Monday, March 17, 2008

Beyond beyond beyond "Beyond embiggens and cromulent"

Well, Google's logo has shamrocks on it again, which means it's time for my fourth annual Simpsons linguistic joke collection posting. I can hardly believe it myself. These guys just never run out!

Here's links to the previous three years' collections:

And here's this year's! Enjoy!

Episode: Eternal Moonshine of the Simpson Mind (2007)

Category: Haplology

Homer has drunk Moe's 'forget-me-not' drink, and has 24-hour amnesia. He's visiting the Memory Recovery Institute ("We do not do MRIs"), where Professor Frink is welcoming him.

Professor Frink: Mr. Simpson, I have built a device that will enable you to explore your memories. The science was easy, but now I've got the hard part -- coming up with the name!
Homer: How about the "Dejà-ViewMaster"?
Frink: Ahh…
Homer: "Remembrance of Things Fast"?
Frink: Umm..
Homer: "The Rememberererer"?
Frink: We don't need to come up with the name now.

Category: Pronouns as common nouns

Homer's riding in Frink's 'Memory Bubble'. He looks down to see himself sledding with Bart and Lisa.

Homer: Awww -- I landed in a pleasant memory! Look at happy me and playful them!

Category: Bound roots, compounding, pronouns and proper nouns as common nounss. Also 'teach you to P' = "teach you to not P"

Homer's agreed to take Bart back to confront his own ten-year-old self in an evenly-matched playground fight…

10-year-old Homer (taking repeated blows from Bart): You're superior to me in every way!
39-year-old Homer: D'oh! Well let's see how you do against 20-year old Homer!
20-year-old Homer (taking repeated blows from Bart): Uh! Oh! D'oh! What is it you want from me? Money? Weed? [Collapses under a final blow].
39-year-old Homer: I'll teach you to beat up yesterme!

Episode: Funeral for a Fiend (2007)

Category:Idiom chunks, degree phrase

Sideshow Bob's psychiatic expert witness is giving evidence that SB was insane during his most recent attempt on the Simpsons' lives:

Psychiatrist: Robert was a peaceful boy, sickly and weak from a congenital heart defect. [He shows a picture of SB going to his prom in bed. The jury goes "Awwww!"] But then that Simpson boy started tormenting him, and he crossed over into dementia!
Sideshow Bob (defending himself): To what degree was this dementia blown?
Psychiatrist: Full! [Jury gasps.]

Category:Suppletive comparatives:

Marge has been watching her TiVo, and has fallen asleep on the couch. She dreams that the TV is talking to her…

Talking head (ominously): Marge Simpson!
Marge: Keith Oberman!?
Keith Oberman: That's right, content burglar Marge Simpson! You've been watching TV shows but skipping the commercials that pay for them! That makes you the worst person in the world!

A video graphic of photos of the world's worst people appears. First the devil, labelled, 'worse', then Mr. Burns, labelled 'worser', and finally Marge, labelled 'worst'.

Episode:The Wettest Stories Ever Told (2006)

Category:'Target state' participles, compound verbs

In a terrible storm, Captain Flandish of the Mayflower falls and strikes his head against a bulkhead.

(Puritan) Reverend Lovejoy: Our captain's beheadbumped!

Category: Identity construction through linguistic cues

Lisa is explaining about how the passengers on the Neptune are a cross-section of society. (Cf. Poseidon Adventure)

Lisa: And you've got the elderly Jewish couple making their first trip to Israel…
Jewish mother (heavy emphasis on the non-English consonants and consonant clusters): Our son Shlomo is working on a kibbutz in Haifa. We're schlepping him some kreplach!
Jewish father: We're Jewish all right!

Episode: All's Fair in Oven War (2004)

Category: Recursivity in synthetic compounds

Marge and Homer are snooping around their neighbor's open house. They have an incredibly fancy kitchen with a sub-zero fridge and other amazing appliances.

Marge: This is the kitchen I've always wanted! Oooh! A bread-maker maker! [She presses a button and the machine opens up to eject a smaller version of itself, which opens to eject a fresh loaf of bread.]

