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Family transmission of Basque language (Basque as initial language)
Location of the Basque language provinces within Spain and France
Basque (native name: Euskara) is the ancestral language of the Basque people, who inhabit the Basque Country, a region spanning an area in northeastern Spainmarker and southwestern Francemarker. It is the mother tongue of approximately one fifth of Basques, 632,000 out of nearly 3,000,000. Of the native speakers, about 566,000 live in the Spanish part of the Basque country and the rest live in the French part. It is estimated that when second language speakers are included, some 1,063,000 persons speak Basque.

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, often without advising that the French provinces ceased to be administrative reality over two centuries ago. Bearing this in mind, the geographic distribution of the native speakers of Basque can be reported as follows. They are concentrated in a contiguous area including parts of the Spanish Autonomous Communities of the Basque Autonomous Communitymarker (Spanish: País Vasco; Euskara: Euskadi) and Navarremarker and in the western half of the French Département of Pyrénées-Atlantiquesmarker. The Autonomous Community of País Vasco/Euskadi is an administrative entity within the binational ethnographic Basque Country incorporating the traditional Spanish provinces of Biscay, Gipuzkoamarker, and Álavamarker, which retain their existence as politico-administrative divisions.

These provinces and many areas of Navarre are heavily populated by ethnic Basques, but the Euskara language had, at least until the 1990s, all but disappeared from most of Álava, western parts of Biscay and central and southern areas of Navarremarker. In southwestern France, the ancient Basque-populated provinces were Labourd, Lower Navarre, and Soule. They and other regions were consolidated into a single département back in 1790 under the name Basses-Pyrénées, which name persisted until 1969.

A standardized form of the Basque language, called Batua, was developed by the Basque Language Academy in the late 1960s. Batua is mainly used in the Spanish Basque Country. In France the Basque language school network Seaska and the association for a bilingual 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 six main Basque dialects, corresponding to the above mentioned historic provinces populated by Basques: Bizkaian, Gipuzkoan, and Upper Navarrese in Spain and Lower Navarrese, Lapurdian, and Zuberoan (in France). However, the dialect boundaries are not congruent with political boundaries.

Names of the language

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 ουασκωνους (ouaskōnous), an ethnonym used by Strabo.

The term Vascuence, derived from Latin vasconĭce, 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 Huescamarker 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.

History and classification

Though geographically surrounded by Indo-European languages, Basque is classified as a language isolate. It is the last remaining pre-Indo-European language in Western Europe. 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.

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 Pyreneesmarker. 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, Aragonese in the southeast and Spanish in the southwest.

In June 2006, the head of the archaeological site of Iruña-Veleiamarker Eliseo Gil claimed to have found an epigraphic set with a series of 270 Basque inscriptions and drawings from the third century. Some of the words and phrases found were remarkably similar to modern Basque and so were hailed as the first written evidence of Basque. However, the whole finding soon came under serious question and the suspicion of an archaeological forgery has become widespread, after an independent team assessed the alleged evidence and concluded in 2008 that it was false. Yet Gil has stuck to his claims while not dismissing flat out the independent team's conclusion.

Hypotheses on connections with other languages

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:

  • Iberian: another ancient language once spoken in the peninsula, shows several similarities with Aquitanian and Basque. However, there is not enough evidence to distinguish areal contacts from genetic relationship. Iberian itself remains unclassified. Eduardo Orduña Aznar claims to have established correspondences between Basque and Iberian numerals and noun case markers.
  • the Ligurian substrate hypothesis proposed in the 19th century by d'Arbois de Joubainville, J. Pokorny, P. Kretschmer and several other linguists encompasses the Basco-Iberian hypothesis.
  • Georgian: Linking Basque to South Caucasian languages is now widely discredited. The hypothesis was inspired by the existence of the ancient Kingdom of Iberia farther east in the Mediterranean. According to J.P. Mallory, in his 1989 book In Search of the Indo-Europeans, the hypothesis was also inspired by a Basque place-name ending in -adze.
  • Northeast Caucasian languages, such as Chechen, are seen by the French linguist Michel Morvan as more likely candidates for a very distant connection.
  • Dene-Caucasian superfamily: Based on the possible Caucasian link, some linguists, for example John Bengtson and Merritt Ruhlen, have proposed including Basque in the Dene-Caucasian superfamily of languages, but this proposed superfamily includes languages from North America and Eurasia, and its existence is highly controversial.
  • Vasconic substratum hypothesis: This proposal, by the German linguist Theo Vennemann, claims that there is enough toponymical evidence to conclude that Basque is the only survivor of a larger family that once extended throughout most of Europe, and has also left its mark in modern Indo-European languages spoken in Europe.

