Chomsky’s “universal” theory. And then that linguist presents the contrary findings to other linguists and they talk and soon the twittering of a paradigm shift echoes in the ivory tower:
I never believed in syntax anyway. Something off-putting about those trees. So many branches. Ugh. And I could never find a piece of paper big enough to fit all that…
Yeah, all those trees! Syntax just isn’t, like, sustainable…
Totally. Go Green!!!
Yeah. I’m not using paper ever!
Yeah.. and, like, didn’t you think it was kind of weird that he was so furry…
What are you talking about?
I mean how can you trust a monkey anyway…
Chompsky is a monkey. Don’t get me wrong, he was really smart monkey. They say he learnt language and then piloted a rocket into space…
Are you talking about Nim Chimpsky, the chimpanzee at Columbia University who the subject of and animal language acquisition project?
Ooh chimpanzee that monkey news.
(In order to get this joke you need to know about the following:
- Sentences can be drawn into tree-like structures.
- Paper is made out of trees (real ones).
- Syntactic trees can get very long, thus wasting a lot of paper made from trees.
- Sustainability is a hot topic in the world.
- The truth is inconvenient cuz people don’t like to think that a giant tsunami is gonna destroy North America and the only person that can save us is Dennis Quaid.
- Dennis plays the role of a climatologist who tries to save the world from rapid global warming in the movie The Day After Tomorrow.
- He is not very convincing in this role.
- First year linguistic students often mispronounce Chomsky as “Chompsky”.
- Really dumb first year students often confuse the Columbia University chimpanzee, Nim Chimpsky, with linguist, philosopher, political activist, Noam Chomsky.
- The Ricky Gervais podcast featuring Steve Merchant and Karl Pilkington has a segment called “monkey news” were Karl talks about news concerning monkeys, like a monkey that according to Karl, piloted a rocket into outer space.
- While introducing this segment, Ricky Gervais says, “Oooh chimpanzee that monkey news”.
What’s the point of this???
Oh yeah, there’s a big brouhaha in the linguistic community over the research of Dan Everett, an American linguistics professor and feather-ruffler-at-large, that claims that Pirahã, a language spoken by a small tribe in the Amazon, challenges Noam Chomsky’s theory of “Universal Grammar”.
If you are so inclined, you can read the scintillating New Yorker article:
Has a remote Amazonian tribe upended our understanding of language?
by John Colapinto
What do you think about all this? Should we shout “paradigm shift!” OR bury our heads in the sand for a few more years??