Category: Basque dialects

February 16, 2015: First edition of rare Basque manuscript discovered

Cover of Dotrina christiana (first edition, 1617), by Esteve Materra. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

On February 16, 2015 it was announced that a unique first edition of Esteve Materra’s Doctrina Christiana (Christian Doctrine, Bordeaux, 1617) had been discovered in the Royal Library, Copenhagen, Denmark. The discovery was made by the Aziti Bihia linguists’ and philologists’ association, a group of doctoral students at the University of the Basque Country whose interests lay predominantly in historical linguistics linked to Basque philology. The young people involved in the find were Borja Ariztimuño, Dorota Krajewska, Urtzi Reguero, Ekaitz Santazilia, Oxel Uribe-Etxeberria, and Eneko Zuloaga.

Flyer to promote the official announcement of the find, February 16, 2015. From the Aziti Bihia website.

Doctrina Christiana was one of the first ever books published in Euskara, the Basque language, and is written in classical Lapurdian. Its author, Esteve Materra (or possibly Materre), was a Franciscan monk and abbot of the La Réole monastery in southwestern France when the book was first published, although by the time it went to a second edition (1623) he had moved to the Franciscan monastery in Toulouse. Although not a native Basque-speaker, Materra spent some time in Sara, Lapurdi, where he had been sent at the height of the Counter Reformation to bolster the rearguard action of the Roman Catholic Church, including in its Inquisition policy. In barely twelve months in the Basque Country he learned Basque, although the very clarity and perfection of the text makes the members of Aziti Bihia suspect that he may have received help in writing it. Masterra himself notes in the prologue to the book that he was aided by Axular. Pedro Axular (1556-1664) was the parish priest of Sara and author of the first great literary text in Basque, Guero (1643). Whatever the case, the book is an important work when it comes to understanding the historical development of written Basque.

The first edition of the work is relatively simple in appearance, as if written for children or young people, in question and answer style; by the second edition, however, an additional section had been added, specifically for seafarers, and the work as a whole was more serious in tone and longer. This is important because originally the Aziti Bihia group had been working on transcribing the second edition of 1623, a copy of which is housed in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, before stumbling across a reference to the earlier edition in Denmark.

For more information on the text itself (including transcriptions) click here at the Aziti Bihia website.

 

January 9, 1844: Opera singer Julián Gayarre born

Julián Gayarre (1844-1890), the great Basque tenor. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

On January 9, 1844 Sebastián Julián Gayarre Garjón, known more popularly as just Julián Gayarre, was born into a humble family in Erronkari (Roncal), the principal nucleus of the remote valley of the same name in the far northeast of Navarre. From these humble beginnings he would go on to a have a successful career as an opera singer, gaining international renown as the greatest Italianate tenor of his generation and one of the most famous tenors of all time in the history of opera.

Leaving school at 13 he was immediately put to work as a shepherd, one of the principal means of earning a living in his natal Pyrenean surroundings. A couple of year’s later his father found him work in a notions store in Pamplona-Iruñea. It was in the capital city of Navarre that he first came across professional musicians, and he was even fired from his job for leaving the store one day to follow a band parading in the street outside. He then moved back to his native Erronkari Valley to work in a blacksmith shop in Irunberri (Urunberri in the Eastern Navarrese dialect of Basque,  Lumbier in Spanish). Sticking with the blacksmith trade he found work once more in Pamplona-Iruñea, where he relocated in 1863. Hearing him singing one day, a coworker encouraged him to apply to join the newly founded Orfeón Pamplonés, the city choir, a decision that changed his life.

His rise to fame was in many ways meteoric. Making an immediate impact on the city’s musical elite with the beautiful natural timbre of his voice, a scholarship was arranged to send him to Madrid Royal Conservatory and train properly for a career in professional music. He finished his studies in Madrid in 1868 and was awarded a grant by the Provincial Council of Navarre to continue studying his craft in Milan. Shortly after beginning his studies in Milan, he made his operatic debut in 1869 and thrilled critics with both his voice and commanding stage presence. As a result of his performances throughout Italy in the 1870s he was soon in demand in the great opera capitals of Europe, Paris and London, traveling widely across the continent as a whole as well as to Brazil and Argentina, although his home stage remained the legendary La Scala opera house in Milan.

