Sunday, September 30, 2007

Crystal Clear ...

Thanks to cko (who lent/loaned/leaned me her copy of Crystal's Language Death) I was finally able to read Chapter 2 Why Should We Care and Chapter 3 Why Do Languages Die. I have to say, I found the general writing style disappointing. It’s a lightweight volume that reads like it was pasted together from notes and speeches (which it may very well have been). He tends to make the same points over and over, in no systematic order.

I read nothing in the first three chapters of this book which caused me to re-evaluate my gut feeling that there may be some favorable outcomes to language death (and we linguists ought to study that possibility more closely).

Only 3 main points relate to why language death is bad:

I. Languages are like an ecosystem = ecosystems have mutually reinforcing relationships between members/elements (i.e., hurt one, hurt the system)

II. Languages are repositories of data (i.e., we can learn stuff from them: history, culture, linguistic feature space)

III. Language = identity

There’s no proof of (I) and Crystal is quick to caution against taking the analogy too far (he claims that humans are in complete control of language death factors; I suspect he is wrong about that, but ...); nonetheless, I suspect that it’s somewhat analogous. However, by the same ecosystem analogy, it may be the case that some language death may have favorable outcomes (which has been my guess all along). As I noted on cko’s blog recently, “I suspect that recent work in language learning and evolution by Partha Niyogi and folks like him will bear greatly on this topic in the coming decade.”

Argument (III) is garbled at best. Crystal claims that “Identity makes members of a community recognizably the same” (p39). Hmmmmmm. I thought it was the opposite -- identity makes members of a community recognizably different. In any case, this argument is vague at best, and does not relate directly to language death. There are various cultural factors that go in to “identity”, whatever that is.

It is argument (II) which I find most compelling, and the one I agree with most readily and without debate. Yes, I agree that all languages have unique linguistic properties that are well worth studying in themselves. But just because we find valuable data in every language does NOT mean we should stop language death per se. we need a broader understanding of the system of language interaction and language evolution, otherwise zealously stopping language death may be as irresponsible as zealously causing language death. Like a protected species over-grazing or over-hunting a locale, language over-population may serve some ecosystem harm. We just don't know.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Reduntant Blogging. Redundant Blogging.

Eugene Volokh over at The Volokh Conspiracy complained yesterday that some interpretations of Bushisms are not particularly fair because the interpretations are not taking into account the genuine ambiguity of the comments (okay, that's my version). In my zeal to put in my 2 cents, I posted a comment to that affect, only to realize now that I was basically repeating what Volokh himself had said in his original post.

Since Eugene Volokh was some kind of genius wunderkind or something, I'm not all that ashamed that we basically think alike. Maybe HE'S ashamed of thinking like The Lousy Linguist. But I'm not ashamed. Oh no, not me.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Chicken pecks revisited...

Cool, Eric Bakovic over at Language Log posted about "Langage SMS". This was the topic of my very first substantiative post.

I may have misstated Chatham’s belief’s below. It’s not clear that he agrees with the claim I complained about. But, his blog makes it clear that he believes this:

experience can be coded in a non-linguistic form, and that recoding into language is possible, at least over short delays

First, I didn’t realize it was at all controversial that experience can be coded in non-linguistic form. Of course it can. Does anyone doubt this?

Second, I have no clue what Chatham means by recoding into language. Certainly thoughts and memories can be expressed by language, that should go without saying; but, Chatham seems to believe that at least some thoughts and memories are STORED in language form. This sounds like the old “we think in language” argument.

I am not convinced that we think in language. In fact, I seriously doubt we think in language. I think language is always a post-thought process.

Language and Memory ...

Yesterday, Andrew Sullivan linked to this Chris Chatham blog Memory Before Language: Preverbal Experiences Recoded Into Newly-Learned Words. In it, Chatham says

adults tend to use language in encoding and retrieving memories...

I’ve read this sentence multiple times and I still don’t know what it means.

Chatham is a grad student in Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Colorado, Boulder. From his web page, it’s clear that he’s a smart guy. But he’s going to have to explain his point about adult language and memory more clearly. Right now, it sounds like bullshit.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Storm Gathers Force ...

cko and The Language Guy have a nice discussion of language death going over at knittertating. The Language Guy has been around this biz longer than most and he always has thoughtful comments. I take cko's comments quite seriously because she is both a smart linguist and an experienced field linguist. I'm neither. But I'm tall, so, ya know, that's something.

