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The Basque Language

Written by Jacob C. Herman

Basque HistoryThe Basque region is an area in the Pyrenees where approximately 80,000 Basques live on the French side of the mountains and 580,000 on the Spanish side. The Basques are the oldest group of indigenous people in Europe. Paul Laxalt, the former governor of Nevada, is a Basque-American. Léopold Eyharts is a French astronaut of Basque descent. It is thought that Christopher Columbus's crew was made up of a large number of Basques. One intriguing fact about the Basques is that their language seems to have developed on its own without being derived from other languages. Until the 16th century, the Basque language was a purely spoken language. Published in 1545, the oldest known Basque text is a collection of poems written by Bernard Detchepare. The Basque language, called Euskara, is broken up into several dialects.

Basque Linguistics Basque did not have a standard alphabet until the mid-1960s. In 1964, the Royal Basque Language Academy devised a new standard for writing Basque. The Basque alphabet is written in Latin and contains the following letters: a b d e f g h i j k l m n ñ o p r s t u x z. The remaining letters in the standard alphabet are only used when translations are necessary.

Relation to Other Languages Basque appears to be an isolated language in that it did not derive from other languages, although opinions vary. Basque borrows words from the Latin, French, Spanish, Celtic, and Arabic languages, but it did not develop from them.

Speak Basque!Below is a list of common English phrases and words, translated into Basque:

  1. Thanks a lot - Eskerrik asko
  2. Good afternoon - Arratsaldeon
  3. You're welcome - Ez horregatik
  4. Who are you? - Nor zara zu?
  5. What is this? - Zer da hau?
  6. Where are you from? - Nongoa zara zu?
  7. Girl - Neska
  8. House - Etxe
  9. Dog - Txakur
  10. Boy - Mutil

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