Garrison Keillor is not a philosophical genius

Garrison Keillor is some guy who’s mildly famous for an NPR radio show that I think I might have heard half an episode of when I was eight. From what little of it I recall, it was approximately the most Midwestern thing in the world: half of the jokes sounded like Mr. Rogers calmly explaining, to a live audience of kindergarteners, Jonathan Edwards’ theology as developed in Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, and the other half had something to do with polka.

Needless to say, Garrison Keillor does not like Donald Trump. The reason, presumably, is that Garrison Keillor—who, incidentally, I never would have pictured as looking like a mad scientist’s first attempt at merging Boris Johnson into Tricky Dick, but here we are—is from the Midwest, and Donald Trump is from Manhattan. These two cultures are as different as the Finns, who I’m reliably informed speak an average of three words, all of which are “perkele”, in their lives, and the culture of the fellow who came up to me while I was buying a donut one morning last week and excitedly explained for half an hour that I ought to grow dreadlocks.

After spending two whole paragraphs casting stones about Donald Trump’s hair from his glass house somewhere on the shore of one of those lakes, Boris Nixon—sorry, Garrison Keillor—cuts straight to the heart of his criticism of the East Coast—sorry, Republican—nominee: he had, apparently, the wrong response to the small incident in Orlando where some loser from Cousinfuckistan pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and went Adam Lanza Jihad on a gay club.

After the worst mass shooting in American history on Sunday, 50 persons dead in Orlando, the bodies still being carted from the building, the faces of horror-stricken cops and EMTs on TV, the gentleman issued a statement on Twitter thanking his followers for their congratulations, that the tragedy showed that he had been “right” in calling for America to get “tough.” …

His response to the Orlando tragedy is one more clue that this election is different from any other. If Mitt Romney or John McCain had been elected president, you might be disappointed but you wouldn’t fear for the fate of the Republic. This time, the Republican Party is nominating a man who resides in the dark depths. He is a thug and he doesn’t bother to hide it.

Maybe this obsession with appearance is attractive to whatever audience out there it is that’s kept a show about polka on NPR for thirty years, but I, born and raised where maintaining a good appearance begins and ends with trying not to sweat one’s clothes into a dripping formless heap immediately upon stepping outside into the malarial atmosphere of a land that God never intended for man to inhabit, can’t see the point. If we must have politicians, isn’t it better to have politicians who can solve problems (on the rare occasion that the problems are real and can be solved) than politicians who can act all sad about them for the cameras before going off and doing nothing? The president is the Big Celebrity of the West, the one person in the world who can get more airtime than Kim Kardashian; but the president is also the man responsible for appointing people to the parts of government that appoint people who actually do things, and therefore the man responsible (albeit at a distance) for determining whether it’s legal to, for example, have borders—and this seems more important (not that I or any of you have any way to possibly influence the outcome of any election ever) than the former role, especially since the government could just crown Kim Kardashian Queen of America, and then, so as not to violate the human rights of the American people, hand out free cyanide pills to anyone who would want one in such a scenario, i.e. 99% of the population.

But—he also says that Trump is unduly obsessed with appearance.

We had a dozen or so ducktails in my high school class and they were all about looks.

What gives? Is Donald Trump, a “ducktail” according to world-renowned hairstylist Brick Jixon—sorry, Garrison Keillor—all about looks, or is he not about looks enough?

One can only conclude that people who became mildly famous for running radio shows about polka are not guaranteed to be philosophical geniuses.

Oh well, at least he offended some Unitarians once.

 

Advertisements

The Ford Foundation New Voices Fellowship

The Ford Foundation was a deep state front in the ’50s and ’60s. What is it up to now? Well, it has something called the ‘New Voices Fellowship’. Here are a few Ford Foundation New Voices Fellows.