Episode: Little Orphan Millie (2007)

Category: Re-prefixation (cf. Keyser and Roeper 1987)

Kirk and LouAnn Van Houten, Milhouse's parents, are getting remarried.

Reverend Lovejoy: Do you Kirk, take LouAnn to rehave and rehold?

Category: Flapping resulting in homophony

Bart's lines: "There's no such thing as an iPoddy."

Episode: Treehouse of Horror XVII (2006)

Category: Object pronoun cliticization and particle shift

Homer has eaten a glowing green blob from outer space. It's trying to crawl out his orifices, but he determinedly and repeatedly sucks it back in.

Homer: If I can keep down Arby's, I can keep down you!

Category: Recursion, parsing.

Dr. Phil has come to try and talk blob Homer out of his eating-people rampage.

Dr. Phil: Homer, you're family's here. And you've got to help me help them help you help me help you.

Category: Literal interpretation

Homer and Marge have made a play-doh girl golem for the lonely golem that Bart has stolen from Krusty. Marge writes 'LIVE' on a piece of paper and inserts it into her mouth. She blinks and wakes up.

Girl golem (in the incredibly nasal voice of Fran Dresher): Hello everybody, ãh hã hãã. What's with this outfit? It looks like a lion ate a parrot and then threw up!
hãã hãã
Homer: Well, back to the drawing board! (Begins to attack her with an axe).
Golem: No! What are you, nuts? She was made for me!

Episode: Treehouse of Horror XVIII (2007)

Category: Borrowing

Homer chants as Marge takes some ramekins out of the oven.

Homer: Crème-bru-lée!! Crème-bru-lée!! Or in English, burnt…cream! Burnt…cream!

Category: Speech acts (threats and contracts), reduction, compound verbs

Bart, Lisa, Nelson and Milhouse are trick-or-treating at the Skinners. Agnes opens the door.

BLNM (in chorus): [ˈtɹɪkɚˈtɹijt]
Agnes: Beat it, weirdos! I don't do Halloween!
Milhouse: Y-you're supposed to give us candy!
Agnes: I got your candy right here! (She hocks up a loogie and spits it right into Milhouse's candy basket, then slams the door, muttering.) Weirdos.
Nelson (outraged): She empty-bagged us!
Lisa: What do we do now?
Bart: Hear me out. Seems to me she gave a choice. Trick OR treat. She didn't give us a treat, so…
Milhouse: Bart. Where are you heading with this?
Bart: "[ˈtɹɪkɚˈtɹijt]" isn't just some phrase you chant mindlessly like the Lord's Prayer! It's an oral contract!
Nelson: You're right. We've forgotten the old ways, the ways of rotten eggs and soaped-up windows. I say we trick'er! Trick her good!

Episode: Homer of Seville (2007)

Category: phrasal compounding, the shortest English words.

The Simpsons are driving home from church:

Homer: Oh, man, that church service was boring! I did a whole book of Find-A-Words.
Lisa (exasperated): Dad, all you circled were the is and as!
Homer (defensively): Those are words.

Category: Idiom chunk

Homer and Marge are eating in a fancy restaurant.

Homer: Happy anniversary, sweetie!
Marge: You know it might be a little more romantic without your entourage.
Homer: But I need my childhood friends to help me keep it real! Would you have me keep it fake?

Episode: He Loves to Fly and He D'ohs. (2007)

Category: Pronouns and deixis, use/mention

Burns: You saved my life! There must be something I can do for you.
Homer (thinking): A cookie! No, a car! No, a cookie!
Burns: You're getting a free dinner!
Homer: (Gasps in pleasure)
Burns: With…
Homer (eagerly): Yes?
Burns: Me!
Homer (disappointed): "Me"? But that's you!

Category: Vocatives, use/mention. Also innuendo intonation, contextual domain restriction.

Flight Attendant: My name is Svetlana. But you can call me, Hey baby!
Burns: And, just so you know, she'll do anything for you. (Brightly) Anything except sex! (Innuendo voice) And I do mean anything...
Homer: (drooling noise). I'm aroused. And confused!

Episode: Bart vs. Thanksgiving (1990)

Category: Pluralizing phrasal compounds, headedness

Bart is in line for a free meal at the homeless shelter after running out on the Simpsons' family Thanksgiving dinner.