Gayarre on his debut performance at La Scala, Milan, in 1876. Image from Mundo Gráfico 38 (July 17, 1912), page 5. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Gayarre continued to enthrall audiences across Europe with his wide repertoire, ranging from bel canto works to Wagner’s earlier music-dramas. In the words of Karlos Sánchez Ekiza, in his Basque Classical Music (free to download here): “He was noted for his intense recitals, with a voice capable of incredible range in colour and intensity, all in a clarity of textual performance and perfect diction.” Between the mid-1870s and mid-1880s he consolidated his reputation as the greatest tenor of the age., but thereafter he began to suffer a serious respiratory illness that caused his voice to deteriorate. At what would turn out to be his final performance, at the Royal Theater in Madrid on December 8, 1889, he broke down mid-performance, retiring from the stage claiming he could sing no more. Just a few weeks later, on January 2, 1890, he died in Madrid. His body was thereafter taken back to his beloved Erronkari, to be buried near the very house in which he was born.

Today the principal theater in Pamplona-Iruñea, the Gayarre Theater, bears his name, as does a prestigious biennial international competition in the city, the Julián Gayarre Singing Competition. Moreover, the house where he was born is now the Julián Gayarre Museum-House, and well worth a visit to this beautiful part of Navarre.

Just an additional point of interest to the short but intense life of Julián Gayarre, it is worth underscoring the fact that his first language was Basque, and specifically the Eastern Navarrese dialect of Basque (a dialect that was sadly lost in the twentieth century but for which efforts are being made to revive). Gayarre is reputed to have often closed his solo performances, whether in Barcelona, Madrid, Paris, or any of the numerous Italian cities he toured in, with a performance of the great Basque anthem “Gernikako arbola” (The Tree of Gernika), on which see previous post here and here. Interestingly, too, from his global travels he would write home to his family in Basque, in the Eastern Navarrese dialect, and his letters are preserved to this day as an eloquent testimony to this beautiful, but lost, dialect. The following (somewhat rakish in places) letter, written in 1884, is one such example:

Barcelona 19 Diciembre 1884

        Ene tia Juana maitia

        Eugenia sin da [etorri da] arro[nt] ongui. Quemen gaude anisco ongui guciac eta ori [berori] nola dago?

        Nain din [nahi dun] sin [rin, jin, etorri] [xin]cona [honat, hona] ichasoaren ecustra? Anisco andia da, tia Juana.

        Nai badu nic dud anisco deiru orentaco vidagearen pagateco quemengo ostatiaren pagateco. Eztu eguiten quemen ozic batrere, chaten [xaten, jaten] dugu quemen anisco ongui eta güero artan [artzen, hartzen] dugu iror nescache postretaco eta gazte eta pollit.

        Ha cer vizia! tia Juana maitia, amar urte chiquiago bagunu…

        Gorainzi guzientaco eta piyco bat nescachi pollit erroncarico guziat.

Julian.

In English:

Barcelona, December 19, 1884

My dear aunt Juana,

Eugenia arrived safely. We’re all well here, and you?

Would you like to come and see the sea? It’s enormous, aunt Juana.

If you like, I have enough money to pay for your journey and pay for your hotel here. It’s not cold at all here, we eat very well and three pretty young girls for dessert.

Heavens, what a life!  Dear aunt Juana, if we were ten years younger…

Regards to everyone and a pinch for all the pretty Erronkari girls.

Julian

For more information check out the foundation in his name here.

October 3-5, 1968: The Arantzazu Congress and the Creation of Standard Basque

499px-Arantzazuko_santutegiko_ikuspegia

The Sanctuary of Arantzazu, in Oñati, Gipuzkoa. Image by Keta, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In the Fall of 1968 one of the most important ever meetings was held regarding the fate of the Basque language. Organized by Euskaltzaindia, the Royal Academy of the Basque Language, the Arantzazu Congress in Oñati, Gipuzkoa, was designed as a forum in which to debate and discuss the possibility of creating a unified or standard version of the Basque language from among its rich and diverse dialects.