1. Christine Ahn (@christineahn), a pro-North Korea propagandist:

Ahn has long led a group called the “Korea Solidarity Committee,” or KSC, which describes itself as “a group of progressive Korean American activists, students and artists” in the San Francisco Bay Area, who were inspired by “a desire to debunk the racist portrayals of North Korea, and present a more critical perspective on the continuing North Korean nuclear crisis.” I don’t know if Ahn calls herself a Communist or not, but she is on sisterly terms with Judith LeBlanc, a former Vice-Chair of the Communist Party, USA, a legacy Stalinist rump faction led for years by Gus Hall. …

Ahn opposed human rights legislation for North Korea that funded broadcasting to North Korea, and that provided for aid and asylum for North Korean refugees, calling it an effort “by hawkish conservatives and Christian fundamentalists with the intention of bringing regime change in North Korea.” (As if that would be a bad thing.) …

On at least two separate occasions, Ahn has referred to North Korea’s “alleged” sinking of the ROKS Cheonan, an attack that killed 44 South Korean sailors, despite the findings of an international investigation team that a North Korean submarine torpedoed the ship. This was almost certainly a nod to a conspiracy industry that grew up in left-wing South Korean circles that were in denial after the attack. If Ahn has ever acknowledged North Korea’s responsibility for the attack, I can’t find where she ever has. (Update: In this tweet, Ahn expressed support for conspiracy theories denying North Korea’s responsibility for the attack.) …

Ahn decries “the assumption that the famine in North Korea was a result of Chief of State Kim Jong Il’s mismanagement of the country,” and assails “attributing the cause of North Korea’s famine to an ‘evil dictator.’” Ahn blames the famine on a combination of the collapse of the U.S.S.R., “droughts and floods that . . . destroyed much of the harvest,” and “economic sanctions led by the U.S. and its refusal to end the 50-year Korean War.” Ahn never acknowledges that throughout much of the famine, the U.S. was the largest donor to food aid programs in North Korea, or that North Korean authorities diverted much of the aid and manipulated aid workers into distributing it on the basis of political caste, rather than humanitarian need. As for the droughts and floods, those have struck North Korea for 25 consecutive years now, hardly ever crossing the DMZ and never causing a famine in South Korea. For some reason.

Whether there is still famine in North Korea on a smaller scale or not, many people there are still malnourished, and the World Food Program is still appealing for aid. In a 2010 op-ed, Ahn again blamed American sanctions, which at the time were narrowly targeted at North Korean entities linked to proliferation, for restricting Pyongyang’s “ability to purchase the materials it needs to meet the basic food, healthcare, sanitation and educational needs of its people.” Yet according to the economist Marcus Noland, North Korea’s food gap “could be closed for something on the order of $8 million to $19 million — less than two-tenths of one percent of national income or one percent of the military budget.”

Meanwhile, under Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s (known) annual spending on luxury goods has skyrocketed to over $600 million a year.

2. Purvi Shah (@leftinmiami)

Purvi Shah is the Bertha Justice Institute Director at the Center for Constitutional Rights. As the Director of CCR’s new training institute, her work focuses on deepening the theory and practice of movement lawyering across the United States and the world. Through the Institute, Purvi supports lawyers at every stage in their careers – as students, emerging lawyers, and senior lawyers – to both develop a deeper understanding of the connections between law and social change and to gain the practical skills and expertise to be effective advocates. Purvi’s current projects include designing CCR’s internship and post-graduate fellowship programs, including the Ella Baker Program; publishing educational resources and training materials on the theory and practice of movement lawyering; designing and facilitating national and international conferences, trainings, and CLEs; and building national and international networks to increase collaboration, innovation, and strategic thinking within the progressive legal sector. Most recent, she co-founded the Ferguson Legal Defense Committee—a national network of lawyers working to support the Ferguson movement and the growing national #BlackLivesMatter movement. Prior to coming to the Center for Constitutional Rights, Purvi spent a decade working as a litigator, law professor, and community organizer. At the Community Justice Project at Florida Legal Services – a project she co-founded and started – she litigated on behalf of taxi drivers, tenants, public housing residents, and immigrants in a variety of class actions and affirmative damages litigation. She was an adjunct clinical professor at the University of Miami School of Law, where she co-founded the Community Lawyering Clinic. She graduated from Northwestern University and the Berkeley School of Law at the University of California. Her honors and awards include the Ford Foundation’s New Voices Fellowship, the ACLU of Florida Rodney Thaxton Award for Racial Justice, and the Miami Foundation’s 2009 Miami Fellowship. Her work has been featured on MSNBC and in The Nation.