Geographic distribution

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).
The region in which Basque is spoken today has contracted over centuries and is thus smaller than what is known as the Basque Country, or Euskal Herria in Basque. Toponyms show that the Basque language used to be spoken further eastward in the Pyrenees than today. An example is the Aran Valleymarker (now a Gascon-speaking part of Cataloniamarker), for haran is the Basque word for "valley". However, the growing influence of Latin began to drive Basque out from the less mountainous portions of the region.

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

Basque experienced a rapid decline in Alava and Navarre during the 1800s. 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, it has recently made a modest comeback. Basque-language schools have brought the language to areas such as Encartaciones and the Navarrese Ribera, where it may have disappeared as a native language in the Middle Ages.

Official status

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 Riojamarker) allowed the inhabitants to use Basque in legal processes in the 13th and 14th centuries.

Today Basque holds co-official language status in the Basque regions of Spain: the full autonomous community of the Basque Countrymarker and some parts of Navarremarker. Basque has no official standing in the Northern Basque Country of France 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 allowed (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. Here the "Ley del Vascuence" ("Law of Basque"), seen as contentious by many Basques, 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 you are in.


Louis-Lucien Bonaparte's original 1869 map of Basque dialects.
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 Zuberoan which is regarded as the most divergent Basque dialect.

Between 6 and 9 recent Basque dialects are normally distinguished:

Influence on other languages

Although the influence of the neighboring 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.

Although a number of words of alleged Basque origin in the Spanish language are circulated (eg anchoa 'anchovis', bizarro 'bizarre', perro 'dog' etc), most of these have more easily explicable Romance etymologies or not particularly convincing derivations from Basque. 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). The lack of initial /r/ in Gascon could arguably be due to a Basque influence but this issue is under-researched.

The other most commonly claimed substrate influences:
  • the Old Spanish merger of /v/ and /b/.
  • the simple five vowel system.
  • change of initial /f/ into /h/ and a later zero (eg fablarhablar, with Old Basque lacking /f/).

However, these alleged influences on Spanish are difficult to maintain for a number of reasons:
  • Old Spanish b was almost invariably realized as a bilabial fricative /β/, making a simple merger between /v/ and /β/ much more likely. In addition, this shift also took place widely in the Romance world in languages like Portuguese, Galician, Occitan and Catalan, where it is difficult to argue for Basque adstratum or substratum influence.
  • 5 vowel systems are amongst the most common in the world and do not constitute any sort of reliable evidence of adstratum or substratum influences.
  • There are various issues with the /f/ to /h/ proposal. 1) Spanish did not fully shift /f/ to /h/, instead, it has preserved /f/ before /ue/ and /ɾ/ (cf fuerte, frente). 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. 3) Basque regularly developed Latin /f/ into /b/. 4) The same change also occurs in Gascon, parts of Sardinia, Italy and the Romance languages of the Balkans where no Basque substrate can be reasonably argued for. Hence the position of Castilian /f/ to /h/ developing due to Basque influences is untenable.

Beyond these arguments, a number of traveller groups of Castile are also said to use or have used Basque words in their jargon, such as the gacería, the mingaña and the Galician fala dos arxinas.

Part of the gypsy community in the Basque Country speaks Erromintxela, which is a rare mixed language, with a Kalderash Romany vocabulary and Basque grammar.

Basque pidgins

A number of Basque-based or influenced pidgins existed. In the 16th Century, Basque sailors used a Basque-Icelandic pidgin in their contacts with Iceland. Another Basque pidgin arose from contact between Basque whalers and the indigenous inhabitants in the Gulf of St. Lawrencemarker and Strait of Belle Islemarker.


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 (that is, the agent) 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 system (multiple verb agreement) is only found in Basque, some Caucasian languages, and Hungarian (all non-Indo-European). The ergative-absolutive alignment is also unique among European languages, but not rare worldwide.