The leading Basque-language experts of the day gathered that October to work out a suitable model on which a potential Euskara Batua (Unified Basque) could be based. The meetings within the congress were often heated and arriving at agreement was by no means a smooth process. There was clear resistance on the part of many influential thinkers to creating such a unified model. Yet many others, including the leading theoretician of the day, Koldo Mitxelena, believed that Basques needed a standard version of their language–something that, at the end of the day, the “big” cultures had already implemented in previous centuries–for Basque culture itself to survive.

In addition to the specific subject of the congress itself, one should also remember the wider context in which it was held: 1968 was the year of major civil unrest in Paris and this had a significant effect on the rest of Europe; there was widespread protest against the Vietnam War; and, more generally, social turmoil, protest, and change were sweeping across the old continent, with the Basque Country also experiencing the beginnings of a major social, cultural, and political upheaval in what would ultimately prove to be the final years of the Franco dictatorship.

The dramatic and often highly charged story of how standard Basque was designed and later successfully implemented in wider society through education, the media, and literature, all remarkabaly within the space of a generation, is recounted by Pello Salaburu in Writing Words: The The Unique Case of the Standardization of Basque.

See, too, other Center publications on the Basque language:

The Dialects of Basque by Koldo Zuazo  charts the diversity of the Basque language in its dialects but, as the author contends, mutual comprehension among native speakers is not as difficult as has been previously contended.

Basque Sociolinguistics by Estibaliz Amorrortu examines various dimensions of the Basque language and its role in Basque society as a whole, including a chapter on the use of Basque in the United States. Download a copy free here.

The Challenge of a Bilingual Society in the Basque Country, edited by Pello Salaburu and Xabier Alberdi, is a multiauthored work that explores a wide range of topics associated with the challenges implied by encouraging a bilingual society: from how to implement this idea in legal terms to language-use in education and the media.

Any reflection on the Basque language must include some consideration of the work of Koldo Mitxelena: Koldo Mitxelena: Selected Writings of a Basque Scholar, compiled and with an introduction by Pello Salaburu, is a marvelous English-language introduction to the prodigious contribution of Mitxelena to the study of Basque.

 

Quick video guide and introduction to the Basque language taking internet by storm!

Check out the following video, from LangFocus, which offers a nice clear and concise introduction to the Basque language, and is generating a lot of online traffic, at least in our humble little world of Basque Studies!

Here at the Center we’ve published a number of books that will be of interest to anyone who wants to learn more about the various aspects of the Basque language (Euskara, Euskera, or Eskuara).

As its title suggests, Basque Sociolinguistics: Language, Society, and Culture by Estibaliz Amorrortu offers an introduction to the place of Euskara in contemporary Basque society. It discusses the history of Basque as well as current planning strategies to foment knowledge of the language. It also includes a brief introduction to its linguistic structure. The work is available free to download here.

The Challenge of a Bilingual Society in the Basque Country, meanwhile, edited by Pello Salaburu and Xabier Alberdi, is a multiple-authored work that includes among its many topics chapters on the legal implications of advocating a bilingual society, attempts to revive the language, and how Basque is viewed by both native and nonnative bilinguals.

In The Dialects of Basque, Koldo Zuazo takes on a fascinating journey into the history and current reality of Basque dialectal variation. This very informative and accessible study discusses not only the differences one might expect, but also connections running through the different dialects. The work is enhanced by numerous explanatory maps and figures.

As a complement to Zuazo’s study, Pello Salaburu’s Writing Words: The Unique Case of the Standardization of Basque charts in detail, from a first-hand perspective, the often dramatic story behind efforts to create a standard modern Basque; and the eventual success of implementing this new standard model in contemporary Basque society; all, somewhat remarkably, within the space of a generation.

In our Classic Series we also publish Koldo Mitxelena: Selected Writings of a Basque Scholar, compiled and introduced by Pello Salaburu. This is a comprehensive selection of articles by the premier Basque linguist discussing, among other things, the history of the language and the influence of contact with other tongues as well as the issue of standardization and the importance of dialects.

