Applying Antisymmetry in ‘concert’

Two weeks ago, I drove out to Chicago for CLS 50 – of course, my teaching schedule meant that I got there just in time for the end-of-conference banquet and sadly missed the actual talks – c’est la vie. BUT! As it turned out, the banquet was worth the drive all on its own, because…the CLS conference banquet has karaoke.* Which means…an audience that can actually appreciate my ridiculous linguistics songs.

I ended up singing ‘Applying Antisymmetry’ with one of the Chicago grad students (who was such a trooper–I taught her lyrics in the hallway about 10 minutes before the singing started). It was a lot of fun, and one of the attendees asked me to make a recording of the song, so here it is!

If you want to read along with the lyrics, here is the original post. Also, if you have any requests for theories I should cover in my next ‘Love songs for linguistic theories’ parody, let me know!


*This is now the standard by which I will judge every annual linguistics conference – ahem, looking at you, LSA.


Applying Antisymmetry

The other day I was washing dishes and singing “Defying Gravity” (as one does), while absently thinking through a problem I am having with a current analysis, and it occurred to me just how well the word ‘antisymmetry’ fit with the song.

So, in honor of starting this blog right before Valentine’s day, I’ve decided to write a fake parody album called Love Songs for Linguistic Theories, to eventually include DM, LFG, and OT, among others – if you have a request, let me know in the comments! For now, here are the lyrics to “Applying Antisymmetry.” For any interested non-linguists out there, learn about Antisymmetry here.

I like to imagine that this scene starts with Ricki picking up Image and discovering that it can cast powerful, irreversible spells on sentence structure.

APPLYING ANTISYMMETRY (dedicated to Richard Kayne) Sing along

Something has changed within me
Something is not the same
I’m through deriving by the rules
Of Mister Chomsky’s fame
Too late for late insertion
Too late to try last resort
It’s time to be dynamic
Come out and show support!
It’s time to try
Applying antisymmetry
I think I’ll try
Applying antisymmetry
And you won’t crash my tree!

Can’t I make you understand?
Not everything is head initial…

I’m through with processing limits
’cause someone says they’re so
Some things I can’t derive
But till I try, I’ll never know!
Too long I’ve been afraid that
Remnant movement means I’ve lost
Well, if it works
I’ll take it whatever the cost!
And so I’ll buy
Applying antisymmetry
Kiss me goodbye
I’m applying antisymmetry
And you can’t crash my tree.

(spoken) Minnie, come with me.
Think of what we could
write, together.

(sung) Unlimited
Together we’re unlimited
Together we’ll have the best CV
There’s ever been
Minnie –
Trees, the way we planned ’em

If we merge in tandem

There’s no data we can’t explain
Just you and I
Applying Antisymmetry
With you and I
Applying Antisymmetry

They’ll never crash our tree!
(spoken) Well? Are you coming?

I hope you’re happy
Now that you’re choosing this

(spoken) You too
(sung) I hope it brings you bliss

I really hope that you’re sure
And you don’t miss out on tenure
I hope you’re happy in the end
I hope you’re happy, my friend

So if you care to find me
Call me at NYU!
For this is my new motto:
‘I cannot live in fear of peer review!’
And if I publish solo
At least I publish free
To those who cite me
Take a message back from me
Tell them how I am
applying antisymmetry
I’m no bad guy for
applying antisymmetry
And soon I’ll match them in renown
And nobody in all the field
Whatever theory they may wield
Is ever gonna crash my tree!

I hope you’re happy!

Look at her, she’s wicked!
Get her!

Crash my tree!

No one cites the wicked
So we’ve got to crash her –


– Tree!