Bart: Hey, it's that anchordude from Channel 6!
Bum: Oh yeah, he's doing one of those "be thankful for whatcha got" stories.
Kent Brockman: Oh, we have lots of names for these people. Bums, deadbeats, losers, scums of the earth.

Episode: Diatribe of a Mad Housewife (2004)

Category: Quoting out of context, use/mention

The publisher's agent has called Tom Clancy to ask for a blurb for the back of Marge's new novel, The Harpooned Heart:

Tom Clancy (speaking into phone): Would I say "If you're hunting for a good read this October, Marge Simson's book is a 'clear and present danger' to your free time?" Hell no, I wouldn't! Whatdya mean, I just said it? That doesn’t count! Hello? Hello?

Episode: Bart vs. Lisa vs. 3rd Grade (2002)

Category: Syllabification

The Simpsons have gotten a satellite TV. Bart has been watching for several days straight. After a commercial break…

Growly Voiceover: We now return to [ˈɹowbow ˈtɹʌmbəl]! Oh, I'm sorry, I mean, [ˈɹowbɔtʰ ˈɹʌmbəl]! (Screen reads, "Robot Rumble")

Episode: The Italian Bob (2005)

Category: Borrowing, nativization

The Simpsons have inadvertently ruined Sideshow Bob's new life in Italy:

Sideshow Bob (enraged): Simpson family! I hereby swear a [venˈdetta]!
Marge (flipping through English/Italian dictionary): [venˈdetta] means…(alarmed) [vɛnˈdɛɾə]!

Episode: Dude, Where's My Ranch? (2003)

Category: Acquiring a second dialect

Marge: Shucks, Lisa, you sure have taken a shine to that cowpoke! (winks)
Lisa: Mom, why are you talking like that?
Marge: Don't rightly know! I just soaked up the lingo like a biscuit in a bucket full of gopher gravy! I'll stop now.

Category: Wh-in-situ echo question, sub-word level.

Lisa: Well, I like it here too. Luke has showed me the gentle side of the Old West. He's really sophisticated for a thirteen year old.
Marge: Thir-what year old?!

Category: Proper noun as common noun

Ned Flanders and Rev. Lovejoy have forced the teaching of creationism as an alternative to evolution at Springfield Elementary. Lisa's getting all the answers wrong (the correct answer is now "God did it!"):

Ralph: Are oceans God's tears?
Principal Skinner (looking at Lovejoy and Flanders): …They sure are! A+!
Lisa (rolls her eyes): Ugh!
Ralph: Now Lisa's the ralph!

Category: Recursive possesives

Barney (speaking up after Lisa's impassioned speech at the trial): Homer's son's sister is right!

Episode: Thank God It's Doomsday (2005)

Category: Clipping

Skinner has taken the Springfiend Elementary Phototography Club to the mall for a field shoot. He addresses the group:

Skinner: Children, the mall will provide you a wide range a subjects, while I return some sock that appeared to be black but were in reality a very dark blue. The best photographs, or "pho-tos" [he fingerquotes agressively] will be prominently displayed in the school lobby all year long!

Category: Retronym, collocation

Marge comes into the kitchen to find Homer up to his ears in "Rapture for Dummies", with ten other books on the table around him.

Marge: Homie, you didn't touch your second dinenr tonight! And, you're reading books! Word books! What's going on!
Homer: Marge, the Rapture is nigh. These books will help me figure out how nigh.

Episode: Smart and Smarter (2004)

Category: Compositionality in compounds, metalinguistic comment

Lisa's trying out a new 'comedian' image at school, and is delivering a few stand-up type jokes in the cafeteria.

Lisa: Hey, why do they call them fieldtrips! We never go to a field!
Skinner (in passing): Untrue! Last thursday we went to a battlefield.
Lisa: Um, er…
Ralph: I'm bembarrassed for you!
Nelson: The following 'haha' is not from amusement but is an expression of contempt. Ha ha!

Category: Hooked on phonics

Maggie's school for the gifted has sent home Phonic Frog to help her learn to read. It's a plastic frog with a keyboard on its belly and a microphone; it articulates letters (mostly as onset+schwa) when the keyboard is pressed. Homer presses buttons on frog.

