Archive for January, 2018

Search and Research

I am out of LEX Grapheme decks, 2nd edition.

This means that I’m faced with a choice: do I just reprint them and keep selling? Or do I do what I did the last time they ran out, in 2014: update them with the deeper understanding I have of graphemes now, compared to four years ago?

The first edition came out in 2011. The second in 2014. The last time I came out with a new edition, a couple of colleagues prevailed upon me to just put out a document cataloguing the changes, so that people who already had the first edition wouldn’t have to buy a whole new deck. Because, you know, why should I actually earn anything for my efforts?

I told them: “I did put together a document cataloguing the changes: it’s called the second edition.” Unsatisfied with my response, they prevailed upon me again and I agreed to send them a free deck so that they themselves could craft the document they imagined.

Well, after I think just 3 or 4 cards, they already had 5 pages of notes.


And of course, my researched understanding of graphemes has continued to grow and deepen over the past four years. I have a better sense of the diachronic forces that shaped the forms we see synchronically. I have a much better sense of the clusters of graphemic relatives that each grapheme has in the present-day orthography. Since the 2nd edition was published, I have researched, developed, and presented LEXinars on a variety of linguistic topics, including the history of English spelling, stress, syllables, and a whole series on orthographic phonology, which has continued to shape my understanding well beyond where it was in 2014.

So I think it’s time.

Time to re-search through my Grapheme deck, my magnum opus, and re-discover what it is I know about English graphemes, which is a whole lot. It will take a few months. Right now I am focused on finishing up the 2nd edition of Matrix Study Sheets, which people have been waiting very patiently for. But the new Grapheme Decks will go on pre-sale during the Etymology conference in March, at a discounted, held rate of $60. That has been the price of that deck the whole time, through both editions. That price will be available for the 3rd edition for one week only, March 21-March 28, 2018. After that, the price will increase, depending on my increased production costs.

Anyone who has the deck and actually studies it knows that it’s a lifeline. Well, every lifeline needs to be strong, or it won’t save lives. What keeps my work strong is ongoing research — not some pedagogical study in which one group pilots “using” my deck and another group controls for not “using” it — but deep, meaningful, longitudinal searching and searching again. Over the past four years, I have reconsidered the physical evidence from the writing system itself. I have shared those reconsiderations in real time with the scholars who study with me. They are mind-blowing, if you study them. If what you want is some list of phonemes to inject into children, please go away.

For folks who have the first or second edition of the deck, you’re gonna want the third. If you just recently got the second, don’t worry! It will remain valuable in your learning for a long time! And it’s going to take me at least 5 or 6 months, probably longer, to get the new deck together.

Every so often, someone asks me to recommend journal articles or books or some other source, so they can read it themselves and get some of the understanding I am trying to offer. I think people believe that they will prove something to themselves by looking at what some other person has to say about orthographic phonology, rather than by just looking at my deck. Over the years, people who have really studied the deck have challenged me a lot to rethink patterns that I had or had not included. That ongoing dialogue is part of what shapes this research. Not what someone said in an academic journal somewhere.

The LEX Grapheme Deck is a textbook. It’s an encyclopedia of graphemes. It’s a life’s work. It’s unique in all the world, and that is not hyperbolic. It is researched — I spent a whole academic year of graduate school researching it as an independent study under my dissertation director, and I got graduate credit for that research. If it were even possible to put it in the form of a journal article, it would very likely go through a round of rejections and revisions at the hands of  “reviewers” who have no idea how orthographic phonology works. No thanks.

So even if you’ve had a look, look again. Search, and even when you’ve found something worthwhile, re-search.

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Early-Bird Registration for Etymology VI! with Douglas Harper is now open.

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1-180324 Etymology VI with Doug Harper

2-180324 Etymology VI with Doug Harper

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