Intonation of Basque and Spanish - influences on each other?

!netko!

Member
Croatian, Croatia
Recently I've decided to seek out some youtube clips in Basque (euskera) for the first time, and what surprised me a bit was how similar the intonation of the language seems to be to the intonation of Spanish (Castellano). Not identical, of course, but there are definitely striking similarities in intonation for two completely different and non-related languages. The similarities might be easier to notice to people who are not native speakers of either. Or, who knows, maybe I'm just imagining things:D Anyway, my question is: if there really are similarities, how come? Is it due to Castellano influencing Basque? Or is it maybe due to Basque influences on Vulgar Latin and Old Castillian during the development of the Castillian language?

The first option sounds much more likely, but I do remember being told that it was Basque influence that caused the dropping of the "f", which other Romance languages still retain, in the beginning of many words in Spanish, so I'm curious about what other influence Basque might have had in those early stages. But then again, it was only spoken in a relatively small area even back then, wasn't it? Or was the Basque-speaking area much larger pre-Romanization? And speaking of Romanzation, how much do we know about other Iberian pre-Romance languages,apart from Basque? I think some of them were Celtic? And the others? Could some of them have been related to Basque, maybe?
 
  • Agró

    Senior Member
    Spanish-Navarre

    olaszinho

    Senior Member
    Central Italian
    I was watchting a tv programme last night and I was shocked by the close resemblance between Basque and Castilian Spanish. Both the pronunciation and the intonation are so similar! If I did not know Spanish I could have said that that show was in Spanish. Even some sounds are so Iberian, I'm referring to s, v, r sounds. The most surprising element was the intonation, anyway: it is completely European Spanish to my ears.
     

    elirlandes

    Senior Member
    Ireland English
    I was watchting a tv programme last night and I was shocked by the close resemblance between Basque and Castilian Spanish. Both the pronunciation and the intonation are so similar! If I did not know Spanish I could have said that that show was in Spanish. Even some sounds are so Iberian, I'm referring to s, v, r sounds. The most surprising element was the intonation, anyway: it is completely European Spanish to my ears.
    Many people that you hear speaking Basque on television speak Spanish as their first language. I find that the phenomenon you describe certainly exists, but that there is certainly a group of Basque speakers who's intonation resembles that of Spanish somewhat less.

    I also find that the opposite happens. By this I mean that there is a recognisable accent in Spanish that comes from the Basque country, and that additionally, there is a different, more exagerated accent which is that of Basque speakers speaking Spanish. I notice the same phenomenon in Catalunya.
     

    L'irlandais

    Senior Member
    Ireland: English-speaking ♂
    Hello !netko!,
    Your observation seems very subjective to me ; though I don't for one minute suggest you're imagining this. Well statistics, for what they are worth, tell us that one and one quarter million people speak basque.
    About 25% of the inhabitants of the Basque country. (You can well imagine that previously, with almost all inhabitants speaking basque, that would have represented a much larger community.)

    Of those basque-speakers, some 67 thousand live on the frenchside of the border. These French-Basques don't suffer from the symptoms you mention, at least not in my opinion.
     

    uin

    New Member
    Cymru
    Many people that you hear speaking Basque on television speak Spanish as their first language. I find that the phenomenon you describe certainly exists, but that there is certainly a group of Basque speakers who's intonation resembles that of Spanish somewhat less.
    I agree, but it's certainly a minority in my opinion. Listening to Basque radio I occasionally hear people being interviewed who (at least to my ears) have more of an "authentic" Basque sound. But generally speaking the intonation sounds pretty Spanish, unless...
    Of those basque-speakers, some 67 thousand live on the frenchside of the border. These French-Basques don't suffer from the symptoms you mention, at least not in my opinion.
    ...they are Iparraldekoak (French-Basques), in which case, believe it or not, they sound French ;).
     
    The Spanish language or Castillian is a Latin spoken by "Basque mouths".

    The Castillian people arose from the romanization of the Autrigonian Basque tribe. So it is normal that the Basque and the Spanish sound very similar. The Spanish has got the same 5 vowels of the Basque without degrees distinction: /i/-/e/-/a/-/o/-/u/; the rest of the Latin languages have more than 5 vowels.

    The Latin /f/ sound disappeared from the beginning of many Castillian words because Basque people that started to pronounce Latin couldn't pronounce this sound. In old Basque a lot of words began with /h/ so the first Castillian speakers started to pronounce the /f/ sound as /h/.