Why not check out the first ever work published in Basque? Bernard Etxepare’s Linguae Vasconum Primitiae (1545) includes a facsimile version of the original text, plus a bilingual Basque-English transcription of this classic and, despite its religious nature, often bawdy and funny poetic tome.

Finally, if you haven’t already got a copy, we would really encourage you to check out the practical and informative CBS-Morris English-Basque / Basque-English Dictionary. More than just a dictionary, this is a useful reference tool that includes an introduction to the Basque language, a concise grammar section (including a guide to pronunciation), and even a handy guide to writing letters in Basque (and English if you prefer). Now where else would you be able to find out that “lickety-split” is ziztu batean in Basque!?

 

CBS author Koldo Zuazo interviewed in Berria

CBS author Koldo Zuazo was interviewed in Berria on January 5 about the current state of Basque dialect use. While the interview starts off on a positive note, with Zuazo noting that if a language is changing, it’s a sign that it’s alive and kicking, he also shows some preoccupation for the gradual loss of Basque dialect use. This is one of the reasons he has set up a new website, www.euskalkiak.eus, as a means of recording and celebrating the richness of the Basque language through its dialects. As Zuazo argues, if it loses its dialects, then ultimately it is Basque that loses.

Dialects_of_Basque_cover_1024x1024

 

This is not to suggest that Euskara Batua, Unified or Standard Basque, is not important as a means of common expression among Basque-speakers, but Zuazo calls for a more balanced approach to promoting Basque in general, with time and space given over to transmitting Basque dialects as well.

Read the full interview (in Basque) here.

See Koldo Zuazo’s informative and accessible introduction to Basque dialect variety, The Dialects of Basque.  Here, Zuazo outlines how Basque dialects differ from one another, but also contends that mutual comprehension is not as difficult as has previously been assumed. He also offers a new classification scheme for the different Basque dialects, categorizing them as Zuberoan, Western, Navarrese, Central, and Navarrese-Lapurdian, while also offering some observations on Basque-language use in the Americas.

And, as a great companion to this work on Basque dialects, check out Pello Salaburu’s Writing Words: The Unique Case of the Standardization of Basque, which charts the remarkable story of how a standard form of Basque was envisaged, hotly debated, eventually agreed on, implemented, and accepted by Basque society as a whole, all within the space of a generation.

On the same subject, see also The Challenge of a Bilingual Society in the Basque Country and Basque Sociolinguistics: Language, Society, and Culture (the latter also available free to download here).

 

Euskara Eguna

December 3rd marked not only the day I presented for the first time at the Basque Lecture Series, but to open the presentation, we also celebrated Euskara Eguna, or Basque Language Day.

The International Day of the Basque Language, annually celebrated on December 3rd, was institutionalized by the Basque Government and the Royal Academy of the Basque Language (Euskaltzaindia) in 1995.

However, its origins go back to 1948, when the 7th Congress of Eusko Ikaskuntza-the Society for Basque Studies reached the following agreement: “a day of the Basque language will be celebrated worldwide once a year on December 3rd.” Following that proclamation, Euskara celebrated its first International Day in 1949 to vindicate the universality of the Basque Language.

December 3rd is St Francis Xavier Day, in honor of a missionary from Navarre born in the 16th century. According to the legend, his last words before dying on December 3rd 1552 were in Basque.

On the occasion of the International Day of the Basque Language, public and private entities alike, as well as various associations, organize several activities (roundtables, exhibitions, workshops, conferences, cultural performances, etc.) to celebrate and support Euskara. Check out any of the following events to help spread the Basque language and culture!

(courtesy of Basque Language Books in Boise, Idaho)

Check out some of our books on the Basque Language by visiting:

Basque Language Books

So, Happy Basque Language Day everyone!

 

Why Basque matters: International Basque Day

Today, December 3, is the international day of Basque, Euskararen Nazioarteko Eguna, and I think the words of US poet, writer, and musician David Romtvedt, in a recent interview for EuskalKultura.com, are particularly appropriate: “Long ago, a friend told me I would never really understand a community until I learned a little bit of their language, the language of a smaller population group. Boy, was my friend right! I have been working away learning Basque and see how much more I’ve learned. Doors into places I never knew existed opened in front of me!”

