In one of life’s little coincidences, not one but two articles about Basque how it’s survived for millennia were published on June 13 on different websites dedicated to spreading culture and science.
The first was written by Tom Hale for IFL Science, a popular website dedicated to sharing science news “in an informative, thought-provoking, often amusing, always accessible way” as they write in their mission statement.
The article’s title is “Basque: The “Miracle” Of Europe’s Most Isolated And Obscure Language“.
The second article is by Time Brinkhof and is published on the Big Think website, whose goal is that “the daily news should inspire people to build a better world. While most media is fueled by toxic politics and negativity, we focus on solutions: the smartest people, the biggest ideas, and the most ground breaking technology shaping our future” as they write in their mission statement.
The second article’s title is “The unsolved mystery of Europe’s oldest language“.
These are two very interesting articles that will help readers who don’t know the history of the Basque language or the Basque people to understand our reality a bit better.
Unfortunately, as is too often the case, this understanding comes with limitations and approaches that don’t quite match up with reality, thereby limiting the knowledge that is transmitted.
For example, in the Big Think article, they discuss genetics, and the peculiar genetic markers that can be found in the Basque population. The article accepts the latest study and as “debunking” earlier studies, which analyzed Basque genetics and the contributions this ethnic, cultural, and historical community has received over the millennia. We’ve published many of them here, and the only thing that is clear is that while the territory the Basques occupy has been a transit route for many different peoples and cultures, the Basques have been able to maintain their identity, despite all those external, assimilated, and “Basquified” invludences.
Perhaps one of the best examples of this paradigm of “Basquification” is how one of the most commonly used words in Basque, the farewell “agur,” is in fact a borrowing from Latin. That in no way means it is any less powerfully a Basque word.
Moreover, the Basques have never been isolated in their history as a community. For instance, we can start with their participation in the “colonization” of Europe at the end of the last ice age, or follow their control of important maritime commercial routes in the eastern Atlantic during the Middle Ages, their participation in Spain’s New World colonies, their seafaring prominence in the North Atlantic, their important economic relationships with the British North American colonies, and even their contribution to the independence of the USA.
On the other hand, IFL Science places its emphasis on how Basque is used in the people’s social lives. It states:
“Despite ardent Basques striving to keep the language afloat, an increasing number of people are opting to speak Spanish and it’s rare to hear the language on the street.”
Actually, the opposite is true. While it is true that in most large cities, Spanish and French are the most-heard languages, Basque is still growing, and in the small towns, it’s the working language, heard almost exclusively.
In any case, it is complicated and costly to correct a trend towards extinction that was fostered by the bans, the lack of presence in schools, and the broadcasting of the idea that it was a language without a future.
In order to right the ship, first a “critical mass” of speakers must be reached, and that can only happen via education. Prioritizing Basque in schools has been fundamental for its survival, especially as there is no risk of Spanish or French being lost. This has been rather successful in the Basque Autonomous Community and in parts of Navarre, but other parts of Navarre, as well as the Northern Basque Country, have had more limited results.
As a final note, the population of the Basque territory is just over three million, not 2.1 million as stated in the article.
Nevertheless, these two articles are very interesting, and do very successfully spread the word about this community which has its very own language whose origins are lost in the mists of time.
And yes, Koldo Mitxelena was completely right when he said, “The miracle of Basque is how it’s been able to survive.” The same could be said of Basque culture. Indeed, both of these are but a part of the greater miracle that is the survival of the Basque community throughout the centuries.
IFL Science – 13/6/2023 – USA
Basque: The “Miracle” Of Europe’s Most Isolated And Obscure Language
The Basque language is one of the most unique languages still spoken today in Europe. Separated by millennia of evolution, the language is unrelated to any other existing language on the planet, making it a treasure trove for linguists wishing to understand the past.
Big Think – 13/6/2023 – USA
The unsolved mystery of Europe’s oldest language
For linguists, the uniqueness of the Basque language represents an unsolved mystery. For its native speakers, long oppressed, it is a source of pride.
Last Updated on Dec 3, 2023 by About Basque Country