Basque remains an isolated language with no known linguistic relatives. The
hypothesis of the German philologist Hugo Schuchardt (1842-1927), which once had wide
currency, posited an intimate genetic connection between Basque and Iberian (see
below) and the Hamito-Semitic (Afro-Asiatic) language group. This theory was superseded by
attempts to establish a more or less close link between Basque and Caucasian, the
language group indigenous to the Caucasus region. A lack of common linguistic
characteristics between the Basque and Hamito-Semitic languages makes Schuchardt's
hypothesis extremely dubious. There are, however, some common features that favour the
relationship between Basque and Caucasian. Still, proof of a genetic relationship
beyond reasonable doubt appears remote. Perhaps the most promising theory involves the
comparison of Basque with the long-extinct Iberian, the language of the ancient
inscriptions of eastern Spain and of the Mediterranean coast of France. But, despite
amazing phonological coincidences, Basque has so far contributed next to nothing to
the understanding of the now-readable Iberian texts. Therefore, it is possible that the
similarity may have resulted from close contact between Basques and Iberians and
not from a genetic linguistic relationship.
|Language knowledge in the Basque
||almost basque-speaking (%)
||non basque (%)
- Source: Population data: 1991. Language data are from 1996
(source: EKB), except for partial data of the Northern BC provinces (these are from 1991).
At the same time, the totals for BAC and Southern BC are from 1991, not based on the
partial data of 1996.
- Initials used: BAC: Basque Autonomous Community, formed by Araba,
Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa. Northern BC: Three provinces (Lapurdi, Nafarroa Beherea and
Zuberoa), under the French State. Southern BC: Four provinces (the 3 of BAC and Nafarroa)
under the Spanish State. Euskal Herria: the whole Basque Country. See map.
- Almost basque-speaking is a term coined by Basque sociolinguists
to name those who understand Basque but do not speak it, or have poor command of the