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04 Februar 2005 @ 10:24
Folksongs incorporating linguistic knowledge  

In a post labelled "For linguists only," Mark Liberman quotes a couple of examples of linguistic filk. (Nota bene: The title of this post is a backronym; the word filk is, of course, a much more general term, and its true origin was as a typo that crawled out of the primordial soup and grew legs.) I thought I'd post a few more here; these are all classics of the genre which I learned from Susan Fischer, of RIT. In most cases, their authorship is unknown to me; such is the nature of the filk process, but I welcome comments from anyone with better information.

Too Many Nodes
(to the tune of "Sixteen Tons")

I'm a WH-node lookin' to raise.
I want to adjoin to the complement phrase,
But I gotta stay where I am parked,
Because my XP ain't L-marked.

You cross too many nodes,
And whaddaya find?
You've left a barrier far behind.
Now, CP, don't you call me 'cause I can't go
Because the principles tell me so.

Extracting from a purpose phrase
Will lead you wrong in many ways:
You violate the ECP
In addition to subjacency.

You cross too many nodes,
And whaddaya find?
You've left a barrier far behind.
Now, CP, don't you call me 'cause I can't go
Because the principles tell me so.

The Unbindable Node
(to the tune of "The Impossible Dream," from Man of La Mancha)

To bind the unbindable node,
Delete undeletable trace,
To raise, when the subject is empty,
An NP that takes with it its case.

To have PRO just when wanna contracts,
To build theories despite many facts,
We must mark, as peripheral constructions
That we managed to treat in the past.

This is my quest: to bind nodes in S-bar,
And to move every alpha (but not very far,
Unless it's to COMP, on the left, not the right)
To bind, theta-mark and control every pronoun in sight.

And I know,
If I'll only be true
To this glorious quest,
That Italian will differ from French,
As predicted by REST.

And the theory'll be better for this:
When filters and word-bound controls
Don't hamper quite general princniples
That bind the unbindable nodes.

As Tiers Go By
(to the tune of the homophonously titled Stones song)

Extrinsic ordering is dead;
Association lines are spread;
Many planes are intersecting;
Vowels are projecting.
I sit and watch as tiers go by.

We sing the syllable sublime,
The onset, nucleus and rime.
Is lost on me.
I sit and watch as tiers go by.

How do You Solve a Problem Like Aphasia?
(to the tune of "How do you solve a problem like Maria?" from The Sound of Music)

How do you solve a problem like aphasia?
How does a neuron represent a noun?
How do you find a lesion that produces
Transcortical motor bucco-facial-apractic vowel sounds?

Many a thing you know they'd like to tell you—
Many a thing you think they understand;
But how do you make them pay
Attention to what you say
When the reticular-activating system is shut down?

Just when you think you finally understand it,
Just when you think you've got it all nailed down—
You find your critical cases're all left-handed
And somebody's turned the CAT scans upside-down.

And here's one by John Goldsmith that just so happens to mention Mark Liberman himself. (I could pretend that it mentions me, too, because it does mention a well-known linguist who has the same last name as me, but I won't.)

Linguists on Parade
by John Goldsmith

(to the tune of "I am the very model of a modern major general,"
or perhaps I should say to the tune of Tom Lehrer's "The Elements")

I am the very model of the gen'rative grammarian,
I read Linguistic Inquiry, and I'm rarely too sectarian,
I know the dates of conferences and who is who and published where
And Chomsky's latest paper, with the footnotes, and who's mentioned there.
I'm very well acquainted too with matters not so practical,
Like issues of the generalized pragmatico-syntactical
And Bresnan's view of syntax and the very latest plan of hers
       (plan of hers… plan of hers…)
And Chomsky's current stand on Case-assignment and parameters!