    The /f/ sound in the Basque language is very recent and it is used in few words. Many Latin words adquired by the Basque have got the same evolution /f/>/h/ or /f/>/p/. Because the /p/ was the more similar sound that Basque language had to pronounce the /f/ sound.
     

    Istriano

    Senior Member
    Croatian
    Yes, it's called influence:
    Basque has Castillian intonation, just like
    Argentinian Spanish has Italian intonation.
     
    It is not only influence, it is language substratum, because the place where the Castillian language started to be spoken, before the romanization was Basque speaker. People started to speak Latin and left to speak Basque and the Latin of the first Castillians took Basque pronounciation, words and a little of grammar. The Basque language disappeared in Castille in XVI century A.D., therefore after XVI centuries of bilinguism.
     

    Brautryðjandinn í Úlfsham

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    I don't speak any Basque and only enough Spanish to get by but I've also noticed that even though from a grammatical standpoint Spanish and Basque are extremely different from one another they both sound very similar to one another. I have experienced the same with Welsh and Irish vs English. When I listen to most people speak Welsh/Irish it sounds to me like they're saying nonsense words in an English accent. I know that this isn't true because the grammar and phonology of Welsh and Irish are completely unique but nevertheless that's what it sounds like to me. I think it might have to deal with the fact that so many people that speak Basque also speak Spanish and the same is true of Welsh/Irish vs English. It seems it might also be because the languages have influenced each others pronunciation.
    Listen to this recording of a person speaking Basque:

    http://www.elkar.com/ipuin_eta_ilustrazio_lehiaketa/josetxo_hargina.mp3

    When the speaker says the "z" in "gizon" its sounds identical to the Castilian Spanish pronunciation of "z" in "zanahoria" or the "th" in "thick" to me. Does anyone else notice this? Is the speaker not a native Basque speaker or is this a dialect of Basque or do I just mishear the sound?
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    The pronunciation of the letters "z" and "s" varies between Spanish dialects. Naturally, in the dialects spoken in the Basque Country people pronounce them similarly in Basque as they do in Spanish, but this doesn't prove much in itself.
     
    The Basque z is pronounced more less as english z, it is not pronounced as English th in think. American z or s is very similar to the Basque way to pronounce z, because Andalusian or American Spanish pronounciation is different.
     
    I was reffering to the American Spanish way to pronounce z or s, not about American English. In Spanish as in Basque there are different ways to pronounce z or s but in Basque it is never pronounced as th in think.
     

    Brautryðjandinn í Úlfsham

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    I don't speak Basque but I've heard a little and usually I hear the "s" pronounced almost identically to "s" of Castilian Spanish and the "z" like the "s/z" of Mexican Spanish. However, in the recording on elkar.com it sounded to me as if the person were pronouncing the "z" like the Castilian "z". That might just be because I'm mishearing the sound or because the speaker was maybe speaking too close to the recorder to make it sound that way. In addition, the tone of the speaker sounds quite similar to the Spanish tone to me.
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    I was reffering to the American Spanish way to pronounce z or s, not about American English. In Spanish as in Basque there are different ways to pronounce z or s but in Basque it is never pronounced as th in think.
    You're quite right, and I apologize for my misleading post.

    The fact that Basque (in some dialects; I'm not sure if it's in all of them) distinguishes between apical "s" [s̺] and dental "z" [s̪], as northern dialects of Spanish and Portuguese do or used to do, does suggest an influence of Basque on the northern Romance dialects of the peninsula.

    Do you happen to know if the dental [s̪] has always been spelled with a "z" in Basque?
     
    In Western Basque the s and z are pronounced in the same way, like a mix of Spanish s and American Spanish s. In Eastern, Northern and standard Basque the s is pronounced like Spanish standard s but pushing the air to the top of the palate; and z is pronounced like American Spanish z or s.

    There have been different ways to spell the z sound in old Basque texts, they can appeared writen like c, ç or z. The s sound more less always have been written like s. The mix between s and z sounds in Western Basque is very recent.

    The difference between apical "s" [s̺] and dental "z" [s̪] in Catalan, old Galician, old Castillian and Portuguese has no relation with a Basque influence, it is a normal Latin evolution
     
    There is a theory about Basque substratum in Northern Spain and Southern France not related with the s o z sounds but with the difference between r (/r/) and rr (/ɾ/) and the lack of the /v/ sound in all the languages that are spoken in that area (Galician, Castillian, Catalan and Occitan), because in prehistorical ages the Basque language was spoken in those territories.
     