The Innateness Hypothesis

Juan Uriagereka is a very good linguist, no doubt. He writes here that

"Language is an innate faculty, rather than a learned behavior...Language may indeed be unique to humans, but the processes that underlie it are not."

Yes, most linguist agree that some sort of cognitive endowment is unique to humans which helps us learn and use language, but the nature of that endowment is far from well understood. Uriagereka has a particularly apropos background for the topic of language evolution, I respect that. Nonetheless, I suspect he is a tad biased towards the Chomskyan view. Therefore, I will try to list the arguments AGAINST the innateness hypothesis for y'all this weekend (I guess this makes #4 on my list of blog promises).

The Perfect Storm

Eric Bakovic over at language log has posted again on endangered language, and yet again has given no indication of his own opinion of the issues; I think this is indicative of the entrenched assumption within the linguistic community that language death is bad, so there is no need to explicitly discuss that part of the issue. As y’all know, I have challenged this position here, here, here, and here.

Bakovic’s comments section however does include a juicy argument by the center of the storm himself, K. David Harrison. He claims languages

  1. have unique structures
  2. contain useful (to human survival) knowledge
  3. are being abandoned by speakers in favor of global languages

I have posted a response on the language log comments here. I will try to post more this weekend.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Intro to CL Books ...

Bob Carpenter has blogged about a new Intro to IR book online here. I'm looking forward to skimming it this weekend. I would also recommend the Python based NLTK Toolkit.

Books and resources like these are generally geared towards people with existing programming background. If a linguist with no programming skills is interested in learning some computational linguistics, Mike Hammond has written a couple of novice's intro books called Programming For Linguists. A novice would be wise to start with Hammond's books, move to the NLTK tutorials, then move on to a more serious book like Manning et al.

And if you're at all curious about what a linguist might DO once she has worked through all that wonderful material, you might could go to my own most wonderful List of Companies That Hire Computational Linguists page here.

And if you're not challenged by any of that above, I dare you to read Bob's Type-Logical Semantics. Go on, you think yer all smart and such. I dare ya! I read it the summer of 1999 with a semanticist, a logician, and a computer scientist and it made all of our heads hurt. I still have Chapter 10 nightmares.

You say tomato...

Andrew Sullivan proudly asserts his refusal here to use the term “Myanmar” to refer to the Southeast Asian country found at the coordinates 22 00 N, 98 00 E (thank you CIA World Factbook). Wikipedia explains the history of the two names here:

The colloquial name Bama is supposed to have originated from the name Myanma by shortening of the first syllable (loss of nasal "an", reduced to non-nasal "a", and loss of "y" glide), and then by transformation of "m" into "b". This sound change from "m" to "b" is frequent in colloquial Burmese, and occurs in many other words. Although Bama may be a later transformation of the name Myanma, both names have been in use alongside each other for centuries.

I respect Sullivan’s point that he wants to resist totalitarian p.r.; however, if Wikipedia is correct and “both names have been in use alongside each other for centuries” then this seems like a trivial way to do it.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Yesterday, Dubner over at Freakonomics posted about names and naming. His basic point is here in this excerpt:

It has always struck me that a lot of the things we do and use and see every day have names that aren’t very accurate or appropriate or idiomatic….I don’t mean to say that most invented common nouns are bad.

This is a common claim made by non-linguists, and all of us who have taught intro to linguistics courses have heard it ad nauseum. But when I read Dubner’s version of this old grumble, I was struck by two things. I understand complaining that a noun’s name is not accurate or not appropriate, but just what the hell does he mean not idiomatic?

Second, Dubner seems to think there is such a thing as a noun name that is NOT invented. Pray tell, Mr. Dubner, can you list some examples?

Okay, so it seems I get to add a third task for me to take up on this blog: a Lin 101 review of the arbitrariness of language. Jeeeez! I might have to brush up on Saussure. Ugh!

More on POS

Upon reflection, I realize I may have mis-interpretated Hal's point about POS tags. What he seems to be referring to is the lack of explicitly available POS data, not the internal mental events of humans in the act of processing language.