Phonic Frog: ah, buh, cuh. Huh o muh eh er.
Homer: That's me! Huh o muh eh er!

Episode: The Seven-Beer Snitch (2007)

Category: Derivational morphology

The Simpsons and the slack-jawed-yokels are visiting Shelbyville and attending a performance of "Song of Shelbyville," in which a character called Springfield Billy, dressed in a barrel, acts like an idiot for the amusement of Shelbyvillians.

Brandine: It's like lookin' in a mirror!
Cletus: What's a mir-ror?
Brandine: It's a big-city word for reversifyin' glass.

Category: DP as common noun, unique reference and demonstratives

Homer's been imprisoned for can-kicking in the Frank-Gehry designed Springfield Prison. He's turned informer. Lenny and Carl are prison guards. They deliver a large rectangular box to his cell:

Lenny: Here ya go! 42-inch plasma TV, as a thank-you from your…. [He notices the other prisoners looking at them all suspiciously and hesitates]
Carl: From your mother!
Homer: Ohhhh, THAT my mother!

Category: Synonyms, slang, metalinguistic comment

Fat Tony: Gentlemen, we must determine which of our fellow inmates has become the rodentus incarcererium.
Gangster #1: You heard the boss! Find the rat!
Gangster #2: I found the rat, and he's right here! [Points to gangster #3]
Gangster #3: I ain't the rat, I'm the pigeon!
Gangster #4: I thought you was the mole!
Gangster #2: No, you're thinkin' of that guy who was the canary, but we can all agree, we work in a business with a very rich lexicon!
All the gangsters nod, mutter in agreement: "Rich lexicon" "Very rich!" "Oh yes."

Episode: Marge Gamer (2007)

Category: Conversion, inferring meanings

Marge, experiencing the Internet for the first type, has the idea of typing her own name into Google.

Marge: Six hundred twenty nine thousand results! Wow! And all this time I thought "googling yourself" meant the other thing!

Category: Faux-archaisms

Marge has created an avatar in "Earthland Realms", and is getting her first instructions from the help wizard:

Wizard: Greetings, cleric! Will you undertake a quest on my behalf?
Cleric Marge: Mrmm, maybe I better run this by my husband first.
Wizard: Things are more fun if you just answer 'yes'.
Cleric Marge: Then yes! Hither me forth on mine arduous quest!
Wizard: Once again, just 'yes'.

Category: Compounding and lexicalization, and a side dish of slack-jawed yokel dialect features (nonstandard subject-verb agreement, what introducing object relative clause, plus the usual collection of phonological characteristics)

Homer is refereeing Lisa's little league soccer games, unfairly. Lisa's moaning and rolling on the ground after having been passed by an offensive player headed for goal.

Homer (whistle): Foul on the other girl! Lisa gets a penalty kick and every other kid has to pay her a dollar.
Brandine (standing up in bleachers): That is an outrage! Your daughter's been flopping all day!
Homer: She has not! Your daughter's a dirty player.
Cletus (also standing): Sir, I have sired a dumdum, a mushhead, a whatsit, a dogboy, and something with a human face and fish body what we calls Kevin. But my younguns is not dirty players!
Homer: I don't need a soccer lecture from a hillbilly!
Cletus: That's hill-William to you, sir!

Category: Tag questions (and British place names):

To make Lisa feel better about throwing her out of a game, Homer has bought Lisa a DVD documentary from the BBC ("in cooperation with [kænæl plus]").

Voiceover: Brighton, England. Nineteen eighty-five. Manchester United plays Sussextonhamptonshire-on-Leith, when a deadly riot breaks out in the stands.
Football fan #1: Oi! Your boy's a flopper, 'e is!
Fan #2: No 'e isn't, 'e isn't!

Novel derivational morphology

Homer builds a rollercoaster and names it the "Zoominator".

Episode: You Kent Always Say What you Want (2007)

The whole episode is about Kent Brockman uttering a taboo word on the air, losing his reputation and job. It's ALL a meta-linguistic comment on taboo in the media.