[Spoken:] And who are these linguists of whom we sing? Their names are legion:

There's Kenstowicz and Kisseberth, Clements, Kean and Anderson,
Chomsky, Halle, Leben, Dinnsen, Donegan and Jacobson,
There's Zellig Harris, Hockett, Hooper, Schane and Mrs. Diver's son,
Hyman, Hudson, Ross, and Joos, and Houlihand and Iverson.
There's Klausenberger, Schutzenberger, Langendoen and Mandelbaum,
Jacobovitz and Redenbarger, Robinson and Rosenbaum.
And Venneman and Wittgenstein and Wunderlich and Aronoff
Lees Katz Fodor Keenan Kiefer Keyser Kayne and Jackendoff.

There's Liberman and Lieberman, Lieberman and Liberman
Mark and Phil and Anatoly, Jespersen and James A. Foley,
Carlson and Carlton, White and Black and Willard Quine
Bell and Ringern, Teeter, Tottie, Brown and Blau and Flora Klein.
There's Schachter, Sanders, Schmerling, Siegal, Johnson, Jensen, and James Harris
Horn and Larry Hutchinson, Hall and Haas and H. Contreras
Panini and Napoli, Charles Li and James Paul Gee
Martinet and Fauconnier and Paul and also Jonny Kaye.

B.L. Whorf and Benveniste and Trubetzkoy and Winfred Lehmann
Alan Prince and Robert King and Janet Bing and Michael Brame 'n'
Marcel Cohen and Langendoen, John R. Ross and Stan Starosta
Annie Zaenen, Richie Kayne 'n' Ivan Sag and Rachel Costa
C.C. Fries and Robert Lees, Russell Schuh and Mary Haas
Robert Frieden, Charles Reid 'n' Ellen Kaisse and Franz Boas
Kurylowicz, Ladefoged, Casagrande, and Eric Hamp
Fromkin, Rodman, Klima, Stockwell, Bolinger, and Postal, Stampe.

Now, if I were a truly dutiful blogger, I would go and link every last one of those names to a page about its referent. But I'm not. :-P

For the non-linguists in the audience, here's the only thing behind the cut that's likely to be of interest: a link to a Flash animation of "The Elements."

wolfangel78 on 4. Februar, 2005 09:17 (UTC)
This is the saddest thing I've ever read.
Q. Pheevrq_pheevr on 4. Februar, 2005 09:37 (UTC)

The saddest? But why?

wolfangel78 on 4. Februar, 2005 09:45 (UTC)
Because I laughed.
Q. Pheevrq_pheevr on 4. Februar, 2005 10:14 (UTC)

Ah, that kind of sad. Well, that's all right, then. This is 2005, buddy, the Information Age; anybody over the age of 16 who isn't hopelessly geeky about something's a goddam spy.

wolfangel78 on 4. Februar, 2005 10:27 (UTC)
The worst, though, was the time I was in the ocean in Hawaii (ah, conferences) and we were debating appropriate theories of morphology.

I'm Canadian, so I'm not a spy (though for a few weeks there was this car sitting just in front of our window and my roommate was sure it was the government watching me), I'm a pinko commie bastard. (Or, if we prefer, bitch.)
Q. Pheevrq_pheevr on 4. Februar, 2005 10:39 (UTC)

Are you casting aspersions at CSIS?

wolfangel78 on 4. Februar, 2005 10:45 (UTC)
Well, no. I don't object to insulting them, but this time I wasn't, since (a) I was in the US at the time and (b) what I'm *really* doing is procrastinating.
Q. Pheevrq_pheevr on 4. Februar, 2005 10:51 (UTC)
Actually, I was referring to your comment "I'm Canadian, so I'm not a spy," rather than to the car episode.
wolfangel78 on 4. Februar, 2005 10:56 (UTC)
Well, I guess eventually I can understand what you're talking about, especially when you write it explicitly and in short words.
Q. Pheevrq_pheevr on 4. Februar, 2005 11:02 (UTC)

Grkspmn! I feel that the cuneio has, at any rate, garbled the deig.

