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Basque and Proto-Basque

Language-Internal and Typological Approaches to Linguistic Reconstruction


Mikel Martinez Areta

This volume is an attempt to expound the current state of research into the past of the Basque language. This research has experienced two kinds of advance in recent years. First, more written records have been discovered, and the ones that we already knew have been more deeply studied. Second, since the 70s cross-linguistic typology has made huge progress in our knowledge of linguistic universals and grammaticalization paths. The purpose of this volume is precisely to provide an outline, comprehensible for Bascologists and diachronic typologists alike, of how these two aspects can help us to reconstruct, within the limits permitted by the principles of diachronic research, the main linguistic features of Common Basque (ca. 5th-6th cc. AD), Proto-Basque (ca. 3rd-1st cc. BC), and Pre-Proto-Basque.


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Blanca Urgell (Minister of Culture, Basque Government) In recent decades, considerable progress has been made in research on the Basque language and its history. Today, we understand the development of Basque better than ever before, and Bascologists have proposed solid and fruit- ful hypotheses. Research methods and tools have progressively improved and been standardized in order to obtain the richest possible information from the language’s past. Luis Michelena stated —contradicting on this point Antoine Meillet, whom he otherwise considered his master— that Basque is in no way a language without history, and that its genetic isolation —i.e. its lack of known relatives other than Aquitanian— does not exhaust the paths of explanation for historical change. Quite the contrary: building upon both loan words borrowed from other languages and the method of internal reconstruction, we can collect plentiful data about the different periods of development undergone by the Basque language, which can also be useful to understand the present of the lan- guage. The harvest gathered in throughout the extensive land sown by Michelena is considerable in both quantitative and qualitative terms, which proves the solidity of the bases established by the great master. From phonology to lexicon, we have increased our knowledge in every realm of the language, and the time has long since come to divulge what has been discovered, not only among Bascolo- gists but on a wider stage. In fact, Basque has always triggered curiosity beyond our borders, be it due to its grammatical features, or to...

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