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Basque language

Spoken in:Spain
Region:Basque Country
Total speakers: 580,000
Ranking:Not in top 100
Language isolate
Official status
Official language of:Spain
Regulated by:Euskaltzaindia
Language codes
ISO 639-1: eu
ISO 639-2(B): baq
ISO 639-2(T): eus

Basque is the non-Indo-European language spoken by the Basque people, who live in northern Spain and the adjoining area of southwestern France. The Basque name for the language is Euskara

Table of contents
1 History and Classification
2 Geographic distribution
3 Sounds
4 Grammar
5 Vocabulary
6 Writing system
7 Examples
8 External links

History and Classification

The ancestors of Basques are among the ancient inhabitants of Europe, and their origins are still unknown as are the origins of their language itself. Many people have tried to link Basque to Etruscan, African languages, Caucasian languages and so on, but most scholars see Basque as a language isolate. It was spoken long before the Romanss brought Latin to the Iberian Peninsula.

Geographic distribution

The region in which Basque is spoken is known as the Basque Country, or Euskal Herria in Basque.

Official status

Basque holds official language status in the Basque regions of Spain.


Now there are eight dialects, which do not match with the political divisions. One of the first scientific studies of Basque was made by Louis-Lucien Bonaparte, a descendant of Napoleon.

Derived languages

There is now a unified version of Euskara called Batua ("unified" in Basque), which is the language taught in schools. Batua is based largely on the Gipuzkoa regional dialect.


Basque has some grammatical forms unusual in Europe, such as the ergative case, which forces the addition of a -k to the subject when it has a transitive verb. The auxiliary verb also reflects the number of the direct object, so the auxiliary verb can contain a lot of information (about the subject, the number of direct object, if it is singular or plural, and the indirect object). This system (inflection of the auxiliary) is only found in Basque and some Caucasian languages.

For example, in the phrase:

Martinek egunkariak erosten dizkit

which means "Martin buys the newspapers for me", Martin-ek is the subject (more precisely, an ergative), so it has the -k ending. "Egunkariak" has an -ak ending which marks plural object (plural nominative, to be exact). The verb is erosten dizkit, in which erosten is a kind of gerund ("buying") and the auxiliary dizkit indicates:

Palatalization is quite typical of Basque pronunciation, where "tt" and "dd" are /tj/ (or /tS/) and /dj/ (or /dZ/) respectively. "s", "z" and "x" are sibilants, the latter designates /S/, the first is apical /s/ (friction occurs at the tip of the tongue) and the second laminal /s/ (friction occurs across the blade of the tongue). The function of stress in Basque is generally not understood. "j" is pronounced as [dj], [S], [X], [j] or [Z] according to region. The vowel system is the same as Spanish for most speakers, namely /a, e, i, o, u/. Some speakers also have /y/. It is thought that the Spanish took this system from Basque.
The accent in Basque is:
In Spanish for example it is:


By contact with neighbouring peoples, Basque has borrowed words from Latin, Spanish, French, Gascon etc. Some studies claim that half of its words come from Latin. Some other words are thought to go back to the Stone Age because they include the root haitz- (rock). For example, haiztoa (knife), haizkora (axe).

Writing system

Basque is written using the Latin alphabet

External links