    Ben Jamin

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Yes, it's called influence:
    Basque has Castillian intonation, just like
    Argentinian Spanish has Italian intonation.
    I have just come back from a visit to Argentina (Buenos Aires) and Uruguay (Montevideo). To say that the Argentinians (Porteños) have an Italian intonation is to exaggerate enormously! I am well familiar with the Italian, and to my ears the Porteño dialect lies 90% closer to other South American dialects than to Italian. The disturbing pronunciation of 'll' as 'sh' makes it sounds rather somewhat Portuguese.
     

    Ben Jamin

    Senior Member
    Polish
    I don't speak any Basque and only enough Spanish to get by but I've also noticed that even though from a grammatical standpoint Spanish and Basque are extremely different from one another they both sound very similar to one another. I have experienced the same with Welsh and Irish vs English. When I listen to most people speak Welsh/Irish it sounds to me like they're saying nonsense words in an English accent. I know that this isn't true because the grammar and phonology of Welsh and Irish are completely unique but nevertheless that's what it sounds like to me. I think it might have to deal with the fact that so many people that speak Basque also speak Spanish and the same is true of Welsh/Irish vs English. It seems it might also be because the languages have influenced each others pronunciation.
    Listen to this recording of a person speaking Basque:

    http://www.elkar.com/ipuin_eta_ilustrazio_lehiaketa/josetxo_hargina.mp3

    When the speaker says the "z" in "gizon" its sounds identical to the Castilian Spanish pronunciation of "z" in "zanahoria" or the "th" in "thick" to me. Does anyone else notice this? Is the speaker not a native Basque speaker or is this a dialect of Basque or do I just mishear the sound?
    This is also the case with other languages. If a person that does not speak Finnish or any Nordic langauge hears somebody speaking the Swedish dialect from Finland, then the listener will have a problem to tell which is which.
    I have listened, however, to a Welsh film with dialogues in Welsh. It must have been "pure" Welsh, as it did not sound like English at all. More like Icelandic. By the way, the English accent from Wales is definitely distinct from English accent from England. Yoy would never say that the speaker is from England.
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    If I am not wrong the apical /s/ and dental /z/ are present in all Latin languages except modern Castillian and modern Galician.
    As far as I know, apical "s" can only be found in the northern part of the Iberian Peninsula, in the Romance languages — including some dialects of Castilian and Galician. Elsewhere, "s" is dental like in French and Italian (or English).
     
    I have just come back from a visit to Argentina (Buenos Aires) and Uruguay (Montevideo). To say that the Argentinians (Porteños) have an Italian intonation is to exaggerate enormously! I am well familiar with the Italian, and to my ears the Porteño dialect lies 90% closer to other South American dialects than to Italian. The disturbing pronunciation of 'll' as 'sh' makes it sounds rather somewhat Portuguese.
    Argentinian or Uruguayan Spanish is full of Italian accent and vocabulary. To say job they say laburo that comes from Italian laboro, nono (grandfather), nona (grand mother)...
     
    As far as I know, apical "s" can only be found in the northern part of the Iberian Peninsula, in the Romance languages — including some dialects of Castilian and Galician. Elsewhere, "s" is dental like in French and Italian (or English).
    Yes, I was wrong! apico alveolar s is present only in Northern Spanish languages, but the Basque s is more less apico palatal, it is pronounced pushing the air to the palate.

    Maybe for a Basque substratum present in Northern Iberian penninsula the articullation place of the s went upper in Latin languages that arose there and the s started to be pronounced in a apico alveolar way instead of in a dental way
     
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    Ben Jamin in my post I was talking about both: intonation (accent) and vocabulary

    Argentinian or Uruguayan Spanish is full of Italian accent and vocabulary. To say job they say laburo that comes from Italian laboro, nono (grandfather), nona (grand mother)...
    A lot of Italian emigrants went to Argentina and it is very common an Argentinian with Italian surname. For Spanish speakers is very clear to feel the Italian "musicality" when Argentinians speak in Spanish. Even when an Argentinian or Uruguayan is explaining something to you they use gestures with their hands of Italian origin that are not used in other Spanish countries.
     
