Gavagai--Ansel Adams SpecGram Vol CXLVIII, No 1 Contents Book Reviews--Sérgio Meira
Speculative Grammarian is proud to present yet another irregular installment in the Linguistic Anthropologic Monograph Endowment's Bizarre Grammars of the World Series.

Recursive Processing: An Anthropological
Linguistic Study of the Benhirloŋtam 0
Bizarre Grammars of the World, Vol. 55

The Benhirloŋtam live in a world that can best be described as fractal. The mountain range visible on the horizon is oddly regular, and any piece of it looks like a smaller version of the whole thing. A sketch is shown in Figure 1 below:

Figure 1. A sketch of mountains visible from the village.

The Benhirloŋtam build their homes in four triangular parts, connected to form a larger triangle. Families generally consist of two parents and three pairs of children. (Benhirloŋtam mothers give birth almost exclusively to fraternal twins, one female, one male.) The young women of the family marry and then they and their husbands build their own triangular homes on each of the three sides of the parents' home. The young men join other families when they marry, and build homes outside their wife's parents' home. Sometimes three or even four generations will live in a single large grouping of triangular houses, as in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Benhirloŋtam four generational housing complex.

The Benhirloŋtam's main staple food is a formerly unknown variety of rhubarb. Each year the plants are harvested by cutting the edible stalks nearly to the ground. The following year the stalk splits as it grows, giving twice as many edible stalks, though they are only two thirds the size of the original plant. This still gives a 33% increase in production over the previous year. Some specimens I saw were over 15 years old, and had been cut back, and thus divided, ten times, giving over one thousand tiny shoots per plant. These tiniest shoots are considered a delicacy. There is even a myth among the Benhirloŋtam of a farmer of greatest skill, Braon, who was able to divide his rhubarb thrice more, giving over eight thousand miniscule but most delicate stalks. All Benhirloŋtam farmers wish to duplicate the mythical reaping of farmer Braon, but none are able.

Even the Benhirloŋtam religious objects show fractal designs, as in Figure 3.

Figure 3. An engraved temple door of the Benhirloŋtam (left) and another holy symbol (right).

Linguistic Background
The linguistics evidence of the Benhirloŋtam also shows many recursive and fractal-like structures and relationships. For example, the Benhirloŋtam vocabulary for body parts shows an interesting fractal relationship (Table 4).


Table 4: Fractal structure in Benhirloŋtam body part vocabulary

The sub morphemes (urs, li', 'a:', fol, kar, k'dr) found in these vocabulary items are ubiquitous in the language. They are used as something akin to a relative clause marker, except that for the Benhirloŋtam these subordinate structures may be whole tangential narratives, up to (as in one case) twelve minutes long. It is as if wandering narratives and tangentiality have been grammaticalized in the language. A brief example follows:

erm-mw     urs  l-amrika-qo            li'   klod-nas
brother-my sub1 sub2  Claude-HON

'a:'  l-lInkis     fol   ombr    tug       dist   fol
sub3  he-linguist  sub4  person  language  study  sub4

l-benhir-tug-dist        'a:' a          li'  agoi-l-besbol-mr
he-benhir-language-study sub3 sub2 and-he-baseball-play

li'   meg-klod-nas     'a:'  l-qa-besbol        'a:' 
sub2  game-Claude-HON  sub3  he-likes-baseball  sub3

erm-mw-olte       li'   urs   gnav.
brother-my-told  sub2  sub1  comes.

"My brother (He wants to go to America (That is where Mr Claude (He is the linguist (A person who studies speech) who is studying our language) is from) and play baseball (A game Mr Claude (He likes baseball) told my brother about)) is coming."

Generally speaking, only the first five of these morphemes are used in normal speech, both when entering and exiting a subordinate level, much like the parentheses used in the English gloss. The sixth form, k'dr, is used only by story tellers, in their intricate plot developments. It is a subx form, in that it is used for all recursions beyond the fifth. (I use the term recursions, because as we shall see, this is indeed what we have here.)

Cognitive Processes: Further Evidence
As we have seen to this point, there is much in the Benhirloŋtam world that is recursively defined or understood. I would like to argue now that the Benhirloŋtam, unlike the rest of modern homo sapiens, is inherently capable of recursive processing. In fact, I propose we consider this major evolutionary achievement sufficient to call them a new species: homo recursii. For those still in doubt that the Benhirloŋtam are indeed using true recursion in their cognitive processes, I offer the clinching bit of evidence.

Occasionally one will come across a Benhirloŋtam who has seemingly fallen into a trance. The individual will be staring, slack jawed, at nothing in particular. These honored individuals are regarded as lucky omens and shamans of great power. They are urs-li'-'a:'-fol-kar-k'dr-k'dr-k'dr. That is, they have gone on an endless recursion, off to the infinite, unbound by a base case. The urs-li'-'a:'-fol-kar-k'dr-k'dr-k'dr are left in their recursive trance for up to a full day. They are then knocked senseless by a blow to the head, knocking them out of their infinite regress and back into the real world. This sacred ritual is called ributan, or "starting over".

After a day or two to recover their strength, the urs-li'-'a:'-fol-kar-k'dr-k'dr-k'dr are expected to tell of the vision they beheld while recursing along the path to ult-k'dr, the last of an infinite number of recursions, God.

A final note: the Benhirloŋtam are losing their cultural identity. They have discovered LISP programming, and are all now becoming computer scientists.

Tentative Conclusions
More research is necessary to unravel the intricacies of this system. Said research will require more and abundant funding.

Claude Searsplainpockets Somewhere in Africa

0 This paper was made possible by LAME grant #47H8J58F8D8E5-S4D7D4S558W547-8-96-5/8G-78-5C4V5C8C-4V55C/88X-996X/4CC*8S8C/9A6-54//V5B, and the first cardinal infinity,

Gavagai--Ansel Adams
Book Reviews--Sérgio Meira
SpecGram Vol CXLVIII, No 1 Contents