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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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Mikel Martínez-Areta (University of the Basque Country, UPV/EHU) Much of the literature on the history of the Basque language —the only surviv- ing language of non-Indo-European origin in western Europe— has dealt with its origin and possible relatives. A list of the many attempts to relate it to another language or language family would be exasperatingly long, and most probably not exhaustive. Leaving aside the obvious relationship of historical Basque to Aquitanian, Trask (1995a) refuted all of them, or more precisely, denied that any of the alleged relationships had been proven so far, and in Trask (HB: 358-429) he made a magnificent reductio ad absurdum of the methods which had been used in such attempts, arguing that such a methodology can lead us to prove whatever linguistic connection we wish (as he demonstrated with Basque and Hungarian). Since then, such attempts have not ceased, some of them unprece- dented. The Basque language, however, continues to be a language isolate, and there is no indication that it will cease to remain as such in the near future. Unfortunately, this ceaseless effort of historical research to establish un- provable theories has often diverted attention from paths which might have proven successful for making progress in the elucidation of its prehistorical as- pects. As a result, Basque diachronic linguistics suffers from a historical delay in comparison with the equivalent discipline in many other languages or language families. In particular, progress made in diachronic cross-linguistic typology since the seventies has not been systematically...

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