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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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3. External History. Sources for historical research


Koldo Ulibarri (University of the Basque Country, UPV/EHU) 3.1. Introduction* “The history of a language in the real sense of the word, of Basque as of any other, can be solidly built only upon documents which have been dated and located with the best possible precision […]; the rest —including the reconstructing work to which many, myself the first, have devoted ourselves with a perhaps excessive zeal— is no more than an extrapolation, valid only if it has the firm support of trustworthy data and is useful to explain these data diachronically” (Michelena 1988 [1971c]: 149) [translation by the editor, MMA]. The fact that Basque is a genetically isolated language, and that its literature does not begin until the 16th century, caused Saussure (1916) and Meillet (1925) to assert that it was impossible to know anything about the history of Basque (apud Michelena 1988 [1957a]: 166). However, as Luis Michelena (1988 [1957a]: 168) himself reminds us, Basque does have a history, based on a num- ber of sources which, although not as extensive and rich in their range as we would wish, cast some light on the language even in its old and unattested phas- es. Unfortunately, this linguistic material has not always been made known, ed- ited and researched in a manner proportional to its philological and linguistic interest. Historical linguists know that, when reconstructing a language, its oldest sources are essential tools which enable the reconstruction to be built upon a * This work would not be the same without...

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