Basque language

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Basque
Euskara
Native toSpain, France
RegionBasque Country
EthnicityBasque
Native speakers
720,000  (2012)[1]
Early forms
Dialects
Basque alphabet (Latin script)
Basque Braille
Official status
Official language in
 Basque Autonomous Community
 Navarre
Regulated byEuskaltzaindia
Language codes
ISO 639-1eu
ISO 639-2baq (B)
eus (T)
ISO 639-3eus
Linguasphere40-AAA-a
Glottologbasq1248[2]
{{{mapalt}}}
Schematic dialect areas of Basque. Light-colored dialects are extinct. See dialects below for details.
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.
 
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Basque
Euskara
Native toSpain, France
RegionBasque Country
EthnicityBasque
Native speakers
720,000  (2012)[1]
Early forms
Dialects
Basque alphabet (Latin script)
Basque Braille
Official status
Official language in
 Basque Autonomous Community
 Navarre
Regulated byEuskaltzaindia
Language codes
ISO 639-1eu
ISO 639-2baq (B)
eus (T)
ISO 639-3eus
Linguasphere40-AAA-a
Glottologbasq1248[2]
{{{mapalt}}}
Schematic dialect areas of Basque. Light-colored dialects are extinct. See dialects below for details.
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.
Family transmission of Basque language (Basque as initial language)
Percentage of students registered in Basque language schools (2000–2005).
Location of the Basque-language provinces within Spain and France

Basque (endonym: Euskara, IPA: [eus̺ˈkaɾa]) is a language isolate[3] ancestral to the Basque people, who are indigenous to and mainly inhabit the Basque Country, a region spanning an area in northeastern Spain and southwestern France. It is spoken by 27% of Basques in all territories (714,136 out of 2,648,998).[1] Of these, 663,035 live in the Spanish part of the Basque Country and the remaining 51,100 live in the French part.[1]

In academic discussions of the distribution of Basque in Spain and France, it is customary to refer to three ancient provinces in France and four Spanish provinces. Native speakers are concentrated in a contiguous area including parts of the Spanish autonomous communities of the Basque Country and Navarre and in the western half of the French département of Pyrénées-Atlantiques. The Basque Autonomous Community is an administrative entity within the binational ethnographic Basque Country incorporating the traditional Spanish provinces of Biscay, Gipuzkoa, and Álava, which retain their existence as politico-administrative divisions.

Gipuzkoa, most of Biscay, a few municipalities of Álava and the northern area of Navarre formed the core of the remaining Basque-speaking area before measures were introduced in the 1980s to strengthen the language. By contrast, most of Álava, the western part of Biscay and central and southern areas of Navarre are predominantly populated by native speakers of Spanish language, either because Basque had been replaced by Spanish along the centuries, in some areas (most of Álava and central Navarre), or because it was possibly never spoken there, in other areas (Encartaciones and southeastern Navarre).

Under Francoist Dictatorship and Miguel Primo de Rivera's rule, the public use of Basque was suppressed and regarded as a sign of separatism.[4]

In southwestern France, the ancient Basque-populated provinces were Labourd, Lower Navarre, and Soule. These territories and Béarn were consolidated into a single département in 1790 under the name Basses-Pyrénées, a name which persisted until 1970's when it was changed to Pyrénées-Atlantiques.

A standardized form of the Basque language, called Euskara Batua, was developed by the Basque Language Academy in the late 1960s. Euskara Batua was created so that Basque language could be used—and easily understood by all Basque speakers—in formal situations (education, mass media, literature), and this is its main use today. The role of this standard Basque language depends on the linguistic educational model of each region and each school. In most areas of the Spanish Basque Country, the educational Model D, where all subjects are taught in Basque, except "Spanish language and literature" (which is taught in Spanish) is now the predominant model. In Navarre the majority of the students follows the Model G (all subjects in Spanish), but Model D makes up almost 26%.[5] In France, the Basque language school Seaska and the association for a bilingual (Basque and French) schooling Ikasbi meet a wide range of Basque language educational needs up to the Sixth Form, while often struggling to surmount financial and administrative constraints.

Apart from this standardized version, there are five main Basque dialects: Bizkaian, Gipuzkoan, and Upper Navarrese in Spain, and Navarrese–Lapurdian and Zuberoan (in France). Although they take their names from the mentioned historic provinces, the dialect boundaries are not congruent with province boundaries.

Names of the language[edit]

In Basque, the name of the language is officially Euskara (alongside various dialect forms). There are currently three etymological theories of the name Euskara that are taken seriously by linguists and Vasconists which are discussed in detail on the Basque people page.

