Monday, May 1, 2006

Linguistic May Day

From the Speculative Grammarian, this article is appropriate for the next 30 days. Below are some of my favorites.

Dates in the Month of May that Are of Interest to Linguists

James D. McCawley
University of Chicago

May 3, 1955. Mouton & Co. discover how American libraries order books and scheme to cash in by starting several series of books on limericks. The person given charge of this project mishears and starts several series of books on linguistics. No one ever notices the mistake.

May 5, 1403. The Great English Vowel Shift begins. Giles of Tottenham calls for ale at his favorite pub and is perplexed when the barmaid tells him that the fishmonger is next door.

May 7, 1966. r-less pronunciation is observed in eight kindergarten pupils in Secaucus, N.J. The governor of New Jersey stations national guardsmen along the banks of the Hudson.

May 9, 1917. N. Ja. Marr discovers rosh, the missing link for Japhetic unity.

May 11, 1032. Holy Roman Emperor Conrad II orders isoglosses erected across northern Germany as defense against Viking intruders.

May 13. Vowel Day (Public holiday in Kabardian Autonomous Region). The ceremonial vowel is pronounced by all Kabardians as a symbol of brotherhood with all speakers of human languages.

May 18, 1941. Quang Phúc Ðông is captured by the Japanese and interned for the duration of hostilities.

May 19. Diphthong Day (Public holiday in Australia).

May 23, 38,471 B.C. God creates language.

May 26, 1945. Zellig Harris applies his newly formulated discovery procedures and discovers [t].

May 27, 1969. George Lakoff discovers the global rule. Supermarkets in Cambridge, Mass. are struck by frenzied buying of canned goods.

May 29, 1962. Angular brackets are discovered. Classes at M.I.T. are dismissed and much Latvian plum brandy is consumed.

May 30, 1939. Charles F. Hockett finishes composing the music for the Linguistic Society of America’s anthem, ‘Can You Hear the Difference?’

May 31, 1951. Chomsky discovers Affix-hopping and is reprimanded by his father for discovering rules on shabas.

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