Basque English word game

Basque-English word game for children

David sums it up so well. Learning another language opens up new worlds and invites you in to new communities; it is about community and belonging much, much more than exclusion. As the wonderful Basque poet Kirmen Uribe says in “Hizkuntza bat” (A Language), one of the poems in his bilingual (Basque-English) compilation Meanwhile Take My Hand:

Hizkuntzak ez daki                                                         A language gets no word

egiaren ala gezurraren berri.                                   of truth or falsehood.

Hori gizakion kontua da.                                   That is the business of us humans.

Hizkuntza batek ez du hormarik eraikitzen,   A language builds no walls,

kolorez pintatzen ditu.                                                 it paints them in colors.

Hizkuntzak ez du inor hiltzen,                                 A language kills no one,

batu egiten gaitu.                                                             it brings us together.

 

baina, hori bai, hizkuntza bat,             But one thing to know about a language,

hizkuntza bat hil egiten da.                   a language does die.

The renowned linguist Koldo Mitxelena famously said that the great mystery of Basque wasn’t its origin–something that, to be sure, has puzzled and intrigued many people for a long time–but rather how it had managed to survive down to the present day. And this is worth bearing in mind, I think. Basque has survived without any official protection or promotion (until relatively recently), without a modern nation-state to defend it, and surrounded by two much bigger and more influential languages and cultures: French and Spanish. So I think, as Mitxelena noted, the fact that Basque has indeed survived is the truly remarkable feature of the language today.

And anyone, in however small a way, who takes some time out to study it and maybe even use a few words and phrases now and again is contributing to this survival.

For a summary of all the events being held today to celebrate Basque, click here.

The CBS has published a number of books on the Basque language. One of its  latest publications, Pello Salaburu’s Writing Words: The Unique Case of the Standardization of Basque, charts how a standard form of the language was developed and implemented and accepted by Basque society as a whole. This work is complemented by Koldo Zuazo’s The Dialects of Basque, which examines the rich variety that still exists in the language.

For two classic studies about the history of Basque, see Koldo Mitxelena: Selected Writings of a Basque Scholar, compiled and with and introduction by Pello Salaburu, and another of our latest publications,  Mythology and Ideology of the Basque Language, by Antonio Tovar.

Meanwhile, Basque Sociolinguistics: Language, Society, and Culture (available free to download here), by Estibaliz Amorrortu, and The Challenges of a Bilingual Society in the Basque Country, edited by Pello Salaburu and Xabier Alberdi, examine social and cultural aspects of the language.

And for surveys of the obstacles Basque has faced in its struggle to survive, check out the Anthology of Apologists and Detractors of the Basque Language by Juan Madariaga Orbea and Language Rights and Cultural Diversity, edited by Xabier Irujo and Viola Miglio.

 

 

 

Why learn a minority language? An inspirational lesson from Wales

If you’re reading this, chances are you’ll have some connection to or interest in Basque culture, however fleeting or incidental that may be. And I’m going to assume that many of you, too, if you don’t speak or understand some Basque, may have toyed with the idea of studying the language at some point, or may even be studying it now. As a native English speaker who learned Basque I routinely get into situations in which people ask why I bothered to learn a minority language in the first place. “What’s the point?” they ask. What’s more, they say, Basque is a “difficult” language to learn, so why go to all that bother?

Bred of Heaven cover

There are some answers to these questions in a wonderful book, in English, which I think can also serve as a source of inspiration and encouragement to anyone thinking about studying or actually studying Basque. It charts one person’s progress in studying a minority language, in this case another supposedly “difficult” tongue: Welsh. Published originally in 2011, Bred of Heaven: One Man’s Quest to Reclaim his Welsh Roots, by Jasper Rees, is a funny, charming, and poignant account of how one English speaker decided to learn Welsh, as well as learn as much as he could about Welsh culture in general. And the parallels for those of us, especially native English speakers, who have studied, are studying, or are thinking about studying Basque are obvious. Indeed, the two examples I mention below from the book–one negative, one positive–mirror my own experiences of studying Basque in the Basque Country.