Nonetheless, it remains an interesting direction to follow-up on: what, if any, POS tagging do humans do naturally?

A Hypothesis

I used the phrase 'an hypothesis" below, following what I thought was the prescriptivism I was surely taught in 6th grade that a noun starting with the letter "h" should be preceded by the "an" form of the indefinite article.

But it didn't seem right, so I Googled the two versions. The results are thus:
Results 1 - 10 of about 756,000 for "an hypothesis".
Results 1 - 10 of about 2,070,000 for "a hypothesis".

And so wins "a hypothesis" ... for now.

Promises Promises

Okay, that now makes 2 blog promises I now must keep: 1) Propose an hypothesis about how language death might have favorable outcomes for language evolution and 2) review any psycholinguistic evidence regarding POS tagging.

Daume on POS tagging

Hal Daume over at his natural language processing blog makes a damned interesting claim (and his commenters basically agree):

Proposition: mark-up is always a bad idea.

That is: we should never be marking up data in ways that it's not "naturally" marked up. For instance, part-of-speech tagged data does not exist naturally. Parallel French-English data does. The crux of the argument is that if something is not a task that anyone performs naturally, then it's not a task worth computationalizing.

His point seems to be that humans naturally translate texts, so that’s worth “computationalizing” (great word, BTW), but humans do not naturally POS tag, so why bother?

Okay, but is this false? Do humans naturally POS tag when processing language? I think it’s fair to say that humans naturally categorize natural language input, and some of this categorization could be likened to POS tagging. I’m going to need to brush up on my rusty psycholinguistics and make a more substantive post on this later.

Monday, September 24, 2007

When "here" is "there"

As a follow-up to my previous post here, it seems to be rather interesting that the blogosphere's use of hyper-linked "here" is closer to the natural language use of "there", as a pointer to a distant referent. The referent is NOT in fact "here", but somewhere else. It is true that one must go through the link (which is, in essence, 'closer') to get to the distant referent, but the referent of "here" is not here, it's there.

In terms of usage, it's closer to Monty Hall's classic use of 'here' when he stood next to door number 3 and said "your new car might be through here!" (nothing good EVER was behind door number 3!).

I'm going to name this Let's-Make-A-Deal Deixis ... or Monty's Deixis ... or Door-Number Three Deixis ... Shoot! I may need to start an internet poll!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

I Got Yer Deictic Center Right HERE

Hmmm, just wondering if there is anything intellectually interesting about the blogosphere's use of hyper-linked "here" (just like I did here)

Unsafe In Any Post

Ahhhh shucks, Arnold Zwicky over at Language Log references little ol' me here in his round-up of snowclone dead ends, adding credibility to the veracity of my blog title.

It would be quite lovely indeed if Dr. Zwicky would also comment on my recent meditations here, here and here on the possibility that language death may well have favorable outcomes for language evolution (I'm not above fishing for recognition).

Lie Berries

Well, it goes without saying that Crystal's book Language Death was not "On Shelf" as my research library's database claimed it was. Ihave requested a trace, but I hold little hope for its timely discovery. Google Book Search has the first few pages of each chapter available for viewing, so I've been able to sample chapters 3 and 4, Why Should We Care and Why Do Languages Die. I've also found a couple book reviews that have summarized the chapters a bit, so I'm forming an impression of the contents, though I caution that an "impression" is all I will have to go on until I can get the book.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!

To return for a moment to Poser's comment on Language Log that increasingly efficient communication and travel are the cause of accelerated language death: this may be true, and surely this is the hand of humans wielding the knife of change, but it's also the cause of far greater language contact, which, ya know, has it's own benefits. This analysis of causation still gives us no reason to believe that language death is bad.

So, we are faced with the conflation of three phenomena: language change, death, and murder. It is language murder (the rational choices by governments and institutions to affect policy changes that cause the decline of a language or languages ... that's my definition for now) which should be challenged and fought against, not the fact of language death per se. Let's not transfer our anger over language murder to language death, which may turn out to serve some positive ends, if only we would study the effects with dispassionate hearts.

Mad props to Russ.

The Nile

Uh, I realize now that my previous post kinda maybe made it sound like I am a global warming denier. I am not. I believe that humans are contributing to the unnaturally accelerated rate of climate change. We should stop doing that.