Consider the phrase:

"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:

  • di- is used in the present tense when the verb has a subject (ergative), a direct object (absolutive), and an indirect object, and the object is he/she/it/them.
  • -zki- means the absolutive (in this case the newspapers) is plural, if it were singular there would be no infix; and
  • -t or '-da-' means "to me/for me" (indirect object).
  • in this instance there is no suffix after -t. A zero suffix in this position indicates that the ergative (the subject) is third person singular (he/she/it).

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

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

  • di- = direct object, present tense
  • -zki- = direct object is plural
  • -da- = indirect object (to me/for me) {-t becomes -da- when not final.}
  • -zue = subject (you pl.)

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]"). 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 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]")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 (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 perfect tenses 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's been estimated that, with two levels of recursion, a Basque noun may have 458,683 inflected forms.

Basic syntactic construction is Subject-Objects-Verb (unlike Spanish, French or English where Subject-Verb-Objects 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.


Table of consonant phonemes of Standard Basque
Labial Lamino-
Palatal or

Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ñ, -in-
Plosive Voiceless p t tt, -it- k
Voiced b d dd, -id- g
Affricate Voiceless tz ts tx
Fricative Voiceless f z s x h
(Mostly)1 Voiced j
Lateral l ll, -il-
Rhotic Trill r-, -rr-, -r
Tap -r-

Basque has a distinction between laminal and apical articulation for the alveolar fricatives and affricates. In the laminal consonants the friction occurs across the blade of the tongue, while in apical ones, it occurs at the tip (apex). For example, zu "you" is distinguished from su "fire".

The laminal alveolar fricative ( ) is made with the tongue tip pointing toward the lower teeth; its affricate counterpart is . These are written with an orthographic z (z, tz). The voiceless apicoalveolar fricative ( ) is written s; the tip of the tongue points toward the upper teeth. The corresponding affricate ( ) is ts. In the westernmost parts of the Basque country, only the apical s and the alveolar affricate tz are used.

Basque also features postalveolar sibilants ( , written x, and , 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 "droplet". A few common words, such as txakur "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 . For example, the in egin "to act" becomes palatal when the suffix -a is added: = "the action".

The sound represented by j has a variety of realizations according to the regional dialect: (the last one is typical of the Spanish Basque Country).

The vowel system is the same as Spanish for most speakers. It consists of five pure vowels, . 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 French.

Stress and pitch

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) only provides 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 which sets its sound apart from the prosodical patterns of Spanish (which tends to stress the second-to-last syllable). 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; e.g., pronouncing nire ama ("my mum") as nire áma (- - ´ -), instead of as niré amà (- ´ - `).


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).

Writing system

An example of Basque lettering in a funerary stela.
Basque is written using the Latin alphabet including ñ and sometimes ç and ü. Basque does not use Cc, Qq, Vv, Ww, Yy except for loanwords; nevertheless, the adopted Basque alphabet (established by Euskaltzaindia) does include them.
Aa Bb Cc 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, while the proper name Ainhoa requires the mute h to break the palatalization of the n.

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

The letters of the alphabet in a Basque style font.
In Sabino Arana's (1865-1903) orthography, 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.

Number system used by millers

An example of the number system employed by millers.
Basque millers traditionally employed a separate number system of unknown origin. 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.


The Basque numbering system is vigesimal.


Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

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

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 deitzaten,

baina zuk, esklabu horrek,

kateak egiten dituzu, kate gehiago.

:Joseba Sarrionandia
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 red iron that you carry out the oven

can be adapted as you want,

you can make swords

in order that your people could break the chains,

but you, this slave,

you make chains, more chains.

:Joseba Sarrionandia

See also


  1. Trask, L. The History of Basque Routledge: 1997 ISBN 0-415-13116-2
  2. Third-century Basque inscriptions found in archaeological site
  3. Page with the text of all the official reports on the falsehood of the Veleia Basque inscriptions (in Spanish): IRUÑA/VELEIA
  4. Article in El País. 21 Nov. 2008
  5. Finds that made Basques proud are fake, say experts. Guardian, 24 Nov. 2008
  6. Aznar 2005
  7. A Final (?) Response to the Basque Debate in Mother Tongue 1 (John D. Bengston)
  8. Theo Vennemann homepage
  9. Pagola 1984
  10. Rohlfs 1980
  11. 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.
  12. Agirrezabal 2003
  13. Deen 1937.
  14. Bakker 1987
  15. (Basque) INFLECTION § Potential paradigms: absolutive and dative.
  16. Aspecto, tiempo y modo in Spanish, Aditzen aspektua, tempusa eta modua in Basque.
  17. Agirre et al., 1992]
  18. Basque alphabet
  19. Aguirre Sorondo Tratado de Molinología - Los Molinos de Guipúzcoa Eusko Ikaskuntza 1988 ISBN 8486240662

