The typological position of Basque: then and now

Trask, R L (1998) The typological position of Basque: then and now. Language Sciences, 20 (3). 313 - 324. ISSN 0388-0001

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Basque is the only surviving pre-Indo-European language in western Europe, and it is typologically very different from its Indo-European neighbors. Consequently, both genetic and typological maps of European languages invariably show the Basque-speaking region as a distinctively colored blob at the western end of the Pyrenees.

Typologically, Basque is a rather well-behaved SOV language with almost all of the textbook characteristics of such languages: verb-final order, preposed modifiers, an abundance of non-finite verb forms, a rich case system, a highly regular agglutinating morphology with few alternations, an absence of prefixes, and so on. Phonologically, the language is not strikingly different from its neighbors except perhaps in the comparative rarity of alternations in its inflectional morphology.

In this article, I want to consider the typological position of Basque from an explicitly historical point of view. In particular, I want to examine the degree to which Basque has undergone typological assimilation to its Indo-European neighbors during the last two thousand years or so. For the phonology, this is easier to do than one might have expected, since we possess a secure reconstruction of the phonology of the Pre-Basque of the Roman period. With morphology and syntax, however, we are heavily constrained by the absence of substantial Basque texts earlier than the sixteenth century, though there are nonetheless some interesting observations to be made and several intriguing hypotheses to consider. Finally, at the lexical level the massive influence of Indo-European languages during two thousand years or more is all too evident, though typological points of interest are few and largely confined to the modern period.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of English > English
Depositing User: EPrints Services
Date Deposited: 21 Feb 2012 10:04
Last Modified: 03 Aug 2012 12:17
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