First, there is the thorny issue of an “outsider” meeting Welsh people themselves who do not speak Welsh and see no particular point in speaking or studying it – a not untypical and always dispiriting phenomenon for the adult learner of minority (and minoritized) languages.

I’ve been learning Welsh for a few months now, but I’ve yet to have a conversation in Welsh in Wales. Something is holding me back. It’s not just common-or-garden self-consciousness . . . There’s a political dimension to my anxiety too. The overarching fear is that you summon up the courage to ask a question in Welsh, spend an age building the sentence in the language lab in your head . . . and then you go and waste it on a very Welsh-looking person who is di-Gymraeg: a Welsh non-Welsh speaker. In the minefield of the two Waleses, you can very easily cause offence.

However, I’m learning to play the percentages. There are parts of Wales where you can be fairly certain of not being understood . . . In a Black Mountains pub I meet a chirpy old waitress from Pontypool who chats with classical Welsh abandon about her health. I mention I’m learning Welsh. It’s as if I’ve slapped her violently across the face, then spat in her eyes. ‘Oh, are you?’ she sniffs peremptorily, turning her back on me. ‘Nobody speaks Welsh around here,’ she says over her shoulder as she struts out. Her implication is clear: if I were you I wouldn’t bother.

Then there are, though, more uplifting experiences. One afternoon, Rees sets off on a hike in the hills of Carmarthenshire (Sir Gaerfyrddin or Sir Gâr in Welsh), but soon gets lost. Seeking a shortcut to his intended destination, he hurriedly walks past a farm on private land but, on hearing voices behind him, turns around and heads back to a not particularly friendly looking couple in their sixties staring at him.

‘Where are you going?’ It’s the hunched figure of the farmer who calls back. He’s come out of the barn.

‘Over the hill to Caio.’

‘This is private land here.’

‘I’m very sorry. I didn’t realise.’ If I’m honest I did realise.

‘But if you keep on up you get to the path by there.’ He points begrudgingly up the hill, not quite having the heart to send me all the way down into the valley and round. I don’t know how it happens, but the permission kicks a tripwire in my brain.

‘Diolch yn fawr iawn,’ I say. Thank you very much indeed. The farmer’s wife pipes up.

‘Dych chi’n siarad Cymraeg?’ She wants to know if I speak Welsh.

‘Dw i’n dysgu ar hyn o bryd.’ I’m learning at the moment. Then something marvellous happens. Two stony weathered faces crease into the warmest, broadest smiles. It’s as if these few words have raised a portcullis and I’ve passed through to a sunlit inner sanctum.

. . . I suddenly feel I’ve cracked it. I am on the right path.

Check out this article about the book, and for more on Jasper Rees, click here.

Coincidentally, a delegation from the Welsh further education  sector visited the Basque Country recently in order to share good practice on bilingualism in  the post-16 education and training sector. See the delegation’s  fascinating daily blog posts about this four-day visit, which reveal much about just how much progress is being made in regard to sustaining and developing Basque in the education and training sectors, here, here, here, and here.

The CBS publishes a number of books about various aspects of the Basque language. Basque Sociolinguistics: Language, Society, and Culture, by Estibaliz Amorrortu, is a great introduction. It takes a brief look at the history of Basque, outlines its main characteristics, and discusses several issues concerning the language such as gender, social identity, language maintenance/revitalization, and ethnicity. What’s more the book is available free to download here.

The Challenge of a Bilingual Society in the Basque Country, edited by Pello Salaburu and Xabier Alberdi, picks up on many of these same themes and discusses them in more detail. Topics covered include how a legal system is shaped to reflect a bilingual society, the search for and implementation of a standard form of Basque, and the current state of the language (how many people can speak it,  how many people actually use it, and so on),

In The Dialects of Basque, meanwhile, Koldo Zuazo introduces readers to the rich dialectical variation in the language, including a new and groundbreaking classification for these dialects. And Zuazo also makes a case for demonstrating that mutual comprehension among speakers of the different dialects is not as difficult as has previously been assumed.