In French the language is normally called basque or, in recent times, euskara. There is a greater variety of Spanish names for the language. Today, it is most commonly referred to as el vasco, la lengua vasca or el euskera. Both terms, vasco and basque, are inherited from Latin ethnonym Vascones which in turn goes back to the Greek term οὐασκώνους (ouaskōnous), an ethnonym used by Strabo in his Geographica (23 CE, Book III).[6]

The term Vascuence, derived from Latin vasconĭce,[7] has acquired negative connotations over the centuries and is not well liked amongst Basque speakers generally. Its use is documented at least as far back as the 14th century when a law passed in Huesca in 1349 stated that Item nuyl corridor nonsia usado que faga mercadería ninguna que compre nin venda entre ningunas personas, faulando en algaravia nin en abraych nin en basquenç: et qui lo fara pague por coto XXX sol—essentially penalizing the use of Arabic, Hebrew or Vascuence (Basque) with a fine of 30 sols (the equivalent of 30 sheep[8]).

History and classification[edit]

Though geographically surrounded by Indo-European Romance languages, Basque is classified as a language isolate. It is the last remaining descendant of the pre-Indo-European languages of Western Europe.[6] Consequently, its prehistory may not be reconstructible by means of the comparative method except by applying it to differences between dialects within the language. Little is known of its origins but it is likely that an early form of the Basque language was present in Western Europe before the arrival of the Indo-European languages to the area.

Authors such as Miguel de Unamuno and Louis Lucien Bonaparte have noted that the words for "knife" (aizto), "axe" (aizkora) and "hoe" (aitzur) derive from the word for "stone" (haitz), and have therefore concluded that the language dates to the Stone Age, when those tools were made of stone;[9][10] others find this unlikely; see the aizkora controversy.

Latin inscriptions in Aquitania preserve a number of words with cognates in reconstructed proto-Basque, for instance the personal names Nescato and Cison (neskato and gizon mean "young girl" and "man" respectively in modern Basque). This language is generally referred to as Aquitanian and is assumed to have been spoken in the area before the Roman conquests in the western Pyrenees. Some authors even argue that the language moved westward during Late Antiquity, after the fall of Rome, into the northern part of Hispania in which Basque is spoken today.[6]

Roman neglect of this area allowed Aquitanian to survive while the Iberian and Tartessian languages became extinct. Through the long contact with Romance languages, Basque adopted a sizable number of Romance words. Initially the source was Latin, later Gascon (a branch of Occitan) in the northeast, Navarro-Aragonese in the southeast and Spanish in the southwest.

Hypotheses on connections with other languages[edit]

The impossibility of linking Basque with its Indo-European neighbors in Europe has inspired many scholars to search for its possible relatives elsewhere. Besides many pseudoscientific comparisons, the appearance of long-range linguistics gave rise to several attempts to connect Basque with geographically very distant language families. All hypotheses on the origin of Basque are controversial, and the suggested evidence is not generally accepted by most linguists. Some of these hypothetical connections are as follows:

Geographic distribution[edit]

Percentage of fluent speakers of Basque (areas where Basque is not spoken are included within the 0-4% interval).
Percentage of people fluent in Basque language in Navarre (2001), including second-language speakers.

The region in which Basque is spoken has become smaller over centuries, especially at the northern, southern, and eastern borders. Nothing is known about the limits of this region in ancient times, but on the basis of toponyms and epigraphs, it seems that in the beginning of the Common Era it stretched to the river Garonne in the north (including the southwestern part of present-day France); at least to Aran Valley in the east (now a Gascon-speaking part of Catalonia), including lands on both sides of the Pyrenees;[17] the southern and western boundaries are not clear at all.

The Reconquista temporarily counteracted this contracting tendency when the Christian lords called on Northern Iberian peoples—Basques, Asturians, and "Franks"—to colonize the new conquests. The Basque language became the main everyday language,[where?] while other languages like Spanish, Gascon, French, or Latin were preferred for the administration and high education.

By the 16th century the Basque-speaking area was reduced basically to the present-day seven provinces of the Basque Country, excluding the southern part of Navarre, the southwestern part of Álava and the western part of Biscay, and including some parts of Béarn.[18]

In 1807, Basque was still spoken in the northern half of Alava—including its capital city Vitoria-Gasteiz[19] — and a vast area in central Navarre, but in these two provinces Basque experienced a rapid decline that pushed it northwards. In the French Basque Country, Basque was still spoken in all the territory except in Bayonne and some villages around, and including some bordering towns in Béarn.

In the 20th century, however, the rise of Basque nationalism spurred increased interest in the language as a sign of ethnic identity, and with the establishment of autonomous governments in the Spanish Basque Country, it has recently made a modest comeback. In the Spanish part, Basque-language schools for children and Basque-teaching centres for adults have brought the language to areas such as Encartaciones and the Ebro Ribera in Navarre, where it is not known if it has ever been spoken before; and in the French Basque Country these schools and centres have almost stopped the decline of the language.

Official status[edit]

Official status of the Basque language in Navarre

Historically, Latin or Romance languages have been the official languages in this region. However, Basque was explicitly recognized in some areas. For instance, the local charter of the Basque-colonized Ojacastro valley (now in La Rioja) allowed the inhabitants to use Basque in legal processes in the 13th and 14th centuries.

