Basque (a language spoken near the Spain/France border) is a language isolate; not only is it NOT a Romance language, it’s not even an Indo-European language. It is the only surviving Pre-Indo-European language in Western Europe.

Basque language

Culture of Basque Country

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Family transmission of Basque language (Basque as initial language)

Percentage of students registered in Basque language schools (2000–2005)

Location of the Basque-language provinces within Spain and France

Basque (/bæsk, bɑːsk/; Basque: Euskara, [eus̺ˈkaɾa]) is a language spoken by Basques and others of the Basque Country, a region that straddles the westernmost Pyrenees in adjacent parts of Northern Spain and Southwestern … Continue Reading (35 minute read)

8 thoughts on “Basque (a language spoken near the Spain/France border) is a language isolate; not only is it NOT a Romance language, it’s not even an Indo-European language. It is the only surviving Pre-Indo-European language in Western Europe.”

  1. Greatkitchener

    Yes, it’s easily the most divergent of any European language. It probably retained its footing because of the Basque region’s extreme isolation and mountainous terrain. Here are a few of its features

    • Agglutination, Basque grammar is built on suffixes and prefixes that carry information individually, compared to most Western European languages that are fusional, carrying more than a single meaning in a suffix.
    E.g. French – Mangeons – we eat, ons (first person, plural, present, indicative mood)

    • Split-Ergativity, I’m not going to try and explain this, there’s a great video explaining it. Just know that it’s a different way of marking the relationship between the subject, verb and object of a sentence that is unheard of in the rest of Europe https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=kFzt_GHNd1M#menu.

    • Animacy gender, while most European languages have a gender system divided into Masculine, Feminine and maybe neuter, Basque divides nouns into animacy, roughly whether or not something is alive. This is quite common outside of Europe but not at all inside Europe. Disclaimer, Gender is treated quite differently in Basque and I’m not entirely sure on how it works.

    • Uber productive Auxiliary verbs, while Most European languages use auxiliary verbs to convey a particular tense, mood or maybe a question, e.g. I have gone – perfect tense

    Basque uses Auxiliary verbs almost always and often they are completely necessary for a very basic sentence to work. They convey some very specific modal/tense/pragmatic information.

    • Contrast between Lamino-dental and Apical-Alveolar sounds. Basically whether a sound is pronounced at the teeth or a little further back, extremely uncommon in Human language.

    This is a quick tour of some of the more notable features of Basque and how it is unlike any other European language.

  2. PaulOshanter

    It’s the only surviving pre Indo-European language in *all* of Europe. The finno-ugric languages of East Europe (Sami, Finnish, Estonian, Hungarian) probably evolved alongside the Indo-European diaspora and not before it.

    Edit: Just to clarify since it’s being misinterpreted, the finno-ugric languages are a branch of the wider Uralic language family which has nothing to do with Indo-European. I am saying these languages moved into Europe and evolved alongside the Indo-European languages.

  3. arrebhai

    Watched the movie ‘Giant’ and they spoke in Basque mostly (except when visiting other parts of Spain). Wasn’t expecting it to sound so different from Spanish. It sounded harsher and more ‘clipped’. I guess that makes sense given it’s not a Romance language.

  4. walla_walla_rhubarb

    I had a Basque music teacher that would not stfu about this. She also got caught putting red wine in her can of coke, one day after Mass (forgot to mention this was catholic school). That’s how I found out about Kalimotxo. Which is literally just equal parts coke and cheap red wine.

  5. blissbali2020

    And on top of this, Basque country has amazing food too.

  6. APartyInMyPants

    Fun fact:

    The filming location for Dragonstone in Game Of Thrones (well at least that iconic staircase) is a small church off the northern coast of Spain. If my memory serves, it was built around the 10th century by the Templar.

    The name of this small church is San Juan del Gaztelugatxe. It’s a pretty remarkable trip and climb up those steps. The northern Basque coast is beautiful.

  7. elgarresta

    Isn’t Basque like ::insert other language here::?

    NO.

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