Sunday, November 10, 2013

Speculative Grammarian: The book

Shout it from the rooftops. Or just do like me and go stand on a street corner waving a Bible and scream it: 
The Speculative Grammarian Essential Guide to Linguistics is out!
We were fortunate enough to get an advance copy back in the summer, all 360 freakin' pages of it, by Trey Jones, Keith W. Slater, Bill Spruiell, Tim Pulju and David J. Peterson. That copy has been closely guarded, and passed from hand to apparently increasingly grimy hand.*

At Team Verb, we're all pretty pumped about this. Or as one colleague put it:
This goes on the new MA reading list. Hell, this IS the new MA reading list.
Given that the old reading list consisted of stuff written between the Rig Veda and Bloomfield's Menominee Grammar, it would be a step forward, but can't you imagine the prelims: please open the Essential Guide to p. 194, and let's discuss "Are Turkish and Amharic Related? Are they ever!"**

And we're not the only ones excited about it. The 'advance praise' up front contains some names:
“Ever wonder why Vikings torched scriptoria? This kind of thing.”
     —E. V. Gordon
“Contains more than 100 basic words.”
     —Morris Swadesh
“Same reference as linguistics; different sense.”
     —Gottlob Frege
“Two uvulas down, way down!”
    —Sapir and Bloomfield, At the Bookstore
Seriously, this volume has not only a real place in the field, it also continues an important tradition. I keep Studies out in left field: Defamatory essays presented to James D. McCawley (originally published in 1971 and republished, as pictured here, by Benjamins in 1992) on my desk at all times. I regularly give students the "supplementary glossary of linguistic terminology" from that. As much fun as wabiawization and haspiration are, you don't forget pheresis and apocop after you see the list. But it needed updating. The Essential Guide has six pages of "self-defining linguistic glossary" ... a bit of overlap with Studies, of course, but tons more stuff and covering a lot of the field:
  • It’s a cleft that this sentence is.
  • Je puedo Europanto sprechen.
  • I can see that eyewitness evidential myself.
  • Something’s gonna undergo grammaticalization.
  • The Gricean Maxim of Quantity (“Information”) did that thing the other day, with the guy from that place.
  • She looked at the zeugma with suspicion and magnifying glass.
And of course "Semantic bleaching is literally terrible."

The bulk of the texts is built around subfields —sets of pieces on typology, syntax, phonetics, whatevs. Richly illustrated even. I'm guessing anybody who reads this will find plenty of nuggets that they can enjoy and use.

I literally just ordered four fresh, clean copies of it and you can too, here, for $12.99 U.S.

* To the one who spilled what was obviously Hopalicious on page 95: I know who you are and disapprove as much of you wasting good beer as defiling this book.

**Actual article on p. 194, by April May June. I think I know a guy who dated her way back when.


EP said...

Finally, serious research in the oft ne­glected field of satirical linguistics. I thought this would never be covered.

Mr. Verb said...

You just need patience! I always wait for the new issues of SpecGram to be announced on LINGUIST, but the book is a whole nother dealio, or however the kids would say that these days.