The Spanish Constitution of 1978 states in Article 2 that the Spanish language is the official language, but allows autonomous communities to provide a co-official language status for the other languages of Spain.[20] Consequently, the Statute of Autonomy of the Basque Autonomous Community establishes Basque as the co-official language of the autonomous community. The Statute of Navarre establishes Spanish as the official language of Navarre but grants co-official status to the Basque language in the Basque-speaking areas of northern Navarre. Basque has no official status in the French Basque Country and French citizens are barred from officially using Basque in a French court of law. However, the use of Basque by Spanish nationals in French courts is permitted (with translation), as Basque is officially recognized on the other side of the border.

The positions of the various existing governments differ with regard to the promotion of Basque in areas where Basque is commonly spoken. The language has official status in those territories that are within the Basque Autonomous Community, where it is spoken and promoted heavily, but only partially in Navarre. The "Ley del Vascuence" ("Law of Basque"), seen as contentious by many Basques, but considered fitting Navarra's linguistic and cultural diversity by the main political parties of Navarre,[21] divides Navarre into three language areas: Basque-speaking, non-Basque-speaking, and mixed. The support for the language and the linguistic rights of citizens vary depending on which of the three areas they are in.

Demographics[edit]

Map showing the historical retreat and expansion of Basque within the context of its linguistic neighbors between the year 1000 and 2000

The 2006 sociolinguistic survey of all Basque-speaking territories showed that in 2006 of all people aged 16 and above:[22]

Taken together, in 2006 out of a total population of 2,589,600 (1,850,500 in the Autonomous Community, 230,200 in the Northern Provinces and 508,900 in Navarre), there were 665,800 who spoke Basque (aged 16 and above). This amounts to 25.7% Basque bilinguals overall, 15.4% passive speakers and 58.9% non-speakers. Compared to the 1991 figures this represents an overall increase of 137,000, from 528,500 (out of a population of 2,371,100) fifteen years previously.[22]

The 2011 figures show an increase of some 64,000 speakers compared to the 2006 figures to 714,136, with significant increases in the Autonomous Community but a slight drop in the Northern Basque Country to 51,100, overall amounting to an increase to 27% of all inhabitants of Basque provinces (2,648,998 in total).[1]

Dialects[edit]

The modern dialects of Basque according to 21st-century dialectology.
  Western (Biscayan)
  Central (Gipuzkoan)
  Upper Navarrese
  Lower Navarrese–Lapurdian
  Souletin (Zuberoan)
  other Basque areas ca 1850 (Bonaparte)

The modern Basque dialects show a high degree of dialectal divergence, sometimes making cross-dialect communication difficult. This is especially true in the case of Bizkaian and Zuberoan, which are regarded as the most divergent Basque dialects.

Modern Basque dialectology distinguishes five dialects:[24]

These dialects are divided in 11 sub-dialects, their minor varieties being 24.

Influence on other languages[edit]

Although the influence of the neighbouring Romance languages on the Basque language (especially the lexicon, but also to some degree Basque phonology and grammar) has been much more extensive, there has been some feedback from Basque into these languages as well. In particular Gascon and Aragonese, and to a lesser degree Spanish have been influenced. In the case of Aragonese and Gascon, this has been through substrate interference following language shift from Aquitanian or Basque to a Romance language, affecting all levels of the language, including place names around the Pyrenees.[25][26][27][28][29]

Although a number of words of alleged Basque origin in the Spanish language are circulated (e.g. anchoa 'anchovies', bizarro 'dashing, gallant, spirited', cachorro 'puppy', etc.), most of these have more easily explicable Romance etymologies or not particularly convincing derivations from Basque.[6] Ignoring cultural terms, there is one strong loanword candidate, ezker, long held to be the source of the Pyrennean and Iberian Romance words for "left (side)" (izquierdo, esquerdo, esquerre, quer, esquer).[6][30] The lack of initial /r/ in Gascon could arguably be due to a Basque influence but this issue is under-researched.[6]

The other most commonly claimed substrate influences:

The first two features are common, widespread developments in many Romance (and non-Romance) languages,[6] and as a result few linguists put much credence in the substrate proposal. The change of /f/ to /h/, however, occurred historically only in a limited area (Gascony and Old Castile) that corresponds almost exactly to areas where heavy Basque bilingualism is assumed, and as a result has been widely postulated (and equally strongly disputed). Substrate theories are often difficult to prove (especially in the case of phonetically plausible changes like /f/ to /h/). As a result, although many arguments have been made on both sides, the debate largely comes down to the a priori tendency on the part of particular linguists to accept or reject substrate arguments.