    Benjamin in Southern Basque Country the phonetic influence of the Spanish have been very low because untill Franco Dictatorship (1939-1975) most of the Basque speakers didn't know to speak in Spanish, Basque speakers were monolingual. So we speak more less a "pure" Basque.

    In Northern Basque Country on the other hand since XVI-XVII centuries all the people was bilingual, their mother language was the Basque but they also spoke Gascon --an Occitan dialect-- and this way Northern Basque is full of Gascon phonetic influence.

    The French was influenced by German then the Gascon was influenced by the French and after the Gascon influenced the Basque so Northern Basque sounds like French!

    Basque only have 5 vowels without degree distinctions but Northern Basque has German ö and ü vowels too. For example in Southern Basque "you" is said "zu" and in Northern Basque it is said "zü"
     

    monkeywrench

    Member
    fr-fr,eu-la
    ...they are Iparraldekoak (French-Basques), in which case, believe it or not, they sound French ;).
    horrible word that doesnt exist

    This is also the case with other languages. If a person that does not speak Finnish or any Nordic langauge hears somebody speaking the Swedish dialect from Finland, then the listener will have a problem to tell which is which.
    I have listened, however, to a Welsh film with dialogues in Welsh. It must have been "pure" Welsh, as it did not sound like English at all. More like Icelandic. By the way, the English accent from Wales is definitely distinct from English accent from England. Yoy would never say that the speaker is from England.
    interesting. most young speakers of Basque, Breton, Corsican, Occitan and Catalan in France have a very thick French accent

    Benjamin in Southern Basque Country the phonetic influence of the Spanish have been very low because untill Franco Dictatorship (1939-1975) most of the Basque speakers didn't know to speak in Spanish, Basque speakers were monolingual. So we speak more less a "pure" Basque.

    In Northern Basque Country on the other hand since XVI-XVII centuries all the people was bilingual, their mother language was the Basque but they also spoke Gascon --an Occitan dialect-- and this way Northern Basque is full of Gascon phonetic influence.

    The French was influenced by German then the Gascon was influenced by the French and after the Gascon influenced the Basque so Northern Basque sounds like French!
    not exactly, the purest native Basque accents are in the mountains of Navarre, Low Navarre, Soule among older people most of the time, regardless whether they're French or Spanish. Basque from Biscaye and Gipuzkoa (or ETB Basque) is generally Spanish-sounding, and Basque from Lapurdi extremely French-sounding even among native speakers (except old people in villages like Sara, etc)
     
    horrible word that doesnt exist
    not exactly, the purest native Basque accents are in the mountains of Navarre, Low Navarre, Soule among older people most of the time, regardless whether they're French or Spanish. Basque from Biscaye and Gipuzkoa (or ETB Basque) is generally Spanish-sounding, and Basque from Lapurdi extremely French-sounding even among native speakers (except old people in villages like Sara, etc)
    That's not correct. The best Basque accent when pronouncing the words is in Biscay, the best sound pronounciation in Guipuzcoa and Higher Navarre. In whole Northern Basque Country (French-Basque Country) the Basque is extremely French-sounding. In Soule, for example, are pronounced German ü and ö sounds, in Labourd and Lower Navarre is pronounced the ü vowel, and these sounds are not from Basque origin. The original Basque vowels are: a, e, i, o, u and not ö or ü. In Northern Basque Country the double r is also pronounced like French or German r, and the original Basque double r is pronounced like Spanish double r.
     

    monkeywrench

    Member
    fr-fr,eu-la
    ^ lots of generalizations in this post
    there are still people in Lower Navarre with native accent (including young people: one 35ish I can attest), in Sara (Lapurdi) for example I have heard old people speak without French accent and without French R, but I'm repeating myself
     

    pcplus

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    it's must be something similar to for example when I listen to Irish TV in Irish Gaelic, what sounds to me in the great majority of sounds, as a kind of unintelligible English. It sounds very much like the same intonation when Irish people speak English
     
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    duvija

    Senior Member
    Spanish - Uruguay
    I have a problem. The question was about 'intonation'. And then it only refers to the pronunciation of consonants? So what about 'intonation'? (I hope you are not mixing them up :confused:)
     

    Ben Jamin

    Senior Member
    Polish
    You are right. If we comment on a question about intonaton we should not mix in the pronunciation of consonants. These are quite different things, but apparently some people do mix them.
     
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