In September 2015, Shah gave a talk at Harvard:

Come hear Purvi Shah, Director, Bertha Justice Institute, Center for Constitutional Rights, discuss movement lawyering, why lawyers matter and what students can do to support the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Co-sponsored with BLSA, Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice, Criminal Justice Program of Study, Research and Advocacy, Systemic Justice Project, Criminal Justice Institute, Law and Social Change Program of Study, Students for Inclusion, and Lambda. Non-pizza lunch will be provided.

Purvi Shah is the Bertha Justice Institute Director at the Center for Constitutional Rights. As the Director of CCR’s new training institute, her work focuses on deepening the theory and practice of movement lawyering across the United States and the world. Through the Institute, Purvi supports lawyers at every stage in their careers – as students, emerging lawyers, and senior lawyers – to both develop a deeper understanding of the connections between law and social change and to gain the practical skills and expertise to be effective advocates. Purvi’s current projects include designing CCR’s internship and post-graduate fellowship programs, including the Ella Baker Program; publishing educational resources and training materials on the theory and practice of movement lawyering; designing and facilitating national and international conferences, trainings, and CLEs; and building national and international networks to increase collaboration, innovation, and strategic thinking within the progressive legal sector. Most recent, she co-founded the Ferguson Legal Defense Committee—a national network of lawyers working to support the Ferguson movement and the growing national #BlackLivesMatter movement.
Prior to coming to the Center for Constitutional Rights, Purvi spent a decade working as a litigator, law professor, and community organizer. At the Community Justice Project at Florida Legal Services – a project she co-founded and started – she litigated on behalf of taxi drivers, tenants, public housing residents, and immigrants in a variety of class actions and affirmative damages litigation. She was an adjunct clinical professor at the University of Miami School of Law, where she co-founded the Community Lawyering Clinic. She graduated from Northwestern University and the Berkeley School of Law at the University of California. Her honors and awards include the Ford Foundation’s New Voices Fellowship, the ACLU of Florida Rodney Thaxton Award for Racial Justice, and the Miami Foundation’s 2009 Miami Fellowship. Her work has been featured on MSNBC and in The Nation.

3. Christopher Punongbayan, executive director of the San Francisco pressure group Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus, former ‘advocacy director’ of Filipinos For Affirmative Action, and (apparently) certified yoga instructor

Instead of hoops and hurdles, what the 12 million undocumented people living in the United States need are fair reforms that recognize the positive contributions millions of immigrants — undocumented or otherwise — have on the United States.

Legalization must be offered equally to immigrants across the board. Employer sanctions, which make it illegal for undocumented immigrants to hold gainful employment, need to be eliminated. And criminalization of immigrants and heavy-handed enforcement measures must be rejected.

When Congress returns from recess, it must get back to work and resolve this debate by passing a legalization program that upholds the rights of all.

Christopher Punongbayan is advocacy director at Filipinos For Affirmative Action, and a current Ford Foundation New Voices Fellow. He can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

4. Sushma Sheth (@sushmachete)

Sushma Sheth MBA MPA is a manager with Accenture Strategy focused on organizational and talent challenges facing the private and social sectors. Her clients include pharmaceutical firms, consumer product companies, multilateral organizations, and government agencies across the Unites States, Europe, and Latin America. She recently co-authored the publication, “Are you the weakest link? Strengthening you talent supply chain”.

Outside management consulting, Sushma partners with social justice organizations addressing challenges of the evolving digital global economy.  She serves as Organizing Ventures Advisor to New Virginia Majority, representing small business owners, low-wage workers, and immigrant families in Northern Virginia. Sushma also serves as Advisor to Fair Care Labs, the innovation arm of the National Domestic Workers Alliance.  The lab recently launched the Good Work Code, eight values for good work in the online economy featured in Fast Company and CNN Money.