However, I am not convinced that humans are contributing to an unnaturally accelerated rate of language death. Nor am I convinced that there are no favorable outcomes to language death.

cko's challenge

In her comment on my first post below, cko challenged me (rightly so) to “think about the language used in this discussion of language extinction. Where does it come from? What do these analogies contribute to this discussion and what do they potentially hide?” And it was the analysis of language death as cultural “loss” that got me thinking about this issue. But the real danger is missing any potential VALUE that language death may provide language evolution. This is a side of the issue wholly ignored, as far as I can tell. And it’s precisely because of those framing metaphors like “death” and “loss” that linguists have overlooked the study of favorable outcomes. We have an academic duty to view the whole picture of language death, even if that picture contradicts our political perspective.

There is an obvious correlate to contemporary debates over global warming. Again, cko comment is instructive: “much of the language loss that is currently occurring is due to non-natural forces”. This may or may not be true. That’s the point. We just don’t know how the current rate of language loss compares to historical rates. We don’t know because 1) estimating current rates is difficult and 2) estimating historical rates is nearly impossible. Yet conventional wisdom holds that contemporary language death rates MUST be unnaturally driven. We evil humans are KILLING languages!!!! O my god!


Why am I challenging the conventional wisdom on language death (i.e., that it’s bad)?

Because, I believe linguists need to analyze the relationship between language death and natural language evolution dispassionately. The cause of my posts on this topic was the recognition that conventional wisdom within linguistics seemed to hold that contemporary language death is somehow threatening the structure of language and culture, and I’m not convinced that’s true.

Let’s be clear

  1. I am NOT a monolingualist. I neither advocate nor support efforts towards ‘one language’, English only, or related endeavors.
  2. I believe language diversity and multilingualism are good.
  3. I believe in describing as many languages as possible and I support descriptive field linguists.

First Answers

Well, I posed these questions below, so it's only fair I pose some possible answers too. These are my first impressions:

  1. Is language death a separate phenomenon from language change?
In terms of linguistic effect, I suspect not
  1. Are there any favorable outcomes of language death?
I suspect, yes
  1. How do current rates of language death compare with historical rates?
Nearly impossible to tell
  1. What is the role of linguists wrt language death?
One might ask: what is the role of mechanics wrt global warming?

UPDATE: post with original questions here. Additional response to David Crystal here.

Poor Juxtaposition

The large Northeast university at which I am a "long term" graduate student, recently posted this title on its "Weekly Student Affairs Survey"

"1 in 4, what do you know about sexual assault/rape? (tell us now and win!)"

It immediately struck me as poor juxtaposition to place the rather tacky "tell us now and win!" right after a question about such a serious topic.

Poser Responds!

At 3:47pm yesterday (Sept 21), Bill Poser over at Language Log posted this interesting claim: "The rate of language loss has accelerated as communication and travel have become more rapid and efficient, but the phenomenon is far from new."

14 minutes earlier, at 3:33pm (same day), The Lousy Linguist (uh, me) posted this question: "How do current rates of language death compare with historical rates?"

It's doubtful that Poser was directly answering me (but The Lousy Linguist can dream...), but it does seem to directly answer the question. Unfortunately, no supporting evidence for the claim is offered, and there's the rub. As Crystal is quick to point out, rates of contemporary language death are very difficult to determine (in fact, he refers to the attempts as "well-informed guesswork", p15 of the PDF).

And as I was even quicker to point out "surely it must be even MORE difficult to estimate historical rates".

In the one chapter of Crystal's book that I have so far read, he opts for the position that 50% of the world's languages will be "lost" in the next 100 years. I have no reason not to accept this as fair. But I don't know how this compares with the past (it seems intuitive that this is far faster than historical rates, but honestly, I have only vague intuition to go on here, and no one else seems to have anything better). And, of course (insert broken record here) we have yet to tackle the truly important question of what linguistic effect this loss has.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Language Death and Tough Questions

As promised, I've been following up on the contentious issue of language death, and I'm beginning to formulate a research direction. I'm noticing a clear bias among those who champion the fight against language death: they all assume its bad. Over the last few days I've developed a few foundational questions that I feel are being overlooked. Question #2 is one of these paradigm shifters, so watch out!

