Basque language

PronunciationIPA: [eus̺ˈkaɾa]
Native toSpain, France
RegionBasque Country, Basque diaspora.
Native speakers
750,000 [1] (2016)
1,185,500 passive speakers
Early forms
Basque alphabet (Latin script)
Basque Braille
Official status
Official language in
 Basque Autonomous Community
Recognised minority
language in
Regulated byEuskaltzaindia
Language codes
eus (T)
ISO 639-3eus
Schematic dialect areas of Basque. Light-coloured dialects are extinct. See dialects below for details.
Euskara EH 2011.svg
Basque speakers + passive speakers (2011).
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.
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 (k/;[3] euskara [eus̺ˈkaɾa]) is a language spoken in the Basque Country, a region that straddles the westernmost Pyrenees in adjacent parts of northern Spain and southwestern France. Linguistically, Basque is unrelated to the other languages of Europe and is a language isolate relative to any other known living language. The Basques are indigenous to, and primarily inhabit, the Basque Country. The Basque language is spoken by 28.4% (751,500) of Basques in all territories. Of these, 93.2% (700,300) are in the Spanish area of the Basque Country and the remaining 6.8% (51,200) are in the French portion.[1]

Native speakers live in a contiguous area that includes parts of four Spanish provinces and the three "ancient provinces" in France. Gipuzkoa, most of Biscay, a few municipalities of Álava, and the northern area of Navarre formed the core of the remaining Basque-speaking area before measures were introduced in the 1980s to strengthen the language. By contrast, most of Álava, the western part of Biscay and central and southern areas of Navarre are predominantly populated by native speakers of Spanish, either because Basque was replaced by Spanish over the centuries, in some areas (most of Álava and central Navarre), or because it was possibly never spoken there, in other areas (parts of the Enkarterri and southeastern Navarre).

In Francoist Spain, Basque language use was affected by the language policies of Francoist Spain. In the Basque Country, "Francoist repression was not only political, but also linguistic and cultural".[4] The regime placed legal restrictions on the use of language, which was suppressed from official discourse, education, and publishing,[5] making it illegal to register new-born babies under Basque names,[6] and even requiring tombstone engravings in Basque to be removed.[7] In some provinces, the public use of the language was suppressed, with people fined for speaking Basque.[8] Public use of Basque was frowned upon by supporters of the regime, often regarded as a sign of anti-Francoism or separatism;.[9] Overall, in the 1960s and later, the trend reversed and education and publishing in Basque began to flourish.[10] As a part of this process, a standardised form of the Basque language, called Euskara Batua, was developed by the Euskaltzaindia in the late 1960s.Besides its standardised version, the five historic Basque dialects are Biscayan, Gipuzkoan, and Upper Navarrese in Spain, and Navarrese–Lapurdian and Souletin in France. They take their names from the historic Basque provinces, but the dialect boundaries are not congruent with province boundaries. Euskara Batua was created so that the Basque language could be used—and easily understood by all Basque speakers—in formal situations (education, mass media, literature), and this is its main use today. In both Spain and France, the use of Basque for education varies from region to region and from school to school.[11]

A language isolate, Basque is believed to be one of the few surviving pre-Indo-European languages in Europe, and is the only one in Western Europe. The origin of the Basques and of their languages is not conclusively known, though the most accepted current theory is that early forms of Basque developed before the arrival of Indo-European languages in the area, including the Romance languages that geographically surround the Basque-speaking region. Basque has adopted a good deal of its vocabulary from the Romance languages, and Basque speakers have in turn lent their own words to Romance speakers.

The Basque alphabet uses the Latin script.

Names of the language

In Basque, the name of the language is officially Euskara (alongside various dialect forms).

In French, the language is normally called basque, though in recent times euskara has become common. Spanish has a greater variety of names for the language. Today, it is most commonly referred to as el vasco, la lengua vasca, or el euskera. Both terms, vasco and basque, are inherited from Latin ethnonym Vascones, which in turn goes back to the Greek term οὐασκώνους (ouaskōnous), an ethnonym used by Strabo in his Geographica (23 CE, Book III).[12]

The Spanish term Vascuence, derived from Latin vasconĭce,[13] has acquired negative connotations over the centuries and is not well-liked amongst Basque speakers generally. Its use is documented at least as far back as the 14th century when a law passed in Huesca in 1349 stated that Item nuyl corridor nonsia usado que faga mercadería ninguna que compre nin venda entre ningunas personas, faulando en algaravia nin en abraych nin en basquenç: et qui lo fara pague por coto XXX sol—essentially penalising the use of Arabic, Hebrew, or Basque in marketplaces with a fine of 30 sols (the equivalent of 30 sheep).[14]