Category: Taboo words

Grandpa: I can't believe Kent Brockman got away with it! Back in my day, TV stars couldn't say 'booby', 'tushy', 'burp', 'fannyburp', 'water closet', 'underpants', 'dingle dangle', 'Boston marriage', 'LBJ', 'Titicaca', 'hot dog' or 'front lumps'.

Category: Derivational morphology, euphemisms

Homer is surprised to find Kent Brockman on the Simpsons' couch.

Marge: I invited him to stay with us for a few days. His career was ruined, and I was afraid he might commit you-know-what-icide!

Category: Back-formed compound verbs, headedness

The usual suspects are gathered at Republican Party Headquarters, watching Kent's streaming truth-telling webcast (from Lisa's webcam)

Burns: Look at that rabble-rouser! He's threatening our ill-gotten gains!
Rich Texan: Goldarnit! I worked hard to ill-get those gains!

Category: Degree phrases, lexical integrity:

Kent has been webcasting from the Simpson's basement since losing his job, and has reached a wide audience.

Lisa: Mr. Brockman! You're a huge hit!
Kent: Really! How wide is the web?
Lisa: World.

Episode: 24 Minutes (2007)

Category: Derivational morphology, bound roots, cran-morphs

Lisa (as 24's Chloe, monitoring a surveilance camera): I've got something! The sixth grade security camera shows three empty desks!
Skinner: Enhance!
(Lisa types furiously, camera zooms in on desks to reveal 'Skinner Stinks' carved on the center desk.)
Skinner: Dehance! Dehance!

Category: Compound nouns, pronoun as common noun, homophony

Bart has used ketchup and Grey Poupon mustard to paint a portrait of Skinner on the cafeteria wall (word balloon: "Put me on your wiener"). Skinner enters while the room is still cracking up:

Skinner: Simpson! I'll teach you to make a Poupon me!

Category: Contrast, one-replacement, establishing reference sets:

The three bullies (Kearny, Dolph and Jimbo) are plotting to do something terroristic with a deceased yogurt. Milhouse, an undercover agent for the Counter Truancy Unit, is lurking outside the Kwik-E-Mart, surveilling them from behind a newspaper. Homer strolls by.

Homer: Hey Millhouse! Who ya spyin' on? Those bullies?
Kearny: What about the fat guy?
Homer: Hey, lay off! You're the fat one of you guys!

Category: Zero-derivation, category change

Skinner: Okay, you have a deal, you conniving little [whispers in Bart's ear].
Bart (eyes go wide): Wow! That's a swear?
Skinner: Used as a noun, it is.

Episode: Stop or My Dog Will Shoot! (2007)

Category: Slang, register

Santa's Little Helper has successfully detected some stashed cocaine (he sniffed out a suitcase with a bust of Beethoven in it that had a locker key embedded in it; SLH opened the suitcase, broke the statue, and opened the locker. It was full of cocaine).

Lou: Shall I get this blow back to the cage, chief?
Chief Wiggum: Whoa, whoa, whoa. "Blow"? "Cage"? You're in uniform, Lou! Don't slang it up!

Category: Slang

Lou and Santa's Little Helper are staking out the park, where drug deals go down. Snake is meeting with the bullies.

Jimbo (shiftily): Soo, ah, you got any steroids?
Snake: You know it. I can make you huge! (Shows bag full of pills)
Jimbo (enthusiastically): I wanna pump my guns!
Kearny: I wanna rip my pecs!
Dolf: I wanna shriv my nards!
Lou (leaping out from behind bush): Nards! That's what we needed to hear!

Episode: On a Clear Day I Can't See My Sister (2005)

Category: Type vs token, underspecified nouns

Marge and Homer visit Sprawl-mart:

Homer: Oh, I just love it here! So many things, and so many things of each thing!

Category: Neologisms, bound roots

The students have all met at the school at 3am for a field trip to Springfield Glacier. Skinner is massing them for exodus.

Nelson: Check out my t-shirt! It's wicked relevant -- it's part of my 'Things Suck' line of clothing! (opens vest to reveal t-shirt with 'Glaciers suck! on it).
Skinner: While I disagree with your t-shirt's assertion, I do encourage anything that raises glacier awareness. Busward to adventure!

