A deceptive case of split-intransitivity in Basque

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Differences in case marking and auxiliary selection in Basque intransitive verbs (Levin 1983; Ortiz de Urbina 1989; Hale & Keyser 1993; Laka 1995) seem sufficient grounds for changing the current typological classification of Basque from ergative (Dixon 1994; Primus 1999) to split-intransitive. One subset of intransitive verbs is morphologically on a par with transitives. This subset has been identified as the unergative class in the Unaccusative Hypothesis (Perlmutter 1978). The morphological split rests on the key assumption that unergatives are intransitive in Basque (Alcázar 2008). In this paper I show that Basque unergatives pattern with transitives in the absolute construction and reduced relative clauses. This novel evidence tips the scale towards an ergative analysis of Basque and questions the universality of unergatives as syntactically intransitive.


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