Sushma served on the teaching team for Exercising Leadership: The Politics of Change with Professor Ron Heifetz in 2011 as well as joined Kim Leary PhD MPA and Professor Heifetz for the White House Youth Leadership and Policy Hackathon in the summer of 2015.

Originally from Miami, Florida, Sushma is the first-born daughter of Indian immigrants and grocery store owners. Prior to graduate study, Sushma co-founded the Miami Workers Center and served as Director of Programs from 2001-2008. She was named Miami’s 25 Power Women in 2005, Ford Foundation New Voices Fellow in 2002, Miami Foundation Fellow in 2007, and recipient of Robert Thaxton ACLU Award for Racial Justice in 2008. Sushma holds a MBA from Kellogg School of Management and MPA from Harvard Kennedy School as a Paul and Daisy Soros New American Fellow and Harvard Center for Public Leadership Emerging Leader Dubin Fellow. She earned her BA in Community Development Studies from Brown University in 2001.

You’ve got to wonder about an MBA at Accenture Strategy who puts this much effort into posturing as a Maoist.

5. Debanuj DasGupta

Debanuj DasGupta is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and the South Asia Studies Initiative at the Ohio State University. His research interests are broadly related to the intensification of neoliberalism and bio-politics in contemporary United States and India. Debanuj’s dissertation is titled “Racial Regulations and Queer Claims to Livable Lives.” His dissertation analyzes immigration regulation related to HIV/AIDS, transgender asylum, and the formation of racialized queer migrant subjectivity within the past two decades in the US. Debanuj maintains a strong secondary research interest in the relationships between Hindutva, neoliberalism, and sexuality politics in India. He currently holds a Graduate Administrative Associate position with the Morrill Scholars Program at the Office of Diversity Inclusion. In this capacity Debanuj is responsible for creating social-justice related academic enrichment programs for the largest diversity leadership program in the country. He is actively engaged in university governance and serves as the Chair of the Diversity & Inclusion Committee for the Council of Graduate Students. Debanuj is the graduate student representative on the University Senate Diversity Committee.

He has worked for over 16 years across two continents in the “civil society sector.” In 1994 Debanuj founded the first HIV prevention program for men-who-have-sex-with-men in Kolkata, India. His work in the US has largely been within the environmental rights, sexual rights and immigrant rights movements. Debanuj has received numerous grants, awards and fellowships notably the Association of American Geographers T.J.Reynolds Award for Disability Studies (2013 & 2012), The Space, Sexualities, and Queer Research Group of the Royal Geographic Society-Institute of British Geographers Scholarship towards attending RGS-IBG ( 2012), Arts & Humanities Graduate Research Small Grant from the Ohio State University (2011), Ford Foundation / Academy for Educational Development funded New Voices Fellowship (2006), The British Department for International Development-West Bengal Sexual Health Project Multi-Year Award (1995-1998), Graduate Research Fellowships from the University of Akron (1996-1998), and The International AIDS Society Fellowships for Emerging Activists (1996). Debanuj holds a B.A. in Sociology (HONS) from Presidency College, Kolkata (now the Presidency Autonomous University), and an MA in Geography & Urban Planning from the University of Akron, OH. Debanuj’s work has been published in the Disability Studies Quarterly, Contemporary South Asia, the Scholar & Feminist Online, South Asian Magazine for Action and Reflection (SAMAR), make/shift, and the WhiteCrane Journal.

Areas of Expertise:
* Global Philanthropy
* Transnational Feminist & Sexuality Studies
* Race & Queer theory
* Space and Subjectivity
* Women of Color Philosophers
* South Asian Languages and Literature
* Activism and the Academy

 

Here’s his academia.edu profile. His shtick is something about “queering immigration”.

 

 

Reanalyzing the English vowel system

I thought I’d already written this post, but if I have, I can’t find it.