My current research questions regarding language death:

  1. Is language death a separate phenomenon from language change?
  2. Is language death good? (or, less caustically: are there any favorable outcomes of language death?)
  3. How do current rates of language death compare with historical rates?
  4. What is the role of linguists wrt language death?

Here’s an attempt at first principles regarding language death

  1. language change is natural
  2. language change is a basic part of how language works
  3. language change is good
  4. language death is natural
  5. ???

I resist taking this further … for now. But I suspect that there is an analogous argument to be made for language death (or, perhaps more likely, that language death is not a separate phenomenon from language change, and analyzing it as separate clouds the important issues that linguists need to study).

In the last two days, I’ve had a brief opportunity to read up on language death, and it appears that David Crystal is one of the world’s leading figures championing the fight against language death. I’ve just read a sample of Crystal’s book Language Death (Cambridge University Press: 2000). There is a PDF of the first 23 pages of the first chapter What Is Language Death freely available via Cambridge Press online. The second chapter appears to begin just a few pages later, so it’s not clear why the PDF was cut short (or, if the chapter really ends as abruptly as the PDF), but it’s not a significant deletion, and the point is quite clear. Language death is rampant, regardless of how or what you count.

My general impression of the Crystal chapter: The mission of the first chapter, as its title implies, is to establish the facts of language death, and it does an admirable job with this task. Unfortunately, this is beside the point for me. I have no reason to debate the FACT of language death; rather I want to debate the alleged PROBLEM of language death. I consider the fact of language death and the problem of language death to be two different things. I look forward to reading Crystal’s second chapter Why Should We Care? and the third chapter Why Do languages Die? These should address my central questions more directly.

Here are what I consider to be the highlights of Crystal’s chapter 1:

  1. Language death is like person death because languages need people to exist
  2. Language death = no one speaks it anymore
  3. Language needs 2 speakers to be “alive”
  4. Speakers are “archives” of language
  5. A dead language with no record = never existed
  6. Ethnologue lists about 6,300 living languages
  7. Difficult estimating rate of language loss
  8. Almost half of Ethnologue languages don’t even have surveys (let alone descriptions)
  9. Difficulties in establishing relationship between dialects
  10. Crystal accepts mutual intelligibility criteria as definition of language (Quechua = 12 diff languages)
  11. Crystal accepts 5k-7k as range of # of languages
  12. Footnote 19 = maybe 31,000-600,000 languages ever existed; 140,000 reasonable “middle road” estimate
  13. A language must have fluent living speakers to be “alive”
  14. How many speakers to be viable -- Unclear
  15. 10,000 – 20k speakers suggests viability in the short term
  16. 96% of world population speaks just 4% of the existing languages
  17. 500 languages have less than 100 speakers
  18. 1500 less than 1000
  19. 3,340 less than 10,000
  20. Therefore, about 4k languages are in danger of death
  21. Difficult to estimate current rate of death (me: surely it must be even MORE difficult to estimate historical rates)
  22. Canadian survey = appears to be a downward trend in aboriginal languages spoken at home
  23. Teen years seems to be when people begin to dis-favor their home language
  24. Experts agree – majority of world languages are in danger in next 100 years
  25. How to determine which languages are “more” endangered than others
Okay, that's where I am now. I hope to review Crystal's chapters 2 & 3 and respond this weekend.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Heavy Weights Weigh In .. or do they?

Well, Eric Bakovic over at Language Log brings up language death today, and seems to at least implicitly support Harrison's view that language death is somehow inherently bad, a position I rejected in my earlier post and a position that The Language Guy also challenges (see my previous post for link). However, the Bakovic post is remarkably devoid of any explicit claims about language death; rather it simply links to a variety of resources.

Since Language Log is ostensibly the world's most respectable linguistics blog, boasting such regular contributors as Zwicky, Liberman, Partee, and Nunberg (all far superior linguists to me), its postings on language death (and all linguistic phenomena for that matter) are likely to be taken as conventional wisdom within the field. But here's the thing, linguistics has a bad history with conventional wisdom. My chosen field has a 40 year history of failed theories. And I suspect the very emotionally charged issue of language death is another example of bad conventional wisdom within the linguistics community.

It's not clear to me at this stage what positions the other Language Log contributors take on language death, so I will take some time this weekend to review their archives and see if they have previous posts discussing it.

