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Questions and Impressions of Basque

From:Chris Bates <chris.maths_student@...>
Date:Monday, August 30, 2004, 11:43
It was my birthday on Friday, and to celebrate I went shopping in
London. I visited so many book shops.... the big Waterstones (which
someone claimed is the biggest bookshop in the EU), Foyle's, the...
European Language Centre or something I think, a language bookshop, but
it wasn't that interesting because it was mainly dedicated to the big
European languages (French, Spanish, German mostly). I found another
specialist language bookshop as well (whose name I forget) that was
amazing, they had books and learning packs about so many languages, not
just the very big ones, but some where I have had difficulty acquiring
good materials (Swahili: They had the Swahili dictionaries based on the
Madan (I think that's the name) ones, which although very dated are
probably the most comprehensive existing Swahili-English English-Swahili
set of dictionaries, and they had several good Tagalog dictionaries,
which I haven't been able to find elsewhere). Anyway, I ended up buying
a book and some tapes and an amazingly good dictionary (given that it
isn't a language spoken very widely) for Basque. I've just flicked
through them so far, but I do have several questions:

1) Just how many verbs are widely found in finite forms? The book I have
says that mostly basque uses auxilliaries with non-finite verb forms,
but there are a very limited number of verbs that have their own forms
which don't need an auxilliary. It lists the forms of the most common in
the back, but I'd like to know how many there are in Total. I'd also be
interested to know what affix system for regular verbs was in Basque
before it started widely using auxilliaries.

2)The language actually sounds quite nice, nicer than I imagined for
some reason... although I have difficulty getting the distinction
between s, z and x right. It does seem strange though that Basque has s,
S and... I don't know what the X-SAMPA representation of <s> is, but
lacks f. Did basque f --> h (many Spanish speaking people around the
Basque country pronounce f as h in their spanish), or has basque never
had an f?

3) THe book emphasizes that some of the (non-verbal) grammatical affixes
apply to *noun phrases* rather than nouns. This seems strange to me...
every other language with a case system (or other noun marking) I've
ever learned always always marks these things at least on the noun, and
possibly also on the adjectives. But in some of the basque examples, you
have these affixes glued onto the final word of a noun phrase even when
that word isn't the noun itself! I think the definite article is an
example of an affix that does this. Are these true affixes, or are they
really clitics?

4) The "definite" article, the book says, is used much more widely than
the English article, and in many of the examples it seems to be serving
other functions (for instance, nominalization when using headless
relative clauses etc). What is its derivation? Is it a true definite
article, or is its primary function something else?

I guess that's it for now.... its a very interesting language, and I
might actually try to work my way to (semi-) fluency, since that way
when I go to Spain (still planning the trip... guess it'll probably be
next year now) I can work my way through the north and practice two
foreign languages at once. :) Oh, I guess I do have one more question...
where in the Basque country does the highest percentage of the
population speak Basque?

Thanks in Advance,



Isaac A. Penzev <isaacp@...>
John Cowan <jcowan@...>
Christophe Grandsire <christophe.grandsire@...>
Philippe Caquant <herodote92@...>
Wesley Parish <wes.parish@...>