The Basque language

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages, and Linguistics (EHL)' started by Roel~, Apr 3, 2013.

  1. Roel~ Member

    Nederlands - Nederland
    I 'm currently learning the basics of the Basque language and I can see some similarities in the grammar and vocabulary of Hungarian, but also Turkish and some words which could be of Arabic origin (hura = he/she, Arabic = huwa = he).

    I 've read that it is most likely that Basque is familiar with the Georgian language or that Basque is a language which could be one of the last surviving languages of the old languages which were spoken in Europe, like Etruscan.

    What are your opinions on these theories and the Basque langue? I think that it's possible that Basque is a mix-language, which is simply a mix of different language traits and groups.
  2. killerbee256 Senior Member

    American English
    I've also read some theories that it might be related to one of the languages of the Caucasus as well. From my point of view the answer is lost to time, so short of a time machine their no way to know. As for Arabic their may be some loans from it in Basque.
    Edit: Ah here it is,é–Caucasian_languages A little to grand for my taste.
  3. Cenzontle

    Cenzontle Senior Member

    English, U.S.
    If you are looking for Arabic loanwords in Basque, the most likely place to find them would be among unique cultural artifacts that the Arabic-speaking Moors brought to the Iberian Peninsula starting in the 8th century: food, clothing, technology, social institutions, etc. A frequent and essential word such as a personal pronoun is the least likely kind of word to be borrowed from another language. About relating Basque to other languages, I think you will find that most linguists agree with killerbee256: "the answer is lost to time".
  4. Quiviscumque

    Quiviscumque Moderator

    Ciudad del paraíso
    Dear Roel~, enjoy! You have plenty of material to lose your mind :). For example:
    [h=1]Los orígenes ibéricos del pueblo judío. En 1932, siete años antes de su muerte, al poeta francés de origen lituano Lubicz Milosz le fue concedida, en palabras suyas, la gracia de descubrir los orígenes ibéricos del pueblo judío, después de treinta y siete años de plena dedicación a la exégesis, la filosofía y la prehistoria. Y es a través de la lengua vasca y sus semejanzas etimológicas con el hebreo como el escritor hace su particular interpretación metafísica de los profetas y del Apocalipsis de san Juan.[/h]Now, seriously speaking, this is the reference for etymologies of Basque words:
  5. Lurrezko

    Lurrezko Senior Member

    Junto al mar
    Spanish (Spain) / Catalan
    Ese es un trabajo magnífico, amigo Quiviscumque.

    Un saludo
  6. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    English - South-East England
    Larry Trask knew more about Basque than just about anybody, and he got the affinities question dead right too. On his web page he said:

    please note: I do not want to hear about the following: Your latest proof that Basque is related to Iberian/Etruscan/Pictish/Sumerian/ Minoan/Tibetan/Isthmus Zapotec/ Martian. Your discovery that Basque is the secret key to understanding the Ogam inscriptions/the Phaistos disc/ the Easter Island carvings/the Egyptian Book of the Dead/the Qabbala/the prophecies of Nostradamus/your PC manual/the movements of the New York Stock Exchange. Your belief that Basque is the ancestral language of all humankind/a remnant of the speech of lost Atlantis/the language of the vanished civilization of Antarctica/ evidence of visitors from Proxima Centauri. I definitely do not want to hear about these scholarly breakthroughs.
  7. Roel~ Member

    Nederlands - Nederland

    Hola Quiviscumque,

    I have read more theories about this, but the theory that Basque is familiar to Hebrew is dismissed by some linguists and I don't think that it's very likely to be the case, this sounds the same like the 'Welsh is familiar to Hebrew'-theory to me, could you give me some evidence for this theory, because this sounds like the story from an orthodox-christian or an orthodox-jew who wants to show this supposed relationship with Basque.
  8. Roel~ Member

    Nederlands - Nederland
    Ok, and if he is the most respected person in this area of fields, what is his own theory in reference to Basque, of course it can't be traced back but what is most likely? Because I think an affinaty with the Turkic languages is most likely. I am right now searching though and what I find in most places is that people claim that Basque is a pre-Indo-European language, spoken before the people who brought English and Spanish and such languages in Europe. This would mean that Basque is the oldest language spoken in Europe still left.
  9. killerbee256 Senior Member

    American English
    I'm not sure but I think the Uralic languages, like Finnish and Sami have been in some their regions for as long as Basque, but they spread and diversified while Basque did not.
  10. Roel~ Member

    Nederlands - Nederland
    I found this text about Basque in comparison to other languages, from Pål Trosvik of the university of Oslo