Examples of arguments against the substrate theory,[6] and possible responses:

  1. Spanish did not fully shift /f/ to /h/, instead, it has preserved /f/ before consonants such as /w/ and /ɾ/ (cf fuerte, frente). (On the other hand, the occurrence of [f] in these words might be a secondary development from an earlier sound such as [h] or [ɸ] and learned words (or words influenced by written Latin form). Gascon does have /h/ in these words, which might reflect the original situation.)
  2. Evidence of Arabic loanwords in Castilian points to /f/ continuing to exist long after a Basque substrate might have had any effect on Castilian. (On the other hand, the occurrence of /f/ in these words might be a late development. Many languages have come to accept new phonemes from other languages after a period of significant influence. For example, French lost /h/ but later regained it as a result of Germanic influence, and has recently gained /ŋ/ as a result of English influence.)
  3. Basque regularly developed Latin /f/ into /b/.
  4. The same change also occurs in parts of Sardinia, Italy and the Romance languages of the Balkans where no Basque substrate can be reasonably argued for. (On the other hand, the fact that the same change might have occurred elsewhere independently does not disprove substrate influence. Furthermore, parts of Sardinia also have prothetic /a/ or /e/ before initial /r/, just as in Basque and Gascon, which may actually argue for some type of influence between both areas.)

Beyond these arguments, a number of nomadic groups of Castile are also said to use or have used Basque words in their jargon, such as the gacería in Segovia, the mingaña, the Galician fala dos arxinas[31] and the Asturian Xíriga.[32]

Part of the Romani community in the Basque Country speaks Erromintxela, which is a rare mixed language, with a Kalderash Romani vocabulary and Basque grammar.[33]

Basque pidgins[edit]

A number of Basque-based or Basque-influenced pidgins have existed. In the 16th century, Basque sailors used a Basque-Icelandic pidgin in their contacts with Iceland.[34] Another Basque pidgin arose from contact between Basque whalers and the indigenous inhabitants in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Strait of Belle Isle.[35]

Grammar[edit]

Basque is an ergative–absolutive language. The subject of an intransitive verb is in the absolutive case (which is unmarked), and the same case is used for the direct object of a transitive verb. The subject of the transitive verb is marked differently, with the ergative case (shown by the suffix -k). This also triggers main and auxiliary verbal agreement.

The auxiliary verb, which accompanies most main verbs, agrees not only with the subject, but with any direct object and the indirect object present. Among European languages, this polypersonal agreement is found only in Basque, some languages of the Caucasus, and Hungarian (all non-Indo-European). The ergative–absolutive alignment is also unique among European languages, but not rare worldwide.

Consider the phrase:

About this sound Martinek egunkariak erosten dizkit. 
Martin-ekegunkari-akerostendi-zki-t
Martin-ERGnewspaper-PLbuy-GERAUX.(s)he/it/they.OBJ-PL.OBJ-me.IO [(s)he/it_SBJ]
"Martin buys the newspapers for me."

Martin-ek is the agent (transitive subject), so it is marked with the ergative case ending -k (with an epenthetic -e-). Egunkariak has an -ak ending which marks plural object (plural absolutive, direct object case). The verb is erosten dizkit, in which erosten is a kind of gerund ("buying") and the auxiliary dizkit means "he/she (does) them for me". This dizkit can be split like this:

The phrase "you buy the newspapers for me" would translate as:

About this sound Zuek egunkariak erosten dizkidazue 
Zu-ekegunkari-akerostendi-zki-da-zue
you-ERGnewspaper-PLbuy-GERAUX.(s)he/it/they.OBJ-PL.OBJ-me.IO-you(pl.).SBJ

The auxiliary verb is composed as di-zki-da-zue and means 'you pl. (do) them for me'

In spoken Basque, the auxiliary verb is never dropped even if it is redundant: "Zuek niri egunkariak erosten dizkidazue", you pl. buying the newspapers for me. However, the pronouns are almost always dropped: "egunkariak erosten dizkidazue", the newspapers buying be-them-for-me-you(plural). The pronouns are used only to show emphasis: "egunkariak zuek erosten dizkidazue", it is you (pl.) who buy the newspapers for me; or "egunkariak niri erosten dizkidazue", it is me for whom you buy the newspapers.

Modern Basque dialects allow for the conjugation of about fifteen verbs, called synthetic verbs, some only in literary contexts. These can be put in the present and past tenses in the indicative and subjunctive moods, in three tenses in the conditional and potential moods, and in one tense in the imperative. Colloquial Basque, however, only uses indicative present, indicative past, and imperative. Each verb that can be taken intransitively has a nor (absolutive) paradigm and possibly a nor-nori (absolutive–dative) paradigm, as in the sentence Aititeri txapela erori zaio ("The hat fell from grandfather['s head]").[36] Each verb that can be taken transitively uses those two paradigms for passive-voice contexts in which no agent is mentioned, and also has a nor-nork (absolutive–ergative) paradigm and possibly a nor-nori-nork (absolutive–dative–ergative) paradigm. The last would entail the dizkidazue example above. In each paradigm, each constituent noun can take on any of eight persons, five singular and three plural, with the exception of nor-nori-nork in which the absolutive can only be third person singular or plural. (This draws on a language universal: *"Yesterday the boss presented the committee me" sounds at least odd, if not incorrect.) The most ubiquitous auxiliary, izan, can be used in any of these paradigms, depending on the nature of the main verb.