wolfangel78 on 4. Februar, 2005 11:23 (UTC)
Please do not destroy my procrastinating fun. Otherwise I have to go back to tagging sentences, and that is Not Fun.
Q. Pheevrq_pheevr on 4. Februar, 2005 11:45 (UTC)

Tagging as in POS, or tagging as in "You're it!"?

wolfangel78 on 4. Februar, 2005 11:47 (UTC)
"You're it!" But the stupid sentences never chase after me, so the game ends really really quickly.
Q. Pheevrq_pheevr on 4. Februar, 2005 12:00 (UTC)

Oh. Well, I think you ought to find some livelier sentences, then. They're friskier when they're young, of course, just like kittens, but there are some older sentences out there that are still quite spry. I'm quite partial to

Last night I dreamt I was two cats, and I chased each other all night long


wolfangel78 on 4. Februar, 2005 12:56 (UTC)
Recently I was tagging all the sentences with "do it", but they mostly played with each other.
(Deleted comment)
wolfangel78 on 4. Februar, 2005 14:13 (UTC)
See, you can be clever, and I end up stuck thinking about prepositions. I hate prepositions. They make me unfunny.

I contend that every blog needs at least one complaint from me abotu work.

Q. Pheevrq_pheevr on 4. Februar, 2005 15:09 (UTC)

But you're being clever, too, prepositions or no prepositions.

Q. Pheevrq_pheevr on 27. Juli, 2008 18:19 (UTC)

I've moved the picture that was in my previous comment, breaking the link. Here it is:

love, play & inquirytrochee on 4. Februar, 2005 13:06 (UTC)
This seems remarkably similar to Every farmer who has a donkey beats it, somehow.

Why have I not seen it before? Is it perhaps because I gave up on ever having pin-down-able facts on binding theory? could be...
Q. Pheevrq_pheevr on 4. Februar, 2005 13:28 (UTC)

That sentence is not as famous as I think it deserves to be—to my mind, it's right up there with The horse raced past the barn fell and Colourless green ideas sleep furiously. I don't remember for sure whose sentence it is, although I strongly suspect Fauconnier.

(Anonym) on 4. Februar, 2005 12:13 (UTC)
Stan (Starosta) would have loved this. (He also loved discussing morphology in Hawai'i, too!)

Anna Phor.
Q. Pheevrq_pheevr on 6. Februar, 2005 10:26 (UTC)

Oh, I expect he must've encountered them at some point; these have been around for quite some time.

the_deli: BOTTLE OPENERthedeli on 4. Februar, 2005 16:57 (UTC)
I just want to thank you for that Tom Lehrer animation link.
I love that guy.
I have all of his records.

I don't know about that other stuff though, and I understand most of it.
Q. Pheevrq_pheevr on 6. Februar, 2005 10:29 (UTC)

You're most welcome; Tom Lehrer is great. I hadn't even known about the animation myself until I searched for a suitable page to link to about "The Elements" from this post.

鉄観音: peek!isolt on 6. Februar, 2005 10:09 (UTC)
I wonder why so much linguistic humour is syntax-based?

I want to see more amusing phonology jokes. I once came across a hilarious page about optimality theory, but that's about it.
Q. Pheevrq_pheevr on 6. Februar, 2005 10:38 (UTC)

Well, I can recommend "The Rise of Optimality Theory in First Century Palestine," unless that's the one you've already seen, in which case I still recommend it, but less helpfully.

I think part of it may just be that there are more syntacticians than phonologists, but that doesn't seem like a fully adequate explanation.

Marcoszeekar on 24. December, 2006 15:09 (UTC)
Cute use of the abbr tag; hadn't seen that. But the word "filk" is actually quite a bit older than Usenet, dating to the early Science Fiction conventions of the 1950's.
Q. Pheevrq_pheevr on 28. December, 2006 22:23 (UTC)
Re: filk

Ah! The pre-primordial soup, then. I stand corrected.