FREE Quote   Call Toll FREE: 1-800-322-0284
Accredited Language Services
Free Translation Tool Website Translation Language Identifier LanguagesCountries Useful Links

Basque

The Basque language (or Euskarian, as Basque-speakers refer to it) has long had to fight for its survival.

The term “Basque” is also used in reference to the Spanish Basques inhabiting the autonomous Basque Country and Navarra regions of north-central Spain, or the French Basques who inhabit the Pyrenees-Atlantiques area of southwestern France. The history of the Basque language is closely intertwined with the Basque people’s campaign for recognition and autonomy in Spain.

Classification of the Basque Language

Although extensive study of the topic has been completed, the exact origins of the Basque language remain a mystery to linguists. Some believe that Basque is related to the now-extinct Iberian language once found in eastern Spain and the French Mediterranean coast. Others argue that the similarities found between Basque and Iberian developed from cultural contact rather than a linguistic relationship.

Alternate theories suggest a relationship between Basque and the Afro-Asiatic languages, the Caucasian languages, or the ancient language of Ligurian. Since there is not enough concrete evidence to prove any one theory, most linguists have come to classify Basque as an “isolate” – a language with no known relatives.

Early History of the Basque Language

Map of Spain

Records of the Basque language can be found as far back as the first century. Written records of Basque words – primarily proper names – can be found dating back to 1000 CE. Spoken north and south of the Pyrenees, the early Basque language is thought to have initially extended east to the Aran Valley in the northeast of Spain, and to later have undergone further expansion into the southwest.

Most historians agree that the disruption caused by Roman domination in these regions played an integral role in the preservation of Basque. Without this interruption by the Romans, it is likely that Basque would have been totally quashed by the predominance of the Latin language.

Written Basque Language

The earliest known example of written Basque consists of proper names that date to circa 1000 CE. The first known Basque language book appeared in 1545 and consisted of a collection of religious and love poems. Another literary landmark was reached with the publishing of a Basque-language version of the New Testament in 1571.

Later publications of significance included a variety of military and religious writings that appeared throughout the 1600s. Although early records of the written Basque language exist, it was not until the 20th century that a more colorful and diverse body of Basque literature began to develop.

History of the Basque People

The first historical record of the Basque people dates to 1000 CE after the Basques successfully withstood Roman invaders in Spain. The Basques maintained their independence for centuries, successfully defeating the Visigoths in the 6th century and withstanding invasions by the Moors who dominated the Iberian Peninsula from the 8th to 11th centuries.

It wasn’t until the late 14th century that significant Basque-language speaking areas were incorporated into the kingdom of Castile. The establishment of a Spanish Kingdom in the late 15th century, however, had little affect on Basque-speaking regions, which continued to preserve their ancient laws, customs and language.

Incorporation into Spain: Suppression of the Basque Language

In 1876, Spain absorbed the Basque regions, marking a new era for the Basque people. During the Spanish Civil War, an autonomous Basque state was established and the Basque language was given official status for a brief period from 1836 to 1837. This autonomous rule was ended after the war, however, when the regime of Francisco Franco took power of Spain.

Franco’s regime actively suppressed use of the Basque language. Anti-Basque actions included the burning of Basque language books and the outlawing of Basque names. Such restrictive linguistic measures remained intact for many years.

Emergence of Basque Nationalism

The Basque nationalist movement that had begun to take root in the early 1900s was effectively suppressed after the Spanish Civil War, but the power of the Basque separatist movement gained steam in the second half of the 20th century. Thanks to Basque agitation, the Spanish government developed more lenient policies toward the Basque language in the 1960s, allowing Basque language church services and news broadcasts.

Formation of an Autonomous Basque Country: Basque as an Official Language

Flag of Spain

In 1979, the Spanish government granted the Basque Country regional autonomy. The first Basque parliament was elected one year later. The Basque language was declared one of the official languages of the autonomous region, alongside Castilian Spanish.

Since this time, the relationship between the central Spanish government and the Basque people has improved immensely; however, the infamous Basque separatist organization known as the ETA (Euzkadi ta Askatasuna, which translates to “Basque Fatherland and Liberty) has continued to push for a separate Basque state, often resorting to violent methods.