There are more persons in the singular (5) than in the plural (3) for synthetic (or filamentous) verbs because of the two familiar persons—informal masculine and feminine second person singular. The pronoun hi is used for both of them, but where the masculine form of the verb uses a -k, the feminine uses an -n. This is a property not found in Indo-European languages. The entire paradigm of the verb is further augmented by inflecting for "listener" (the allocutive) even if the verb contains no second person constituent. If the situation is one in which the familiar masculine may be used, the form is augmented and modified accordingly; likewise for the familiar feminine. (Gizon bat etorri da, "a man has come"; gizon bat etorri duk, "a man has come [you are a male close friend]", gizon bat etorri dun, "a man has come [you are a female close friend]", gizon bat etorri duzu, "a man has come [I talk to you]")[37] Notice that this nearly multiplies the number of possible forms by three. Still, the restriction on contexts in which these forms may be used is strong since all participants in the conversation must be friends of the same sex, and not too far apart in age. Some dialects dispense with the familiar forms entirely. Note, however, that the formal second person singular conjugates in parallel to the other plural forms, perhaps indicating that it used to be the second person plural, started being used as a singular formal, and then the modern second person plural was formulated as an innovation.

All the other verbs in Basque are called periphrastic, behaving much like a participle would in English. These have only three forms total, called aspects: perfect (various suffixes), habitual[38] (suffix -t[z]en), and future/potential (suffix. -ko/-go). Verbs of Latinate origin in Basque, as well as many other verbs, have a suffix -tu in the perfect, adapted from the Latin -tus suffix. The synthetic verbs also have periphrastic forms, for use in perfects and in simple tenses in which they are deponent.

Within a verb phrase, the periphrastic comes first, followed by the auxiliary.

A Basque noun-phrase is inflected in 17 different ways for case, multiplied by 4 ways for its definiteness and number. These first 68 forms are further modified based on other parts of the sentence, which in turn are inflected for the noun again. It has been estimated that, with two levels of recursion, a Basque noun may have 458,683 inflected forms.[39]

Basic syntactic construction is subject–object–verb (unlike Spanish, French or English where a subject–verb–object construction is more common). The order of the phrases within a sentence can be changed with thematic purposes, whereas the order of the words within a phrase is usually rigid. As a matter of fact, Basque phrase order is topic–focus, meaning that in neutral sentences (such as sentences to inform someone of a fact or event) the topic is stated first, then the focus. In such sentences, the verb phrase comes at the end. In brief, the focus directly precedes the verb phrase. This rule is also applied in questions, for instance, What is this? can be translated as Zer da hau? or Hau zer da?, but in both cases the question tag zer immediately precedes the verb da. This rule is so important in Basque that, even in grammatical descriptions of Basque in other languages, the Basque word galdegai (focus) is used.

In negative sentences, the order changes. Since the negative particle ez must always directly precede the auxiliary, the topic most often comes beforehand, and the rest of the sentence follows. This includes the periphrastic, if there is one: Aitak frantsesa ikasten du, "Father is learning French," in the negative becomes Aitak ez du frantsesa ikasten, in which ikasten ("learning") is separated from its auxiliary and placed at the end.

Phonology[edit]

Table of consonant phonemes of Standard Basque
LabialLamino-
dental
Apico-
alveolar
Palatal or
postalveolar
VelarGlottal
Nasalm
/m/
n
/n/
ñ, -in-
/ɲ/
PlosiveVoicelessp
/p/
t
/t/
tt, -it-
/c/
k
/k/
Voicedb
/b/
d
/d/
dd, -id-
/ɟ/
g
/ɡ/
AffricateVoicelesstz
/ts̻/
ts
/ts̺/
tx
/tʃ/
FricativeVoicelessf
/f/
z
/s̻/
s
/s̺/
x
/ʃ/
h
∅, /h/
(Mostly)1 Voicedj
/ʝ~x/
Laterall
/l/
ll, -il-
/ʎ/
RhoticTrillr-, -rr-, -r
/r/
Tap-r-
/ɾ/

Basque has a distinction between laminal and apical articulation for the alveolar fricatives and affricates. With the laminal alveolar fricative [s̻], the friction occurs across the blade of the tongue, the tongue tip pointing toward the lower teeth. This is the usual /s/ in most European languages. It is written with an orthographic z. By contrast, the voiceless apicoalveolar fricative [s̺] is written s; the tip of the tongue points toward the upper teeth and friction occurs at the tip (apex). For example, zu "you" is distinguished from su "fire". The affricate counterparts are written tz and ts. So, etzi "the day after tomorrow" is distinguished from etsi "to give up"; atzo "yesterday" is distinguished from atso "old woman".