Category: Speech errors (phonologically motivated nucleus substitution), senility

(They go in the front door)

Grampa (in Sprawl-mart vest): Welcome to Sprawl-mart! Can I get you a cart or basket?
Marge: Grampa! You're a greet grater, I mean, tsk, a great greeter! Now look who's senile!

Episode: Please Homer, Don't Hammer 'Em (2006)

Category: Back-formation.

Lisa finds Bart bowling at school trophies in the hall (left-handed!) Unbeknownst to her, he has learned of Skinner's fatal weakness and fears nothing.

Lisa: Bart! Skinner's gonna be really mad at you!
Bart: Yes! You might say he'll… (finger quotes) "blow up"! Mwahahaha
Lisa: Whatever. I've got some paper to maché.

Category: Derivational suffix meanings

Skinner: I'm supposed to stand in your store window and breast-feed Bilbo Baggins.
Comic Book Guy: Your cowering suggests that Bart has found your Kryptonite.
Skinner: Kryptonite? What's that? The -ite suffix suggests a mineral.

Episode: Homerazzi (2007)

Category: Rhetorical questions

Homer has nearly set the house on fire with his birthday cake candles. The smoke alarm went off, and the fire department came. A fireman returns Santa's Little Helper to Simpsons sitting on curb:

Fireman: You know how many fires are started by birthday candles? If you do, tell me. It would settle a bet down at the station house. I say five, Gus says a million.

Episode: Yokel Chords (2007)

Category: count-mass conversion for foodstuffs (the "Universal Grinder")

Bart is telling a scary story about the "Dark Stanley Murders". Stanley was a cook at the school. The kids made fun of him ("Stanley, Stanley, no de-gree! Two credits short at M.I.T.!") and he killed and cooked them into Kids Head Soup!

Stanley (tasting soup): Needs more girl!

Category: Denominal verbs, derivational verbal morphology

Following Bart's scary story, the rumors are flying:

Nelson: And just when you think he's done, Dark Stanley takes your skin and makes footie pajamas!
Dolf: Nobody pajaminates my skin!

Category: Archaism

Two scenes later: Bart has terrified the kids into stampeding from the school in panic.

Milhouse (stampeding): Murther!!

Category: Evasive speech ('phumphering')

Principal Skinner explains to Superintendent Chalmers that they can't provide education for the Yokel children for fear of lowered test scores and lost federal funding. Lisa overhears.

Lisa (flipping open notebook): Excuse me! Lisa Simpson with the school paper. Am I to understand you're purposely denying education to these children?

Principal Skinner and Superintendent Chalmers (simultaneously and smoothly talking over each other): (S)That's a totally, er,..(C)Well, I wouldn't, ah, (S) Ah, y'know, (C)Y'see the thing is, (S) A, ah, boon!
Chalmers (pauses to complete a sentence): I warn you, young lady, we can phumpher all day!
PS and SC, smoothly continuing: (C) We um, you see Stop it, we have, um, ah (S) You're um not grasping the, the, the…
Lisa: You haven't heard the last of this!

Category: Back-formation

Lisa has taken the Spuckler (Slack-jawed Yokel) kids to downtown Springfield, where juggling mimes wheel by on unicycles.

Witney Spuckler (eldest Yokel daughter): These colorful bums is funny!
Lisa: And guess what? Ben and Ken The Street-Magic Men are only the beginning! The city is a treasure-trove of culture and multi-culture!

Category: Entailments of superlatives

Krusty: You kids finished signing those 8x10s?
Dubya Spuckler: I told five different dry-cleaners they's the best. Ain't that lyin', Mr. Krusty?

Category: Right-node raising

Dubya Spuckler: Miz Lisa, we just want to thank you for introducing us to, then saving us from, the big wide world around us.
Lisa: 'Twern't nothin'. (Group hug.)

Episode: The Fat and The Furriest (2003)

Category: Puralization of titles/honorifics:

Homer, Bart and Lisa have run into Patty and Selma in Sprawl-Mart:

Lisa: Aunts Patty and Selma, can you help us pick out a Mother's Day gift?