    Comparative linguistics – Euskara and other languages

    Euskara, having a unique position among the languages of Western Europe, has received a great deal of attention from linguists worldwide. A veritable plethora of connections has been suggested: ancient Iberian, ancient Aquitanian, ancient Egyptian, Indo-european (especially Celtic, Latin, Greek, Sanskrit and Slavonic), Pictish, North African Berber languages, Sudanic, Semitic, Etruscan, Minoan, Sumerian, Munda languages of India, Uralic, Burushaski, Dravidian, Chikchi-Kamchatkan, Sino-Tibetan, Eskimo, the Na-Dene languages of North-America, as well as several other languages. The perhaps hottest candidates among existing languages have been those of the Caucasus. Comparative work has been carried out with various degrees of diligence, and much of the so called evidence brought forth has been based on mere similarities of a handful of lexical items. The actual data base of such conclusions is by most considered very dodgy. Researchers frequently neglect to include the presence of loan words and derivatives of late formation, as well as such obviously relevant features as syntax and grammar, in their analysis.
    A language group which deserves special attention in this context is the extended Caucasian family, comprising some 40 languages spoken in the area between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. For the last century these languages have received, by far, the most attention by linguists searching for a genetic link to Basque. The connection is supported by a list of cognates, presumably of common derivation, as well as certain grammatical similarities, most notably the unlikely presence of ergativity, as discussed above. However, given the disputed existence of a common Caucasian language family, and the mind boggling lexical diversity within this group, it is hardly surprising that a large list of apparent cognates can be found when all 40 languages are considered. As for the grammatical similarities, ergativity is rare, but hardly unheard of in other languages by no means related to Basque or Caucasian. All in all the hypothesis of a Basque-Caucasian link has been dismissed by a majority of modern researchers.
    The perhaps most obvious candidate for a genetically connected language is the above mentioned Iberian. This long extinct language is known form numerous inscriptions in stone and metal dating to the first 5 centuries B.C. There has, however, never been such an archeological finding in any region known to have been Basque speaking, and attempts at providing a linguistic link to Basque have not been successful, partly due do difficulties in deciphering the ancient scripts, and the existence of a connection has been refuted by such prominent experts as Michelena. It does seem clear that Iberian is not Indo-European, and many researchers adhere to the hypothesis that it is of Berber origin.
    The only widely recognized link to Euskara is the ancient language of the Aquitain region of south-west Gaul. Roman records attest the presence in this area of a people distinct from the predominately Celtic population in this part of the empire, with an outlandish language from which almost 500 words are known form Latin texts. An extensive analysis by Michelena, published in 1954, established a genetic connection with Basque, about which there has been little dispute since.
    One popular theory states that Basque represents an ancient remnant of a language once spoken over large parts of Europe prior to the arrival of the first Indo-Europeans. This indigenous European language was subsequently supplanted during the next thousands of years, leaving the present day Basques as the only speakers of this linguistic relic. The hypothesis finds some support from comparative analysis of Basque cognates and cognates of other European languages, in particular Romance. A prerequisite of the theory is that the Indo-Europeans arrived in a linguistically homogenous Europe, something many researchers find hard to swallow. This hypothesis does, however, tie in nicely with the theory that Basques descended directly from the Cro-Magnon (inhabitants of upper Paleolithic Europe). Skeletons very similar to the original Cro-Magnon type found in the French Basque Country have been found at other, distant sites in Europe and even in the Middle East. If these people represent an ancestral European population, it is not unthinkable that they would have had a common root to their language. Some writers have gone even further, e.g. Bengtson and Ruhlen, proposing Basque as a major element in a Proto-World language. This extraordinary hypothesis is based of the notion that remnants of an ancestral language of all mankind are still discernable in languages of today, and the comparative analysis of cognate lexical items (e.g. bone, dog, hair), all of which bear a resemblance to Basque words with related meanings. The theory has found little favor with the linguistic establishment.
  11. ancalimon Senior Member

    It's only a coincidence but Euskara would mean "the northern dialect" or maybe even (lol) "the dark speech" in Turkish.
  12. Triginta Septem Member

    Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
    English - America
    I'm also learning some Basque right now. I don't see many things I recognize, but I wonder, is "gorputza" from Latin "corpus", maybe? :eek:
  13. Giorgio Spizzi Senior Member

    Hullo, Cenzontle.

    When you say:

    A frequent and essential word such as a personal pronoun is the least likely kind of word to be borrowed from another language.

    you're stating a crucial tenet in linguistics. The comparative rarity of phenomena like the Scandinavian "gift" to English (ie, personal pronoun they) is there to prove it.

  14. Cenzontle

    Cenzontle Senior Member

    English, U.S.
    Hi, Giorgio. After posting my comment about "Arabic loanwords in Basque", I realized that loanwords might not be relevant to the notion implied by Roel's original posting, namely a possible genetic relationship between Arabic and Basque. If we're interested in suggesting a kinship between languages, personal pronouns might be exactly one of the areas where similarity might support the premise, since those words at the "heart" of the language so rarely are replaced. But a coincidence of sounds—"hura"/"huwa"—in just one out of the handful of pronouns is very slim evidence. I think the long quotation given by Roel (#10) shows a proper degree of skepticism.
    The presence of "they" (from Old Norse) in English is, as you point out, exceptional. I read your statement as saying that the _rarity_ of this example "proves" (let's say "supports") the tenet that pronouns are seldom borrowed.
  15. Solle

    Solle Senior Member

    Dear forum colleagues,

    I do apologize for interfering here, but I also need badly some help with Basque and seek any possible help anywhere. I have got a small dialogue in French that has to be translated into this rare language for theatre staging purpose). I have created a separate thread, "Euskera, besoin d'une traduction' on this site, WorldReference, under the 'Other languages' section. I can translate the dialogue into English and Spanish as well if necessary. I should be equally grateful if you could advice me on some Internet source where I could address this question.

    Thank you for any help or advice.

    I hope I'm not violating the site rules fiercely with this message.
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2013

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