Basque is really a small language family in the sense that some of its varieties are mutually unintelligible and have sharply distinct verbal morphologies in particular. It has no known genetic relatives. I I took a course on Basque around 1971-72 at U Chicago taught by Rudolf De Rijk, and then participated in a wonderful summer study program in the (Spanish) Basque country administered by the University of Nevada. (Nevada is home to many Basque Americans.) Among the Basque specialists I met were Luis Mitxelena and William Jacobsen Jr.

I was later one of many linguists invited, all expenses paid, to an international conference on Basque linguistics in the Basque country which turned out to be a publicity event for the freshly minted unified Basque (“Batua”) that had been cobbled together by the Academy of Basque Language. Academic sessions in the mornings were followed by high-visibility excursions to rodeos, bertzolari performances (improvisational poets working in groups), mayoral receptions, and the like, all chronicled at length by local newspapers.  At the time, Basque was not spoken by ethnic Basques living in cities like San Sebastián, Bilbao, and Pamplona. Since then, Batua has been adopted by many urban Basques, especially in Donostia (ex-San Sebastián). However, my work was on the varieties already spoken in the 1970s such as Guipuzkoan and Navarrese.

Basque has an elaborate and quite interesting verbal morphology, whose component morphemes interact in complex ways, making it difficult to meaningfully gloss them individually.  Verbs can mark up to four arguments: subject, object, indirect object (dative), and “allocutive” or ethical dative (second person only). The allocutive indexes the addressee as MaSg, FeSg, Pl or polite Sg, or diminutive, especially when the verb does not already index another second person argument. Some dialects make regular use (in indicative main clauses) of allocutives, whose function is strictly interpersonal.

My publications on Basque are those of a young grad student. However, the articles on genitivization and on verbal morphology may still have some value. The genitivization article describes northern (French-side) dialects that genitivize only the transitive object in infinitive-like subordinated clauses, which runs counter to the morphological merger of transitive objects and intransitive subjects in the “absolutive” case in main clauses. The “remarks” paper on verbal morphology comments on how the various verbal morphemes interact, including thoughts about the function(s) of the inner -n(d)- suffixes that immediately follow the root.

      1981b         The role of Basque in modern linguistic theory. IKER‑1, Euskalarien Nazioarteko Jardunaldiak [Bascologist's International Congress], 433‑44. Bilbao:  Euskaltzaindia.
      1977c          Remarks on Basque verbal morphology. In: William Douglas, Richard Etulain, & William Jacobsen Jr. (eds.), Anglo-American contributions to Basque studies: Essays in honor of Jon Bilbao, 193-201. (Publications on the Social Sciences, 13.) Reno: Desert Research Institute. University of Nevada.
      1974            Some related transformations in Basque. In: M. La Galy et al. (eds.), Papers from the Tenth Regional Meeting, 248‑58. Chicago: Chicago Linguistic Society.
      1972b         Genitivization in northern Basque complement clauses. Anuario del Seminario de Filología Vasca "Julio de Urquijo" 6:46‑66.

[last update Nov 2017]

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