In the westernmost parts of the Basque country, only the apical s and the alveolar affricate tz are used.

Basque also features postalveolar sibilants (/ʃ/, written x, and /tʃ/, written tx), sounding like English sh and ch.

There are two palatal stops, voiced and unvoiced, as well as a palatal nasal and a palatal lateral (the palatal stops are not present in all dialects). These and the postalveolar sounds are typical of diminutives, which are used frequently in child language and motherese (mainly to show affection rather than size). For example, tanta "drop" vs. ttantta /canca/ "droplet". A few common words, such as txakur /tʃakur/ "dog", use palatal sounds even though in current usage they have lost the diminutive sense; the corresponding non-palatal forms now acquiring an augmentative or pejorative sense: zakur "big dog". Many dialects of Basque exhibit a derived palatalization effect in which coronal onset consonants are changed into the palatal counterpart after the high front vowel /i/. For example, the /n/ in egin "to act" becomes palatal in southern and western dialects when a suffix beginning with a vowel is added: /eɡina/ = [eɡiɲa] "the action", /eɡines/ = [eɡiɲes] "doing".

Regional realizations of j

The letter j has a variety of realizations according to the regional dialect: [j, dʒ, x, ʃ, ɟ, ʝ], as pronounced from west to east in south Bizkaia and coastal Lapurdi, central Bizkaia, east Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa, south Navarre, inland Lapurdi and Low Navarre, and Zuberoa, respectively.[40]

The letter h is silent in the Spanish Basque provinces, but pronounced in the French ones. Unified Basque spells it except when it is predictable, in a position following a consonant.[clarification needed][41]

The vowel system is the same as Spanish for most speakers. It consists of five pure vowels, /i e a o u/. Speakers of the Zuberoan dialect also have a sixth, front rounded vowel (represented in writing by ü and pronounced as /y/), as well as a set of contrasting nasalized vowels, indicating a strong influence from Gascon.

Unless they are recent loanwords (e.g., Ruanda (Rwanda), radar...), words cannot begin with the letter r, and when they were borrowed earlier, the initial r- is changed to err-, more rarely to irr- (irratia [the radio], irrisa [the rice]. This is similar to how in Spanish, faced with words beginning with s+ consonant (such as "state") get an initial e (estado).

Stress and pitch[edit]

Basque features great dialectal variation in stress, from a weak pitch accent in the central dialects to a marked stress in some outer dialects, with varying patterns of stress placement. Stress is in general not distinctive (and for historical comparisons not very useful); there are, however, a few instances where stress is phonemic, serving to distinguish between a few pairs of stress-marked words and between some grammatical forms (mainly plurals from other forms). E.g., basóà ("the forest", absolutive case) vs. básoà ("the glass", absolutive case; an adoption from Spanish vaso); basóàk ("the forest", ergative case) vs. básoàk ("the glass", ergative case) vs. básoak ("the forests" or "the glasses", absolutive case).

Given its great deal of variation among dialects, stress is not marked in the standard orthography and Euskaltzaindia (the Academy of the Basque Language) provides only general recommendations for a standard placement of stress, basically to place a high-pitched weak stress (weaker than that of Spanish, let alone that of English) on the second syllable of a syntagma, and a low-pitched even-weaker stress on its last syllable, except in plural forms where stress is moved to the first syllable.

This scheme provides Basque with a distinct musicality[citation needed] which sets its sound apart from the prosodical patterns of Spanish (which tends to stress the second-to-last syllable). Some Euskaldun berriak ("new Basque-speakers", i.e., second-language Basque-speakers) with Spanish as their first language tend to carry the prosodical patterns of Spanish into their pronunciation of Basque, giving rise to a pronunciation that is considered substandard[by whom?]; e.g., pronouncing nire ama ("my mum") as nire áma (– – ´ –), instead of as niré amà (– ´ – `).

Vocabulary[edit]

By contact with neighbouring peoples, Basque has adopted many words from Latin, Spanish, Gascon, among others. There is a considerable number of Latin loans (sometimes obscured by being subject to Basque phonology and grammar for centuries), for example: lore ("flower", from florem), errota ("mill", from rotam, "[mill] wheel"), gela ("room", from cellam), gauza ("thing", from causa).

Writing system[edit]

An example of Basque lettering in a funerary stela.

Basque is written using the Latin script including ñ and sometimes ç and ü. Basque does not use Cc, Qq, Vv, Ww, Yy for words that have some tradition in this language; nevertheless, the Basque alphabet (established by Euskaltzaindia) does include them for loanwords:[42]

Aa Bb Cc (and, as a variant, Çç) Dd Ee Ff Gg Hh Ii Jj Kk Ll Mm Nn Ññ Oo Pp Qq Rr Ss Tt Uu Vv Ww Xx Yy Zz

The phonetically meaningful digraphs dd, ll, rr, ts, tt, tx, tz are treated as double letters.