Modern Basque Language: The Fight for Survival

The Basque language has always struggled for its survival, even in the heart of Basque-speaking regions. Contemporary Basque has lost ground to modern rivals including Castilian Spanish and French.

In recent decades, intense efforts have been undertaken to revitalize the Basque language, such as the introduction of Basque-language teaching. Efforts to promote the standardized written Basque, known as Euskara Batua (literally “Unified Basque”) have been relatively successful as the language now finds widespread acceptance.

Basque Language Today

The Basque language is found primarily in the Basque country of Spain, which includes the province of Guipuzcoa and the areas of Navarra, Alava and Vizcaya. The total Basque-language area in France and Spain measures approximately 10,000 square kilometers.

Basque speakers can also be found in other parts of Europe and in North and South America. By the early 21st century, there were an estimated 1 million Basque speakers worldwide. Most speakers of the Basque language are bilingual and fluent in another regional language in addition to Basque.


Get Your FREE Quote



 

Basque Quick Facts

Alternate Names & Spellings: Euskara, El Vasco, Batua

Language Family: Basque

Spoken by Approximately 588,000 people

Spoken In: United States

Learn About Other Languages


A

Afar

Afrikaans

Akan

Albanian

Amharic

Arabic

Aramaic

Armenian

Ashanti

Aymará

Azerbaijani

B

Bafut

Bahasa

Bambara

Basque

Bassa

Belarussian

Bemba

Bengali

Bislama

Blackfoot

Bosnian

Breton

Bulgarian

Burmese

C

Cajun

Cambodian

Cantonese

Catalan

Cebuano

Chamoro

Chichewa

Chinese

Chinook

Creole

Croatian

Crow

Czech

D

Danish

Dari

Dhivehi

Dutch

Dzongkha

E

Edo

English

Estonian

Ewe

F

Faroese

Farsi

Fijian

Fijian Hindi

Filipino

Finnish

Flemish

French

Frisian

Fulani

Fuuta Jalon

G

Ga

Gaelic

Galician

Georgian

German

Gikuyu

Greek

Greenlandic

Guaraní

Gujarati

H

Hausa

Hawaiian

Hebrew

Hindi

Hmong

Hungarian

I

Ibo

Icelandic

Ilocano

Ilonggo

Indonesian

Italian

J

Japanese

Jola

K

Kannada

Karen

Kazakh

Khalkha Mongol

Khmer

Kinyarwanda

Kirghiz

Kirundi

Kissi

Kiswahili

Koniagui

Kono

Korean

Kurdish

Kwanyama

Kyrgyz

L

Laotian

Latin

Latvian

Liberian

Lingala

Lithuanian

Luxemburgian

M

Macedonian

Malagasy

Malay

Malayalam

Malinke

Maltese

Mandarin

Mandingo

Mandinka

Maori

Marathi

Marshallese

Mirandese

Moldovan

Mongolian

N

Nauruan

Navajo

Ndebele

Nepali

Niuean

Norwegian

Nzema

O

Oriya

Oromo

Ossetian

Otetela

P

Palauan

Papiamento

Pashtu

Polish

Polynesian

Portuguese

Provencal

Punjabi

Pushtu

Q

Quechua

R

Romanian

Russian

S

Samoan

Sanskrit

Scots

Serbian

Sesotho

Sign Language

Sign Language - American

Sindhi

Sinhala

Sinhalese

Sioux

Slovak

Slovenian

Somali

Soninke

Spanish

Sranan

Swahili

Swati

Swedish

T

Tagalog

Tajik

Tamil

Telugu

Tetum

Thai

Tibetan

Tigrigna

Tokelauan

Tongan

Turkish

Turkman

Tuvaluan

Twi

Tzotzil

U

Ukrainian

Urdu

Uzbek

V

Valencian

Vietnamese

Vlaams

W

Wallisian

Welsh

Wolof

X

Xhosa

Y

Yanomami

Yiddish

Yoruba

Z

Zarma

Zulu