Traditionally, American English is analyzed as having eleven or twelve monophthongs, /æ ɑ ɛ ʌ ɔ e o ɪ ʊ i u/ + /ɚ/, and three diphthongs, /ai au oi/; but there’s a common dialectal feature that are difficult to explain in this analysis.

This process is l-breaking: after /e i ai oi/, /l/ breaks to /(j)əl/—so the words palepeelpile, and boil all have two syllables. L-breaking occurs sporadically after /au/—for me, howl has one syllable and owl has two—and some speakers have it after /u/, so school has two syllables for them.

In the traditional analysis, /e i ai oi/ don’t form a natural class. They’re all front vowels, and they’re all front ‘long vowels’, but what are long vowels really? Certainly not phonemically long; nobody believes that the contrast between /ɛ/ and /e/—or, worse, /ɛ/ and /i/—is one of length. It would be possible to posit a ‘long vowel’ category that only makes sense diachronically, if not for the fact that l-breaking also occurs after Vr sequences. 

The only Vr sequence (other than the rhotic vowel, which doesn’t trigger l-breaking) that occurs before /l/ in common English is /ar/, about which see here. (It’s sporadic in that show, but it can occur.) /erl/ can occur in some foreign surnames, and in my experience, it’s always pronounced with two syllables. I don’t know of any examples of /irl/ or /orl/.

How can /e i ai oi ar er/ (and maybe /ir or/, and sometimes /au/ and /u/) form a natural class? The answer is simple: phonetically, /e i ai oi au u/ are all diphthongs. (/o/ is also phonetically a diphthong [əu], but it has an allophone [o] that appears before /l/; [o] is in fact marginally phonemic for some speakers, since it occurs irregularly in a few words, like both, which can be seen misspelled bolth.) This suggests that Vr sequences should also be analyzed as diphthongs. The choice of symbol is somewhat arbitrary (although monophthongized /ai/ contrasts with both [æ] and [ɑ])—but in this analysis, American English has eight monophthongs, /æ ɑ ɛ ʌ ɔ ɪ ʊ ɚ/; four i-diphthongs, /ai ei oi ɪi/; three u-diphthongs, /æu əu ʊu/; and four ɚ-diphthongs, /aɚ eɚ oɚ iɚ/.

This analysis also explains some of the phonetic drift in some dialects: the first components of /əu ʊu/ front because there are no diphthongs like /eu iu/ for them to contrast with, and the first components of /oi oɚ/ raise for similar reasons.

A similar analysis of British English is here.

“Do what you love!”

Does anybody else think it’s bizarre that the vision of self-actualization as becoming able to pour your entire creative output into capitalism is so popular these days?

Who’s more ‘self-actualized’: a programmer, nonprofit employee, etc. whose entire life and productive output revolves around his day job, or Philip Glass when he had a day job at a moving company?

And who has an interest in promoting the first vision over the second?

Person-marking in Tangut

Guillaume Jacques has a new paper out on the subject of the Proto-Sino-Tibetan person-marking debate, a subject which I’ve been meaning to run a series on for some time. To summarize, the question of the PST person-marking debate is whether such a thing existed. Sino-Tibetan historical linguistics is not as complete as Indo-European historical linguistics, which over the course of about a hundred and fifty years progressed toward its current metastable state, where everybody is pretty sure that the current consensus reconstruction of Proto-Indo-European must be wrong on a fundamental level but nobody has any idea how to fix it. In fact, the internal cladistic structure of Sino-Tibetan is still controversial.

As it would be. The most potentially conservative morphology is found in the Rgyalrongic (also known as rGyalrong, Gyalrong, Gyarong, Jiarong, etc., a state of affairs that’s still better than that of its constituents: could you guess that Lavrung and Khroskyabs are the same language?) and Kiranti branches, which LaPolla, the main proponent of the view that PST had no verbal person-marking, says are related at a more recent level (the ‘Rung group’), and which Jacques, the main proponent of the view that it did, says are not. If PST had verbal person-marking, Rungic probably isn’t real; if Rungic is real, PST probably didn’t have verbal person-marking; if PST didn’t have verbal person-marking, Rungic probably is real; and if Rungic is real, PST probably didn’t have verbal person-marking.