Episode: "The Computer Wore Menace Shoes" (2000)

Category: Scope of negation, presupposition

Homer, in his first excursion on the Internets, has reached the Springfield Police Department home page, where an animated Chief Wiggum talks to him:

Wiggum head: If you've committed a crime and you want to confess, click "yes". Otherwise, click "no". [Homer clicks "no"] You have chosen "no", meaning you've committed a crime but don't want to confess. A paddywagon is now speeding to your home.

Category: German word order

Homer has been replaced with a lookalike by secret overlords who are holding the real Homer on an island. The lookalike is German.

Bart: There's something really different about you, Dad!
German Homer: I am a new tie wearing.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Innateness hypothesis in 1000 AD (Crosspost from LL)

Following my report last Friday of finding the standard innateness argument in a 18th-century text by an amateur philologist, I expected my inbox to be overflowing with passages about language acquisition from Aristotle, Descartes and (in contrast) Locke. I had prepared for the onslaught by performing extensive finger-limbering exercises.

Amazingly, the number of people interested in quoting extensively from the work of ancient philologists out there is considerably smaller than the number of rabid Cupertino effect fans, who cannot be beaten off with sticks or Geoff P.'s pointy, pointy words. Perhaps understandable. But I did get an interesting email from Lameen Souag, of Jabal al-Lughat. An 11th-century Arabic scholar, Ibn Hazm, considered and dismissed the innateness hypothesis before 1064 A.D. As a kind of bonus, in the same passage, he offhandedly alludes to the observation that Saussure laid such stress on: Linguistic signs are arbitrary.

Lameen writes:
If you're looking for earlier discussion of the language instinct idea, you could try Ibn Hazm, d. 1064 - coincidentally, he was also the very unorthodox medieval theologian that the Pope rather misleadingly quoted on Islam's notion of the relationship between God and ethics in his Regensburg address. In his book al-Ihkam fi Usul al-Ahkam (Judgement on the Principles of Rulings), Ibn Hazm briefly considers and rejects the idea, essentially saying that language can't be an instinct because if it were surely we would all speak the same language. I'm afraid the translation below is far from perfect - I'm not too accustomed to reading early medieval Arabic - but the idea is pretty clear:

ولم يبق إلا أن يقول قائل إن الكلام فعل الطبيعة قال علي وهذا يبطل ببرهان ضروري وهو أن الطبيعة لا تفعل إلا فعلا واحدا لا أفعالا مختلفة وتأليف الكلام فعل اختياري متصرف في وجوه شتى. وقد لجأ بعضهم إلى نوع من الاختلاط وهو أن قال إن الأماكن أوجبت بالطبع على ساكنيها النطق بكل لغة نطقوا بها قال علي وهذا محال ممتنع لأنه لو كانت اللغات على ما توجبه طبائع الأمكنة لما أمكن وجود كل مكان إلا بلغته التي يوجبها طبعه وهذا يرى بالعيان بطلانه لأن كل مكان في الأغلب قد دخلت فيه لغات شتى على قدر تداخل أهل اللغات ومجاورتهم فبطل ما قالوا. وأيضا فليس في طبع المكان أن يوجب تسمية الماء ماء دون أن يسمى باسم آخر مركب من حروف الهجاء

"There remains only the case of someone suggesting that speech is a natural action. This is falsified by a necessary proof: that nature would do only a single action, not many actions, and putting together speech is a voluntary action, coming in many different forms. Some might take refuge in a kind of combination [of the arguments], saying that different places naturally impose on their inhabitants the language that they speak. This is entirely impossible, because if languages were imposed by the natures of places, then each place would have to have only the language imposed by its nature; but the falsehood of this is plain to the eye, because almost every place has had many languages enter it due to their speakers' involvement and proximity; so this hypothesis is falsified. Also there is nothing in the nature of a place to require that water be called "water" rather than some other combination of letters."

Elsewhere in the same chapter, he discusses the common origin of Arabic, Aramaic, and Hebrew.

Actually, I don't really want to get a ton of philological email, so if you have additional thoughts on this, you could contribute to the comments section below. If enough accumulate, I'll update with another post on Language Log.