LINGUIST List 3.985

Mon 14 Dec 1992

Fun: The Rime of the Ancient Phonologist

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  1. , (Forwarded) The rime of the ancient phonologist

Message 1: (Forwarded) The rime of the ancient phonologist

Date: 14 Dec 92 11:14:25 GMT-120(Forwarded) The rime of the ancient phonologist
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Subject: (Forwarded) The rime of the ancient phonologist

 Forwarded message:
 To: lingsup
 From: "Simon Corston" <ANTNOV1/SHC>
 Date: 8 Dec 92 09:07:30 GMT-1200
 Subject: The rime of the ancient phonologist


(With apologies to Coleridge)

It is an ancient phonologist
and he stoppeth one of three
`By thy lexicon and writing stick,
now wherefore stoppest thou me?'

He halts him with a glottal stop,
`There was a tongue,' quoth he
`Hold off, unhand me greybeard loon'
Efstoons his tone drops he.

He holds him with an obstruent
the undergrad sits in fear
and listens like a three years' child
the phonologist hath his ear

`The vowels were cleared,
the phonemes neared
merrily did we go
to analyse the rules of sound
our theories so to show.

Writing, writing, everyday
till on the slate at noon -'
The undergrad here beat his breast
for he heard the bell within the room

The prof has paced into the room
Red as a rose is she
uttering clicks and allophones
come the language helpers three

The undergrad sat on a chair
for he cannot choose but list'n
and thus spake on that ancient man
the bright eyed linguist (-n).

`The sounds came up upon the tongue,
out of the mouth so free
they sounded bright,
and we did write
in our inventory.'

(After some initial success in analysing the phonemic structure of
the language in question, the phonologist and his colleagues come up
against serious analytical problems).

`God save thee, ancient phonologist,
from the fiends that plague thee thus.
What didst thou then?'
`With my sharp pen,
I writ the invent'ry.'

`They said I had done a hellish thing
and it would bring them woe'
"You fool," they cried, "to write the sounds
that made our research grow."

`When, suddenly up went the pay.
"Ha ha, 'twas right", spake they
"such sounds to scrawl,
that made the pay to fall."'

(Judgement is passed on the phonologist's colleagues for approving of
this work. Their careers are ruined before his eye, and he is made
to wear an enormous microphone about his neck).

`I looked upon the blotting page,
and there the dead did lie,
and a thousand thousand phonologists lived on,
and so did I'

(Lacking inspiration, the phonologist is cast adrift in a sea of
conflicting formalisms).

`Ideas, ideas everywhere,
yet not one did I think
Ideas, ideas everywhere,
and how my grants did sink.'

(In a vision of future funding for the humanities, the phonologist
sees redundancy and her mate rowing towards him. They are casting
dice. In this, he suddenly perceives the appropriate evaluation
metric for deciding between the conflicting theories).

`In a moment, I could write
and from my neck so free
the microphone fell off and sank
like lead into the sea.'

(Having received inspiration, the phonologist is forever doomed to
wander the earth, telling his tale of woe to all who will listen.
His analysis has been completed, but he is forever doomed to justify
it in the face of harsh opposition, till he is rescued by a wandering
Typologist who, finding the phonologist to be in a state of stupor,
revives him.)

`Oh shrive me blessed Typologist,
from the fiends that plague me thus'
and he did say
"He studies well, who examines well,
cross-linguistic con-trast.'

(This pearl enables te phonologist to revise his work, which receives
wide acclaim)


The theories though they come and go
matter not one whit.
It matters rather that they work,
and are by all well thought.

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