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Basque Language


Basque, or Euskara, is a language spoken by about a million people in northern Spain and southwestern France. Although attempts have been made to link it to ancient Iberian, the Hamito-Semitic group, and Caucasian, its origins remain uncertain.

The sound pattern resembles that of Spanish, with its five pure vowels and such peculiarities as a trilled r and palatal n and l. In spite of this, and the presence of numerous Latinate loanwords, Basque has maintained its distinctiveness throughout two millennia of external contacts. For example, it still places a unique emphasis on suffixes to denote case and number and to form new words.

Basque is the only language remaining of those spoken in southwestern Europe before the Roman conquest. Since the 10th century, it has gradually been supplanted by Castilian Spanish, and under the Franco regime its use in Spain was outlawed altogether. The ethnic insularity of the Basques, however, has fostered revivals. Attempts are now being made to standardize the orthography.

Biblio: Bibliography: Russell, H., et al., Basque Essay (1974); Tovar, Antonio, The Basque Language (1957); Vallie, F., Literature of the Basques (1974).

Copyright notice: Copyright by Grolier Electronic Publishing, Inc.