For now, I repeat my earlier assertion that there is nothing inherently wrong with language death, and I promise to follow-up with more substance this weekend after some thoughtful review of the literature.

Spot On

The Language Guy echoes my sentiments about language death pretty closely here. I wonder if he reads me?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Language Death vs. Language Murder

Today, The Huffington post linked to an article about language death titled "Researchers Say Many Languages Are Dying" and I feel compelled to give my two cents. As a caveat, I should say that I do not have special training in anthropological linguistics or socio-linguistics, beyond what everyone who does a PhD at a functionalism-biased linguistics department is required to undergo. I will spend the next few days looking into this topic, as it causes passions to flare. I will start with a "gut reaction" post, with the hopes of adding more substance in the coming days.

My two cents = I don't think there is anything inherently "wrong" with the death of a language, just like I don't think there is anything inherently wrong with the death of a certain species or a certain person. I believe it's true that most species of living things that have ever existed are currently extinct. This is probably also true of languages. Extinction is natural.

The HuffPo article quoted professor K. David Harrison, an assistant professor of linguistics at Swarthmore College, as saying this: "When we lose a language, we lose centuries of human thinking about time, seasons, sea creatures, reindeer, edible flowers, mathematics, landscapes, myths, music, the unknown and the everyday."

My gut reaction is that this is an overly bold claim and ought to be scaled back. I think calling this a "loss" is probably the wrong way to analyze the change that occurs with language death. But even if it were true, such loss is inevitable, and not necessarily bad. Think of it this way, when a person dies, we "lose" the lifetime of experience and knowledge that she held. This is sad, surely, but also natural and we accept it.

It seems to me that feeling sad or angry over language death conflates the death with murder. It's language murder that ought to be the stopped. Language murder is probably the result of specific policy decisions that governments make regarding education, published materials, and public discourse. Language death is natural. Language murder is intentional and rational.

More later. The HuffPo article is here:

Thursday, September 6, 2007

On chicken pecks and why "8" is the only number that gets used to replace a syllabic rime.

I've noticed that, in the context of email and online slang/abbreviations, the character "8" is the only number or character that gets used to replace a phonological rime (a nucleus plus a coda). Most other replacements either replace whole syllables, or just consonant clusters.

For example (from Wikipedia's "List of Internet slang phrases")
2L8 -- too late
GR8 -- great
H8 — Hate
L8R — Later (sometimes abbreviated to L8ER)
M8 — Mate
sk8/sk8r — skate/skater
W8 — Wait

The numbers "2" and "4" can replace whole words:
2U2 — To you too
G2G — 'Got to go' or 'Good to go
L2P — Learn to play
N2M — Not(hing) too much
N2B — Not too bad
P2P — Peer to peer
T4P - Tell for people

Here is an example of each character replacing a whole syllable:
NE1 — "Anyone" =

"X" replaces a consonant cluster in a few cases, but not the nuclei of the rime:
KTHX — OK, thanks
TH(N)X, TNX or TX — Thanks

Why is "8" the only number that gets used to replace a whole rime (a nucleus plus a coda)? My guess is that it's because, of the 13 basic number names in English, only two begin with a vowel ("8" and "11"). The name for "11" is itself 3 syllables long, so it's out as a candidate. The name for "8" is the only single syllable number name that starts with a vowel. So it's the only one that is eligible for replacing a rime.

English Number names

So, the constraints on using characters to replace a rime are 1) must be pronounced as a single syllable and 2) start with a vowel. How many keyboard characters meet these two criteria? Letter names = 2. If we tried to use them to replace rimes, would the usage catch on?

"F" and "X" are the only letter names that follows the VC(C) pattern of "8", so "x" it could be used to replace "-ecks/-eks" for example, but how many words end in that?

Here's a valiant try:
chicken pecks -- chicken pX??

Presumably "@" could replace any "-at" rime and maybe (stretching here) just maybe you could get "&" to replace "-and". Do people do either?
cat = c@
sat = s@
flat = fl@
sand = s&
land = l&

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

TV Linguistics - and the fictional Princeton Linguistics department

 [reposted from 11/20/10] I spent Thursday night on a plane so I missed 30 Rock and the most linguistics oriented sit-com episode since ...