Further reading

General and descriptive grammars

  • Allières, Jacques (1979): Manuel pratique de basque, "Connaissance des langues" v. 13, A. & J. Picard (Paris), ISBN 270840038X.
  • de Azkue Aberasturi, Resurrección María (1969): Morfología vasca. La Gran enciclopedia vasca, Bilbao 1969.
  • Campion, Arturo (1884): Gramática de los cuatro dialectos literarios de la lengua euskara, Tolosa.
  • Hualde, José Ignacio & Ortiz de Urbina, Jon (eds.): A Grammar of Basque. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 2003. ISBN 3-11-017683-1.
  • King, Alan R. (1994): The Basque Language. A Practical Introduction. University of Nevada Press, Reno. ISBN 0-87417-155-5. (A course.)
  • Lafitte, Pierre (1962): Grammaire basque - navarro-labourdin littéraire. Elkarlanean, Donostia/Bayonne, ISBN 2-913156-10-X. (Dialectal.)
  • Lafon, R. (1972): "Basque" In Thomas A. Sebeok (ed.) Current Trends in Linguistics. Vol. 9. Linguistics in Western Europe, Mouton, The Hague, Mouton, pp. 1744–1792.
  • Tovar, Antonio, (1957): The Basque Language, U. of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia.
  • Uhlenbeck, C. (1947): "La langue basque et la linguistique générale" in Lingua I, pp. 59–76
  • Urquizu Sarasúa, Patricio (2007): Gramática de la lengua vasca. UNED, Madrid, ISBN 9788436234428.
  • van Eys, Willem J. (1879): Grammaire comparée des dialectes basques, Paris.

Linguistic studies

  • Agirre, Eneko, et al. 1992. XUXEN: A spelling checker/corrector for Basque based on two-level morphology.
  • Aznar, Eduardo Orduña. 2005. Sobre algunos posibles numerales en textos ibéricos. Palaeohispanica 5:491–506. This fifth volume of the journal Palaeohispanica consists of Acta Palaeohispanica IX, the proceedings of the ninth conference on Paleohispanic studies.
  • Gavel, Henri (1921): Eléments de phonetique basque (= Revista Internacional de los Estudios Vascos = Revue Internationale des Etudes Basques 12 , París. (Study of the dialects.)
  • Hualde, José Ignacio (1991): Basque phonology, Taylor & Francis, ISBN 9780415056557.
  • Lakarra Andrinua, Joseba A.; Hualde, José Ignacio (eds.) (2006): Studies in Basque and historical linguistics in memory of R. L. Trask - R. L. Trasken oroitzapenetan ikerketak euskalaritzaz eta hizkuntzalaritza historikoaz, (= Anuario del Seminario de Filología Vasca Julio de Urquijo: International journal of basque linguistics and philology Vol. 40, No. 1–2), San Sebastián.
  • Lakarra, J. & Ortiz de Urbina, J.(eds.) (1992): Syntactic Theory and Basque Syntax, Gipuzkoako Foru Aldundia, Donostia-San Sebastian, ISBN 978-8479070946.
  • de Rijk, R. (1972): Studies in Basque Syntax: Relative clauses PhD Dissertation, MIT, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
  • Uhlenbeck, C.C. (1909-1910): "Contribution à une phonétique comparative des dialectes basques", Revista Internacional de los Estudios Vascos = Revue Internationale des Etudes Basques 3 [294] pp. 465–503 4 [295] pp. 65–120.


