It’s Basque


It’s Basque.

The Basques have been around for quite a while, long before anybody else got to the area that divides Spain and France – the Pyrenees chain of mountains. Kimberly and I have never been to the Basque country but hope to go someday.

I dug up some interesting facts about my stubborn, go it alone, hard working grandfather and great grandfather and… before…

In pre-history, the tribes that inhabited the region that today forms the Basque country were direct descendants of the Homo Sapiens that took the place of the older Neanderthals. They occupied the area the Basques occupy today starting around 50,000 BCE, predating the arrival of migrations from Asia by thousands of years.

During the first years of the common era, a Roman scribe wrote that in Navarre, a region at the north of “Iberia” (modern-day Spain) a tribe spoke a language that nobody understood. That language, long dead, was Aquitanian, the father, so to speak, of today’s Basque language.

Both those languages are remnants of the languages spoken in Western Europe before the arrival of the Indo-European tribes that began one million years ago.

Linguists have offered proof that the Basque language dates as far back as 2000 BCE. The Romans began to expand their empire before BCE and by the time of the fall of the Roman Empire around 395 CE they had made repeated invasions of the Iberian peninsula, but had been kept off the extreme northern region (today’s Basque country) because its land-locked geography was so difficult for an army to penetrate. Once the Romans finally made it close to the Basque country, the inhabitants showed a willingness to do business rather than make war.

So that rather than fighting the Romans, the Basques sold them lamb meat, cheese, milk, and send them on their way south to raise Cain with the Iberians and Celts and anyone else who opposed them.

But what about that crazy language the Basques speak?

Basque is so a complex language with so very little similarity to any other living language that just about only the born and bred Basques speak it. In Basque there are no articles (THE, A, AN…) and no prepositions (AT, BY, FOR, WITH…) and no pronouns (HE, SHE, YOU, etc…)  Instead LITTLE ONE-SYLLABLE prefixes and suffices get tacked on to words, making the language SO DIFFICULT, that Satan himself tried to learn the Basque language and finally gave up, so that the devoutly Catholic Basque people claim they are immune to temptation from the evil One…

Its complexity is increased by TWENTY (!) cases that affect the noun and the many verb forms in addition to those familiar to us – present, past, future, etc… And all that is not to mention the syntax – the structure of sentences.

Any and all of those modifiers change the look and sound of the word. Here are some simple examples:

In English we say: Pedro (subject) wears (verb) a (article) hat (object)

In Basque they say Pedrok: (subject) kapela (object HAT ) janzten (wears VERB)

OK… So Pedro hat wears is not so difficult, even if strange.

But what happens to the language that describes Pedro and his hat if he does not wear it is certainly unusual, and it is even worse if he is not wearing the hat while riding a horse and heading south:

ENGLISH: Pedro is not wearing his hat while heading south on horseback
BASQUE: Pedrok ez du kapela janzten zaldia gidatzen eta hegoaldera abiatzen den bitartean … (Pedro his hat no wears on horseback to the south while heading)

The Basques do not like to be called Basques just the same as Hispanics or Italians or Asians do not appreciate the terms: Spic or Wop or Chink.

The Basques call themselves EUSKALDUNAK and their language EUSKARA an their land EUSKAL HERRIA.


Rafael de Acha