The Mysterious Basque Language

The Basque country is marked in red.

The Basque language also known as Euskera is much more than just another dialect of Spain or France. The Basque country covers seven ancient provinces in both Spain and France, meaning that the language itself is influenced by the surrounding languages. However what is so special about the language spoken in the Basque country is that it is unrelated to any known language and therefore called a language isolate. Today there are about 660,000 people mainly in the Basque country that speak Euskera. Back in the 14th century, citizens of Huesca were officially forbidden from speaking Basque. If they did and were caught, they would be required to pay a fine.

The Basque language was incorporated into Castilian Spanish several centuries ago. Castilian Spanish is spoken in the Cantabria area of Spain, which is located right next to the Basque country. Interestingly enough, Basque did influence the pronunciation of Castilian Spanish words, with the Castilian language eventually taking some Basque words for usage. However, Basque grammar has had very little, if any influence on Castilian Spanish. One common Spanish word that has been adopted from Basque is izquierda (left). Two other languages impacted by Euskera are Catalan and Portuguese. The Catalan word for left is esquerra whereas the Portuguese word for left is esquerda. The Basque word is ezkar.

Euskera is considered to be the last descendant of the pre-Indo-European languages or old Eurasian group of languages once spoken in Western Europe. After the fall of Rome, the area was forgotten, neglected or ignored, which enabled the ancient version of Basque (Aquitanian) to live on. Other ancient languages (Tartessian and Iberian) died out. Because Basque survived, it was able to coexist along with Romance languages, exchanging words back and forth. The first Romance language source was Latin; Gascon also contributed some words and, in the northeastern part of the Basque country, Navarro-Aragonese contributed some words and, finally, dialects from southwestern Spain added some words.

Features of the language spoken in the Basque country include using the Subject-Object-Verb order rather than the Subject-Verb-Object order. Basque contains no consonant clusters and the system of vowels is simple.

Despite having some information on this mysterious language, Linguists are still not 100 percent certain where this language has originated from, which might make it appealing to learn for some.


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