All letters and digraphs represent unique phonemes. The main exception is when l or n are preceded by i, that in most dialects palatalizes their sound into /ʎ/ and /ɲ/, even if these are not written. Hence, Ikurriña can also be written Ikurrina without changing the sound, whereas the proper name Ainhoa requires the mute h to break the palatalization of the n.

H is mute in most regions, but it is pronounced in many places in the northeast, the main reason for its existence in the Basque alphabet. Its acceptance was a matter of contention during the standardization, because the speakers of the most extended dialects had to learn where to place these h's, silent for them.

The letters of the alphabet in a Basque style font.

In Sabino Arana's (1865–1903) alphabet,[43] ll and rr were replaced with ĺ and ŕ, respectively.

A typically Basque style of lettering is sometimes used for inscriptions. It derives from the work of stone and wood carvers and is characterized by thick serifs. (See Basque fonts available for download in the External Links section.)

Number system used by millers[edit]

An example of the number system employed by millers.

Basque millers traditionally employed a separate number system of unknown origin.[44] In this system the symbols are either arranged along a vertical line or horizontally. On the vertical line the single digits and fractions are usually off to one side, usually at the top. When used horizontally, the smallest units are usually on the right and the largest on the left.

The system is, as is the Basque system of counting in general, vigesimal. Although the system is in theory capable of indicating numbers above 100, most recorded examples do not go above 100 in general. Interestingly, fractions are relatively common, especially 1/2.

The exact systems used vary from area to area but generally follow the same principle with 5 usually being a diagonal line or a curve off the vertical line (a V shape is used when writing a 5 horizontally). Units of ten are usually a horizontal line through the vertical. The twenties are based on a circle with intersecting lines.

This system is not in general use anymore but is occasionally employed for decorative purposes.

Examples[edit]

Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights[edit]

Gizon-emakume guztiak aske jaiotzen dira, duintasun eta eskubide berberak dituztela; eta ezaguera eta kontzientzia dutenez gero, elkarren artean senide legez jokatu beharra dute.All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Esklabu erremintaria[edit]

Esklabu erremintaria
Sartaldeko oihanetan gatibaturik
Erromara ekarri zinduten, esklabua,
erremintari ofizioa eman zizuten
eta kateak egiten dituzu.
Labetik ateratzen duzun burdin goria
nahieran molda zenezake,
ezpatak egin ditzakezu
zure herritarrek kateak hauts ditzaten,
baina zuk, esklabu horrek,
kateak egiten dituzu, kate gehiago.

The blacksmith slave
Captive in the rainforests of the West
they brought you to Rome, slave,
they gave you the blacksmith work
and you make chains.
The incandescent iron you take out of the oven
can be adapted as you want,
you can make swords
in order that your people could break the chains,
but you, o, slave,
you make chains, more chains.