Most of the evidence bearing on the debate comes from Rgyalrongic and Kiranti, but some comes from Tangut, Old Tibetan, and Old Chinese.

In Tangut, the person-marking suffixes are identical to the pronouns: the first-person singular pronoun and the first-person singular marker are both nga2, the second-person singular pronoun and the second-person singular marker are both nja2, and the second-person plural pronoun and the first- or second-person plural marker are both nji2Nga2 and nga2 are even written with the same character, although the other person markers have characters distinct from the pronouns.

However, the second-person plural pronoun nji2 can be used as an honorific singular, as in Old Tibetan and Early Modern English—in which case the verb takes the second-person singular marker nja2. If, that is, the verb is intransitive or has a third-person object: Tangut, you see, does not have accusative verbal person-marking.

If a Tangut verb is intransitive, it agrees with the agent of the verb. If it’s transitive and has a second-person patient (in which case it can’t have a second-person agent), it takes -nja2; if the patient is first-person, it takes -nga2, and if the patient is third-person, it takes –nga2 if the agent is first-person singular, -nja2 if the patient is second-person singular, and -nji2 if the patient is first- or second-person plural. (Third-person arguments are never marked.)

Even more confusingly (and more interestingly for our purposes), there’s a closed class of verbs in Tangut that have two stems, which of course are called Stem A and Stem B. Stem B is only used for first- or second-person singular reflexive verbs or verbs with a first- or second-person singular agent and a third-person patient. For example:

sjij1 mjo2 gja1 .jij1 rjyr2.wjij1 ljij2 mjy1djij2 lhjwo1djij2 mjy1tchjy1lji2nga2
“Today I see the army leave, but I will not see it return.”

.jwar1 gja1 ghu1 .jij1 ljiij2 lja1 zji.j1 kjij1ljij2nga2
“When the Yue army comes to destroy Wu, it will see me.”

This doesn’t look like a difference—in fact, in the conventional transcription of Tangut (which I’ve ASCIIfied slightly), with its bizarre and unnecessary proliferation of js, it looks like a typo—but the conventional transcription of Tangut is thankfully always accompanied by character numbers, which in this case are 4803 for the stem A lji2 and 0046 for the stem B ljij2; and Marc Miyake once reconstructed them as the more sensible 2lɨi and 2le. (He writes the tone before the syllable.)

This state of affairs must be conservative to some degree, but nobody knows where it came from.

The New York Times (again)

June 14:

nyt-ar15-1

June 18:

nyt-ar15-2

The New York Times

Rising amid the international grief is the aching and obvious question of why. But the short life of Mr. Mateen, who was 29, provides no easy road map to motivation.

He had shown occasional flashes of interest in radical Islam, enough to be investigated twice by the F.B.I. in recent years for possible extremist ties.

But

(source)

Phonemic analysis is hard, let’s go shopping

Alexis Michaud’s phonology of Laze makes the unusual decision of providing a syllable chart instead of a phoneme inventory.

As it turns out, this is a sensible decision. A phonemic analysis of Laze, an account of its contrastive consonants and vowels (or, in the more applicable Sinitic tradition, onsets and rhymes) is difficult to produce, for the following reasons:

1) There are eleven possible syllables with nasal rhymes, of which eight begin with /h/ and three have a null initial: [hwã hɑ̃ hæ̃ hṽ̩ hũ hwɤ̃ hĩ hĩe æ̃ ṽ̩ ɔ̃]. The first eight can be analyzed as beginning with a nasal glottal fricative /h̃/, but the last three cannot. The rhymes and -ɔ can’t take a null initial, so [æ̃ ɔ̃] could be analyzed as /æ ɔ/—but [ṽ̩] contrasts with [v̩]. Michaud proposes to analyze these as h- or the null initial combined with nasal rhymes -wã -ɑ̃ -æ̃ -ṽ̩ -ũ -wɤ̃ -ĩ -ĩe -ɔ̃, under which analysis Laze would have six rhymes that can only occur after /h/, two that can only occur after /h ∅/ (∅ is the null initial, not to be confused with ø, the letter O WITH STROKE), and one that can only occur after /ø/.