If you’re interested in studying Basque, check out Alan King’s The Basque Language: A Practical Introduction and Linda White’s two-volume Aurrera! A Textbook for Studying Basque (also available in separate volumes). And a great accompaniment to these grammars is The CBS-Morris Compact English-Basque/Basque-English Dictionary-Hiztegia.

 

Historic travel guide to the Basque Country available online

The Koldo Mitxelena Kulturunea Library, the principal archive of Gipuzkoa, is home to a lot of great online sources for anyone with an interest in Basque Studies.

Luminous Guide

One such source is an early travel guide (of sorts), written for British forces taking part on the Liberal side in the First Carlist War (1833-39), and published in 1836 in Baiona (Bayonne). Titled, in the rather long-winded fashion of the day, A Luminous Guide for the British Cooperative Forces in Spain on the Principal Subjects Connected with Particular Information Relative to the Basque Provinces, the book was authored by Sotero de Goicoechea, a lieutenant in the Liberal forces of Bilbao.

 

Luminous guide extract 1

“Curious English, Spanish and Basque Vocabulary of Different Most Useful Words,” with the author pointing out that he uses the Basque of Markina, it being the only place where “purest Basque” is spoken in Bizkaia.

After a brief summary of the current political situation from an unabashed pro-Liberal perspective,  Goicoechea provides a general introduction to Bizkaia: its physical and human geography, some of its customs (music and dance), and system of governance. He then goes on to describe specific towns in the province in more detail, concentrating on their location and social and economic status. Particular emphasis is also given to the area in and around Bilbao. The guide then lists the distances, in English miles, between selected towns, before providing the names and prices of inns, restaurants, and coffee houses, and even detailed pricing of wine and basic provisions. Finally, the book provides a basic dictionary including everyday terms that these British troops may need to know with various translations from English into French, Spanish, and Basque.

This is not really travel literature as such, but what the book does offer is a snapshot of everyday life in Bizkaia in the 1830s. To read the full text, click here.

To learn more about the social and political singularity of Bizkaia at this time, see The Old Law of Bizkaia (1452): Introductory Study and Critical Edition, by Gregorio Monreal Zia. This is a comprehensive account of the specific legal structure that Bizkaia enjoyed within the Kingdom of Spain.

To read a pro-Carlist account of the First Carlist War, check out The Most Striking Events of a Twelvemonth’s Campaign in Navarre and the Basque Provinces, by C.F. Henningsen. This is a first-hand account of the conflict between the spring of 1834 and summer of 1835 written by a English volunteer in the Carlist ranks.      

Ahotsak: A Basque Oral Archive

Ahotsak is an initiative of the Badihardugu Association to collect and diffuse the Basque oral heritage and the Basque dialects. It is an archive of transcribed, recorded, and/or filmed interviews with Basque seniors about the lives and experiences.

Ahotsak hizlariak

Some of the people interviewed, from Ahotsak.eus

The archive serves as a testimony to both the rich variety of dialects in the Basque language, and as a historical record of life and customs in the Basque Country during the early and mid-twentieth century.

To read, listen to, and/or watch the archived interviews, at the top of the Ahotsak homepage click on Grabazioak (Recordings). This will give you four options: Herriak (Towns), Gaiak (Subjects), Priektuak (Projects), and Hizlariak (Speakers).

For example, clicking on Herriak,  you will see a list of towns in the Basque Country in which interviews were recorded with people. The icons on the far right of the table indicate whether the interviews are available in video, audio, or transcription format. Do you have any family ties with the Basque Country? If so, why not see if your family’s home town is listed? You may even see some relatives or family acquaintances!

By clicking on Euskalkiak (Basque dialects) at the top of the homepage, you can access the interviews according to the dialect in question. The Euskalkiak page also includes maps that geographically locate these dialects.

640px-Euskalkiak_gaur

The Current Panorama of basque Dialects, according to Koldo Zuazo. “Euskalkiak gaur” from the Azkue Fundazioa

To see some examples, check out the interviews with people from Lekeitio (Bizkaia), Baztan (Navarre), or  Urepele (Lower Navarre).

If you’re interested in Basque dialects, check out Koldo Zuazo’s The Dialects of Basque, an excellent general introduction to dialectical variation in the Basque language.