  • Aulestia, Gorka (1989): Basque-English dictionary University of Nevada Press, Reno, ISBN 0-87417-126-1.
  • Aulestia, Gorka & White, Linda (1990): English-Basque dictionary, University of Nevada Press, Reno, ISBN 0-87417-156-3.
  • Azkue Aberasturi, Resurrección María de (1905): Diccionario vasco-español-francés, Geuthner, Bilbao/Paris (reprinted many times).
  • Luis Mitxelena: Diccionario General Vasco/ Orotariko Euskal Hiztegia. 16 vols. Real academia de la lengua vasca, Bilbao 1987ff. ISBN 84-271-1493-1.
  • Morris, Mikel (1998): "Morris Student Euskara-Ingelesa Basque-English Dictionary", Klaudio Harluxet Fundazioa, Donostia
  • Sota, M. de la, et alii, 1976: Diccionario Retana de autoridades de la lengua vasca: con cientos de miles de nuevas voces y acepciones, Antiguas y modernas, Bilbao: La Gran Enciclopedia Vasca. ISBN 8424802489.
  • Van Eys, W. J. 1873. Dictionnaire basque-français. Paris/London: Maisonneuve/Williams & Norgate.


  • Agirre Sorondo, Antxon. 1988. Tratado de Molinología: Los molinos en Guipúzcoa. San Sebastián: Eusko Ikaskunza-Sociedad de Estudios Vascos. Fundación Miguel de Barandiarán.
  • Bakker, Peter. 1987. A Basque Nautical Pidgin: A Missing Link in the History of Fu. Journal of Pidgin and Creole Languages 2(1):1–30.
  • Bakker, Peter, et al. 1991. Basque pidgins in Iceland and Canada. Anejos del Anuario del Seminario de Filología Vasca "Julio de Urquijo", XXIII.
  • Deen, Nicolaas Gerard Hendrik. 1937. Glossaria duo vasco-islandica. Amsterdam. Reprinted 1991 in Anuario del Seminario de Filología Vasca Julio de Urquijo, 25(2):321–426.
  • Hualde, José Ignacio. 1984. Icelandic Basque pidgin. Journal of Basque Studies in America 5:41–59.
  • Morvan, Michel. 2004. Noms de lieux du Pays basque. Paris.

History of the language and etymologies

  • Agirrezabal, Lore. 2003. Erromintxela, euskal ijitoen hizkera. San Sebastián: Argia.
  • Hualde, José Ignacio; Lakarra, Joseba A. & R.L. Trask (eds) (1996): Towards a History of the Basque Language, "Current Issues in Linguistic Theory" 131, John Benjamin Publishing Company, Amsterdam, ISBN 978-1556195853.
  • Michelena, L., 1990. Fonética histórica vasca. Bilbao. ISBN 84-7907-016-1
  • Lafon, René (1944): Le système du verbe basque au XVIe siècle, Delmas, Bordeaux.
  • Löpelmann, Martin (1968): Etymologisches Wörterbuch der baskischen Sprache. Dialekte von Labourd, Nieder-Navarra und La Soule. 2 Bde. de Gruyter, Berlin (non-standard etymologies; idiosyncratic).
  • Orpustan, J. B. (1999): La langue basque au Moyen-Age. Baïgorri, ISBN 2-909262-22-7.
  • Pagola, Rosa Miren. 1984. Euskalkiz Euskalki. Vitoria-Gasteiz: Eusko Jaurlaritzaren Argitalpe.
  • Rohlfs, Gerhard. 1980. Le Gascon: études de philologie pyrénéenne. Zeitschrift für Romanische Philologie 85.
  • Trask, R. Larry: History of Basque. New York/London: Routledge, 1996. ISBN 0-415-13116-2.
  • Trask, Larry R. † (edited by Max W. Wheeler) (2008): Etymological Dictionary of Basque, University of Sussex (unfinished).
  • Morvan, Michel. 2009. Dictionnaire étymologique basque. Internet/Lexilogos.

Relation with other languages

General reviews of the theories

  • Jacobsen, William H. Jr. (1999): " Basque Language Origin Theories" In Basque Cultural Studies, edited by William A. Douglass, Carmelo Urza, Linda White, and Joseba Zulaika, 27–43. Basque Studies Program Occasional Papers Series, No. 5. Reno: Basque Studies Program, University of Nevada, Reno.
  • Lakarra Andrinua, Joseba (1998): " Hizkuntzalaritza konparatua eta aitzineuskararen erroa" (in Basque), Uztaro 25, pp. 47–110, (includes review of older theories).
  • Lakarra Andrinua, Joseba (1999): " Ná-De-Ná" (in Basque), Uztaro 31, pp. 15–84.
  • Morvan, Michel, 1996. The linguistic origins of basque (in French). Bordeaux: Presses universitaires. pp. 25–95.
  • Trask, R. L. (1995): "Origin and Relatives of the Basque Language : Review of the Evidence" in Towards a History of the Basque Language, ed. J. Hualde, J. Lakarra, R. L. Trask, John Benjamins, Amsterdam / Philadelphia.
  • Trask, R. Larry: History of Basque. New York/London: Routledge, 1996. ISBN 0-415-13116-2; pp. 358–414.