It’s unclear from Michaud’s paper, but these last three syllables may be hapax phonoumena: he gives one example for [æ̃], two for [ṽ̩], and four for [ɔ̃], of which two are “likely Pumi/Prinmi loanwords”.

2) The initial [f] can only appear in native vocabulary before the rhymes [i] and [v̩]. [f] doesn’t contrast with [h] before [v̩], but it does before [i].

3) The alveolopalatal affricates [tɕʰ tɕ dʑ] appear to be allophones of the velars before front vowels or rhymes beginning with -j-; but in one word, [wɤ11mie11tɕɔ11ɭɔ55] ‘cicada’, an alveolopalatal affricate appears before a back vowel, probably due to Laze’s process of sporadic vowel copying. (Cf. [ʂieliemie] ‘seventh month’, from [ʂɯ] ‘seven’ + [ɬiemie] ‘month’.) There is no other -jɔ rhyme anywhere in Laze. Either /tɕ/ or /jɔ/ must be granted phonemicity to deal with this word.

4) The rhyme [e] can only appear after /s z tsʰ ts dz/, and “could actually be said to be in complementary distribution with any of the following rhymes: /ɤ/, /wɤ/, /ɹ̩/, /jæ/, /jɤ/, /jɑ/, /ɔ/, /ie/, /wæ/, /wɑ/, and even /æ/.” This is for diachronic reasons: *-a raised to -e after coronal initials and nowhere else, and there is no other source of -e. Michaud proposes that, since -wɤ is sometimes realized as close to [we], [e] could be an allophone of /ɤ/.

5) The rhyme [ɥe] appears in only two syllables, [ɮɥe] and [tɕɥe], each of which appears in only one word. [ɮɥe11] ‘wood ashes’ is likely a loan.  [tɕɥe55] “may likewise call for a special explanation, but so far we have not been able to clarify this point.” Michaud proposes to treat [ɥe] as an allophone of [wɤ], but [wɤ] can only appear after the null initial, /h/, velars, and retroflexes.

6) The uvular plosive initials [qʰ q] are in complementary distribution with the velars [kʰ k], only occurring before [ɑ wa æ ɔ], where [kʰ k] do not. However, there are syllables [kʰu ku], and [u] and [ɔ] only contrast in the syllable pairs [hu xɔ], [kʰu qʰɔ], [ku qɔ], [ɮu ɭɔ], and [bu bɔ]—and [bɔ] can only appear as a product of vowel harmony. (Possibly only in [bɔ33ɭɔ55] ‘fly’.) In fact, these and [ʁɔ] (and [ɔ̃] and [tɕɔ]) are the only syllables that [ɔ] can appear in.

The uvulars could be analyzed as allophones of the velars before low vowels, but there’s also a uvular fricative [ʁ], which appears in almost-complementary distribution with [g]: [ʁ] can only appear before [ɑ æ wæ wɑ ɔ] (no other velars or uvulars can appear before [wæ]), but, due to vowel harmony, [g] can appear before [ɑ] and [wæ].

7) Retroflex and alveolar plosives only contrast before [v̩].

8) The retroflex lateral [ɭ] only appears before the marginal phoneme [ɔ]. In the closely related Naxi language, the syllable [ɭɔ] is analyzed as /lo/, since retroflexes and alveolars only contrast before /o/; but Laze has no /o/, and [ɔ] is marginal. Michaud proposes to recognize /ɔ/ as a phoneme and analyze this syllable as /lɔ/, creating a final that can only appear after x-, uvulars, b- (due to vowel harmony), and l-.

9) The distribution of most segments is severely restricted. v-, for example, can only appear before three (possibly four) rhymes, and -wɑ can only appear after seven initials.

