Recently I was sitting under an apple tree near Bilbao, struggling with a Basque grammar and drinking one1 of the wonderful local alcoholic ciders, when I drifted off to sleep. A falling apple hit me on the head,2 and I awoke with the sudden realization of why I was having trouble making sense of the language. You see, Basque is not an ergative-
In the low speaking-
Native speakers can navigate the Basque inflectional minefield10 with ease, leading to the emergence of ergative-
Theory predicts that tensions will arise when an ergative-
This special theory of ergative-
2 Possibly in retaliation for my consumption of its pressed and fermented cousins.
3 I mean this in the astrophysical sense, not in the sense that English and Askunu are fourth cousins thrice removed.15
4 Which is universally agreed to be much better than Tony’s old theory.
5 Or in the case of English, chaotic neutral.
6 I mean this in the linguistic sense but cannot definitively rule out that Basque speakers are able to will new inflected forms into existence through sheer stubborn-
7 His subordinates considered him to be 31 flavors of crazy.
8 Fortunately, no linguistics professors were harmed. Expendable graduate students did all the real work.
9 A full history can be found in volume 1 of SemeAntics by Anne I. Solate. Readers are advised to skip the dictionary of the project (volume 2) and her proposed completion (volumes 3 through 27, so far).
10 Another abandoned military project.
11 I mean this in the linguistic sense but cannot definitively rule out that native speakers have become cross with the hordes of inquisitive foreign linguists that roam the countryside.
12 Named by a colleague whose reaction upon hearing it for the first time was, “Well, bless your heart! Isn’t that special?”
13 In fairness, she agrees with everyone else too.
14 Perhaps this is a good thing, seeing what happened to my brother Frank.
15 They exchange only the briefest of mutually unintelligible pleasantries over the hummus dip at the annual Indo-
|L.U.R.V.E. is a Battlefield
|SpecGram Vol CLXXIX, No 4 Contents