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‘’The layered lexicon is a fact about English that leads to a number of generalisations. But speakers are not consciously aware of the history of their language, leading to a tension between the historical record, the formal analysis, and the speakers’ explicit knowledge.’’
This poster features a story centred around four main characters – Tuba, Truba, Truban and Trubano who use a common, yet complicated term like ‘alphabet’ in a variety of different, and often, ‘incorrect’ ways. Tuba cannot distinguish and comprehend the morphological and syntactic qualities of the term, leading them to use it as an adjective and form unlikely compounds such as:
i) *I alphawill betnot.
Truba speaks in an established accent of British English and is therefore given opportunities to learn and flourish, despite not understanding the semantics of ‘alphabet’ and using it in unconventional contexts. Truban is blindly unaware of the historical context of modern English, of the fact that it is a Germanic language, and so is convinced by the impact of the Greeks (mainly because it is so obvious that ‘alphabet’ is formed from the morphemes of ‘alpha’ and ‘beta’, which are the first letters of the Greek alphabet). This perplexes those around Truban, as it is clear they’ve lost the plot, but also poses questions about the actual historical record of modern English. Trubano, meanwhile, has acquired an unusual way of pronouncing ‘alphabet’, sticking in a glottal stop in the middle of it, breaking the phonological rule of the glottal stop in standard English. They are not explicitly aware of the fact that this pronunciation is unconventional and is thus frowned upon. They observe how others react to them pronouncing it and thus infer that it must be a swear word.
At the end, they all question a figure with the ‘perfect’ way of speaking, who accepts the prescriptive qualities of standard English (as they were fortunate enough to acquire them all without trying). As Tuba, Truba, Truban and Trubano begin to question this figure, tensions are raised – as it is clear the prescriptive way of speaking English is just a generalisation, and not necessarily the ‘right’ way, exploring the idea that the way Tuba, Truba, Truban and Trubano speak is perfectly right for them. Alphabet soup in this context stands as a symbol for our knowledge of English and awareness of it, how we practise it and to what extent it’s explicit. Since each character consumes alphabet soup in an individual way, that becomes analogous to how they ‘consume’ English, yet there is also an alphabet soup company that makes it, mirroring the generalisation and tension factor of English.

Barber, C., Beal, J. C., & Shaw, P. A. (2009). The English language: A historical introduction. Cambridge University Press.
Christophersen, P. (1952). The glottal stop in English.
De Saussure, F. (2004). Course in general linguistics. Literary Theory: An Anthology, 2, 59-71. Naveh, J. (2000). Early history of the alphabet. Hosei University Press.