The American experiment

Noah Smith says: “The Trump thesis is, basically, that the American experiment is over.”

What is this American experiment? Well, there are two. The first is the post-secession experiment in governance. This experiment ended in failure almost immediately, was replaced with a new one, and whatever else you might think about that government, it’s now one of the oldest on Earth.

The second, and the one Noah Smith is talking about, is the bizarre ideological innovation that the United States of America is a “nation of immigrants, where ideals and institutions matter more than race or religion.” Google Ngrams can tell you that this mutation is recent: the phrase “nation of immigrants” is essentially unused until the 20th century and only takes off in the ’60s.

In 1958, John F. Kennedy, then a senator, wrote a booklet called A Nation of Immigrants “for the One Na­tion Library series of the Anti­Defamation League of B’nai B’rith”. He “at­tacked the national origins quota system as discriminatory and called for a generous, fair and flexible policy”. Kennedy lobbied for mass immigration until Lee Harvey Oswald, a Communist active in pro-Castro groups, shot him dead, possibly over the issue of Cuba. Two years later, the 1965 Immigration Act was proposed by Emanuel Celler, a pro-mass immigration ideologue from New York, and Philip Hart, the son of a banker, and helped along by Ted Kennedy.

Before 1965, the American population was 85.4% non-Hispanic white and 10.5% black. Most of America’s white population came from Western and Central Europe, especially the Germanic countries. There were some Irishmen and Italians in addition to the Englishmen, Germans, and Scandinavians, but this was no rainbow nation, nor had it ever been one.

In the early 1960s, the successful efforts of people like Theodore Roosevelt to end hyphenated-Americanism had largely succeeded. (Was Theodore Roosevelt anti-American? Apparently. Who knew.) Hyphenation was especially dead among the Germans, the largest ethnic minority at the time, partially as a result of America’s two wars against Germany; and especially not dead among the Irish, many of whom passed the hat in the pubs for the IRA. Maybe a few wars against Ireland would’ve helped, but if they hadn’t assimilated enough not to fund foreign terrorist groups…

These days, a lot of people—especially the intelligentsia, who are used to thinking of themselves as a separate class, detached from and foreign to the population as a whole, living in bubbles believed to be impregnable to the disgusting outside world—seem to think America has always been a ‘nation of immigrants’, and that the memorial that the friends of a mediocre Zionist poet had erected in her memory somewhere in New York after she died may as well be part of the Constitution. Since these people are a phyle of their own, since they already see themselves as minorities in an essentially foreign country, they have no problem with the prospect of those who are phyletically American having their homeland taken from them and used as grist for the mill of their ideological fantasies, nor with the idea that our homeland was intended as such.

(By the way, Noah, you do know what’s up with the néo-réactionnaires, right? It turns out that multiculturalism isn’t so great for the Jews. At least not the French Jews, many of whom have fled to Israel. Oops.)

Hapax phonotactica

In addition to phonemes that only occur in one or a few words, there are can be unusual exceptions to a language’s usual phonotactics: consonants that only occur in a certain position in one word, clusters that only occur in one word, and so on.

Latin /p/ only occurs finally in volup, a shortened form of volupis.

German -nf only occurs in Hanf ‘hemp’ (a pre-PGmc. loan of Latin cannabis), Senf ‘mustard’ (< Latin sināpi), Genf ‘Geneva’ (< Latin Genava), Sernf (a river; < *Sarnivos), and fünf ‘five’ (< *pempe, a variant of PIE *penkʷe).

English oi only precedes a word-final velar in oikyoik (a loan from Finnic), and the onomatapoeia oinkboink, and boing. English can only appear in initial clusters in loans and recent coinages: VladimirvlogVlachvlei.

But these are less interesting: it’s well-known that loanwords and onomatapoeia can fill in phonotactic gaps in a language.

Sometimes these clusters can change in unusual ways: Old English fn- (in fnēosan ‘sneeze’) becomes sn-, possibly aided by the visual similarity of and long s.