Joseba SarrionandiaJoseba Sarrionandia

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Gobierno Vasco (July 2012). "V. Inkesta Soziolinguistikoa". Servicio Central de Publicaciones del Gobierno Vasco. Retrieved 18 July 2012. 
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Basque". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ Mughal, Muhammad Aurang Zeb. 2012. Spain. Steven L. Denver (ed.), Native Peoples of the World: An Encyclopedia of Groups, Cultures, and Contemporary Issues, Vol. 3. Armonk, NY: M .E. Sharpe, pp. 674-675.
  4. ^ "Francisco Franco". 
  5. ^ "Navarrese Educational System. Report 2011/2012". Navarrese Educative Council. Retrieved 2013-06-08. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i Trask, R.L. The History of Basque Routledge: 1997 ISBN 0-415-13116-2
  7. ^ "Diccionario de la lengua española". Real Academia Española. Retrieved 22 November 2008. 
  8. ^ O'Callaghan, J. A History of Medieval Spain (1983) Cornell Press ISBN 978-0801492648
  9. ^ Journal of the Manchester Geographical Society, volumes 52-56 (1942), page 90
  10. ^ Kelly Lipscomb, Spain (2005), page 457
  11. ^ Orduña 2005
  12. ^ a b Forni, Gianfranco (2013). "Evidence for Basque as an Indo-European Language". Journal of Indo-European Studies 41: 39. Retrieved 15 March 2014. 
  13. ^ Forni, Gianfranco (2013). "Evidence for Basque as an Indo-European Language: A Reply to the Critics". Journal of Indo-European Studies 41: 268. Retrieved 15 March 2014. 
  14. ^ a b Koch, John T. (2013). "Is Basque an Indo-European Language?". Journal of Indo-European Studies 41: 255. Retrieved 16 March 2014. 
  15. ^ José Ignacio Hualde, Joseba Lakarra, Robert Lawrence Trask (1995), Towards a history of the Basque language, p. 81. John Benjamins Publishing Company, ISBN 90-272-3634-8.
  16. ^ A Final (?) Response to the Basque Debate in Mother Tongue 1 (John D. Bengston)
  17. ^ Zuazo, Koldo (2010). El euskera y sus dialectos. Zarautz (Gipuzkoa): Alberdania. p. 16. ISBN 978-84-9868-202-1. 
  18. ^ Zuazo, Koldo (2010). El euskera y sus dialectos. Zarautz (Gipuzkoa): Alberdania. p. 17. ISBN 978-84-9868-202-1. 
  19. ^ Zuazo, Koldo (2012). Arabako euskara. Andoain (Gipuzkoa): Elkar. p. 21. ISBN 978-84-15337-72-0. 
  20. ^ "Spanish Constitution". Spanish Constitutional Court. Retrieved 2013-06-08. 
  21. ^ "Navarrese Parliament rejects to gran Basque Language co-official status in Spanish-speaking areas by suppressing the linguistic delimitation". Diario de Navarra. Retrieved 2013-06-11. 
  22. ^ a b IV. Inkesta Soziolinguistikoa Gobierno Vasco, Servicio Central de Publicaciones del Gobierno Vasco 2008, ISBN 978-84-457-2775-1
  23. ^ IV Mapa Sociolingüístico: 2006 (PDF). Servicio Central de Publicaciones del Gobierno Vasco, Vitoria-Gasteiz. 2008. ISBN 978-84-457-2942-7. Retrieved 19 November 2011. 
  24. ^ Zuazo, Koldo (2010). El euskera y sus dialectos. Alberdania. ISBN 978-84-9868-202-1. 
  25. ^ Coromines, Joan (1960). "La toponymie hispanique prérromane et la survivance du basque jusqu'au bas moyen age". IV Congrès International de Sciences Onomastiques. 
  26. ^ Coromines, Joan (1965). Estudis de toponímia catalana, I. Barcino. pp. 153–217. ISBN 978-84-7226-080-1. 
  27. ^ Coromines, Joan (1972). "De toponimia vasca y vasco-románica en los Bajos Pirineos". Fontes linguae vasconum: Studia et documenta (12): 299–320. ISSN 0046-435X. 
  28. ^ Rohlfs, Gerhard (1980), Le Gascon: études de philologie pyrénéenne. Zeitschrift für Romanische Philologie 85
  29. ^ Irigoyen, Alfonso (1986). En torno a la toponimia vasca y circumpirenaica. Universidad de Deusto. 
  30. ^ izquierdo in the Diccionario crítico etimológico castellano e hispánico, volume III, Joan Corominas, José A. Pascual, Editorial Gredos, 1989, Madrid, ISBN 84-249-1365-5.
  31. ^ Varela Pose, F.J. (2004)O latín dos canteiros en Cabana de Bergantiños. (pdf)Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Retrieved 11 June 2010.
  32. ^ Olaetxe, J. Mallea. "The Basques in the Mexican Regions: 16th–20th Centuries."[dead link] Basque Studies Program Newsletter No. 51 (1995).
  33. ^ Agirrezabal 2003
  34. ^ Deen 1937.
  35. ^ Bakker 1987
  36. ^ (Basque) INFLECTION §1.4.2.2. Potential paradigms: absolutive and dative.
  37. ^ Aspecto, tiempo y modo in Spanish, Aditzen aspektua, tempusa eta modua[dead link] in Basque.
  38. ^ King, Alan R. (1994). The Basque Language: A Practical Introduction. University of Nevada Press. p. 393. ISBN 0-87417-155-5. 
  39. ^ [Agirre et al., 1992]
  40. ^ Trask, R. L. (1997). The History of Basque, London and New York: Routledge, pp. 155-157, ISBN 0-415-13116-2.
  41. ^ Trask, The History of Basque, pp. 157-163.
  42. ^ Basque alphabet
  43. ^ Lecciones de ortografía del euskera bizkaino, Arana eta Goiri'tar Sabin, Bilbao, Bizkaya'ren Edestija ta Izkerea Pizkundia, 1896 (Sebastián de Amorrortu).
  44. ^ Aguirre Sorondo Tratado de Molinología – Los Molinos de Guipúzcoa Eusko Ikaskuntza 1988 ISBN 84-86240-66-2

Further reading[edit]

General and descriptive grammars[edit]

Linguistic studies[edit]

Lexicons[edit]

Other[edit]

History of the language and etymologies[edit]

Relation with other languages[edit]

General reviews of the theories[edit]

Afroasiatic hypothesis[edit]

Dené–Caucasian hypothesis[edit]

Caucasian hypothesis[edit]

Iberian hypothesis[edit]

Uralic and/or Altaic hypothesis[edit]

Vasconic/Old European hypothesis[edit]

Other theories[edit]

External links[edit]