Afroasiatic hypothesis

  • Schuchardt, Hugo (1913): " Baskisch-Hamitische wortvergleichungen" Revista Internacional de Estudios Vascos = "Revue Internationale des Etudes Basques" 7:289-340.
  • Mukarovsky, Hans Guenter (1964/66): "Les rapports du basque et du berbère", Comptes rendus du GLECS (Groupe Linguistique d’Etudes Chamito-Sémitiques) 10:177–184.
  • Mukarovsky, Hans Guenter (1972): "El vascuense y el bereber" Euskera 17:5–48.
  • Trombetti, Alfredo (1925): Le origini della lingua basca, Bologna, (new edit ISBN 9788827100622).

Dene-Caucasian hypothesis

Caucasian hypothesis

  • Bouda, Karl (1950): " L'Euskaro-Caucasique" Boletín de la Real Sociedad Vasca de Amigos del País. Homenaje a D. julio de Urquijo e Ybarra vol. III, San Sebastián, pp. 207–232.
  • Klimov, Georgij A. (1994): Einführung in die kaukasische Sprachwissenschaft, Buske, Hamburg, ISBN 3-87548-060-0; pp. 208–215.
  • Lafon, René (1951): "Concordances morphologiques entre le basque et les langues caucasiques" Word 7, pp. 227–224.
  • Lafon, René (1952): "Études basques et caucasiques" Word 8, pp. 80–94.
  • Trombetti, Alfredo (1925): Le origini della lingua basca, Bologna, (new edit ISBN 9788827100622).
  • Míchelena, Luis (1968): "L'euskaro-caucasien" in Martinet, A. (ed.) Le langage, Paris, pp. 1414–1437 (criticism).
  • Uhlenbeck, Christian Cornelius (1924): " De la possibilité d' une parenté entre le basque et les langues caucasiques", Revista Internacional de los Estudios Vascos = Revue Internationale des Etudes Basques 15, pp. 565–588.
  • Zelikov, Mixail (2005): " L’hypothèse basco-caucasienne dans les travaux de N. Marr" Cahiers de l’ILSL, N° 20, pp. 363–381.

Iberian hypothesis

  • Bähr, Gerhard (1948): "Baskisch und Iberisch" Eusko Jakintza II, pp. 3–20, 167–194, 381–455.
  • Gorrochategui, Joaquín (1993): La onomástica aquitana y su relación con la ibérica, Lengua y cultura en Hispania prerromana : actas del V Coloquio sobre lenguas y culturas de la Península Ibérica : (Colonia 25-28 de Noviembre de 1989) (Francisco Villar and Jürgen Untermann, eds.), ISBN 84-7481-736-6 , pp. 609–634.
  • Rodríguez Ramos, Jesús (2002): La hipótesis del vascoiberismo desde el punto de vista de la epigrafía íbera, Fontes linguae vasconum: Studia et documenta, 90, pp. 197–218, ISSN 0046-435X.
  • Schuchardt, Hugo Ernst Mario (1907): Die Iberische Deklination, Wien.

Uralic and/or Altaic hypothesis

  • Bonaparte, Louis Lucien (1862): Langue basque et langues finnoises, London.
  • Morvan, Michel (1996): The linguistic origins of basque (in French). Bordeaux: Presses universitaires. ISBN 2-86781-182-1.

Vasconic/Old European hypothesis

  • Vennemann, Theo (2003): Europa Vasconica - Europa Semitica, Trends in Linguistics. Studies and Monographs 138, De Gruyter, Berlin, ISBN 978-3-11-017054-2.
  • Vennemann, Theo (2007): "Basken wie wir: Linguistisches und Genetisches zum europäischen Stammbaum", BiologenHeute 5/6, 6–11.

Other theories

  • Thornton, R.W. (2002): Basque Parallels to Greenberg’s Eurasiatic. in: Mother Tongue. Gloucester, Mass., 2002.

External links

Basque media




Basque lettering

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