Tag: basque language (page 1 of 8)

October 14, 1933: Birth of poet Gabriel Aresti

Gabriel Aresti, arguably the most important poet in the Basque language still to this day, was born in Bilbao on October 14, 1933. Although his father was a Basque speaker, the family did not transmit this language to the young Aresti and he learned it on his own as a young man. After studying business at university, he went on to become an accountant in his home city, but it was in the field of Basque culture in general, and more specifically poetry, that he really made his name.

Gabriel Aresti (1933-1975)

In general terms, he was in the 1960s and 1970s, along with several other writers and artists, one of the leading champions and exponents of modernizing Basque culture and the Basque language. As regards the former, he promoted the idea of poetry as a vehicle for social awareness, as a means of exposing social problems and a medium in which regular, everyday speech could be incorporated; all this at a time of growing social ferment during the latter years of the Franco dictatorship. In terms of the latter, he was one of the most prominent defenders of creating a standardized Basque–known as Euskara Batua or Unified Basque–amid the heated debates over the topic in the 1960s.

In the words of Joseba Zulaika (in his preface to Downhill and Rock & Core):

Gabriel Aresti was the essential poet for my Basque generation of the 1960s. “If you want to write me/You know where I am,” he wrote, “In this most slippery hell/In the mouth of the devil.” It was the hell of Franco’s repressive regime, the endless darkness of his city, Bilbao, turned into an industrial and cultural wasteland. Aresti was the crucified Bilbao writer howling for justice and truth, the vulnerable man of eternal downfall who created a new poetics and a new subjectivity.

Gabriel Aresti died in June 1975.

Aresti’s poetry was published for the first time in English this year by the Center. Downhill and Rock & Core, translated by Amaia Gabantxo and with an introduction by Jon Kortazar, brings together two of Aresti’s key works: Maldan behera (1959) and Harri eta herri (1964). The poems appear in both Basque and English.

Check out, too, Pello Salaburu’s fascinating study of how standard Basque was created in Writing Words. Here, Salaburu talks at length about Aresti’s involvement in establishing this new language.

 

August 22, 1777: Basque writer Joan Antonio Mogel comes up before Inquisition

Joan Antonio Mogel (Also spelled Moguel, 1745-1804) was a priest and writer, and the author of what is generally considered to be the first novel in Basque, the full title of which–El Doctor Peru Abarca catedrático de la lengua vascongada en la universidad de Basarte o Diálogos entre un rústico solitario bascongado y un barbero callejero llamado Maisu Juan–is typically shortened to Peru Abarka.  Although written by the turn of the century, it was not published until 1881.

Born in Eibar, Gipuzkoa, he was ordained in 1770 and appointed the parish priest in nearby Markina, Bizkaia. During his time in Markina, however, he was accused of improper behavior with a young woman and was obliged to declare before a trial of the Inquisition on August 22, 1777 in Logroño. Following the inquiry, he was charged with improper conduct and although the prosecutor called for a prison sentence, he was instead sent to a retreat in Milagro where he began to write in earnest.

Mogel’s work, with representative texts, is discussed (pp. 391-401) in Anthology of Apologists and Detractors of the Basque Language, edited by Juan Madariaga Orbea.

 

 

 

Basque writer Kirmen Uribe selected for fall residency in prestigious Iowa writing program

The Basque poet, writer, and essayist–as well as CBS author–Kirmen Uribe has been selected this fall for the University of Iowa’s prestigious International Writing Program, “a unique conduit for the world’s literatures, connecting well-established writers from around the globe, bringing international literature into classrooms, introducing American writers to other cultures through reading tours, and serving as a clearinghouse for literary news and a wealth of archival and pedagogical materials.” Moreover, Uribe will attend the program thanks to the support of the Etxepare Basque Institute.

Check out the full list of participants, including Uribe and with writing samples, here.

Kirmen Uribe is the author of CBS publication Garmendia and the Black Ridera children’s adventure story set in the Old Wild West.

Basque Wikimedians User Group plans to consolidate gains made in recent years

There’s an interesting report in today’s Naiz.eus (the online edition of Basque daily Gara) about plans on the part of the Basque Wikimedians User Group, the EU Euskal Wikilarien Kultura Elkartea, to consolidate the rather creditable position (for a small language like Basque) of being ranked 31st among the different Wikipedias for the number of articles published (for something of the history of Wikimedia in Basque see a previous post here).

The point is made that the moment has come to make a qualitative leap forward in the content being posted, and with this in mind collaboration agreements have been reached and discussions held with both Basque public institutions and the university sector. In the words of member Galder Gonzalez, who was recently in Montreal to attend Wikimania, “whenever we Basques go abroad we’re the exotic people, as in the very active community with that romantic minority language.” In the world of small languages, though, the Basque Wikimedians User Group has become a reference point, providing advice and assistance to other user groups in Scots Gaelic, Asturian, and Welsh, to name but a few.

As regards the challenges ahead, though, one major flaw stands out: despite making up half the world’s population, women only account for 15% of Wikipedia articles. And the Basque-language Wikipedia is now actively committed to overcoming this shortfall. With this in mind, the Wikiemakumeak project has been drawn up to increase the number of biographies about women in Basque. For project member Amaia Astobiza Uriarte, “We’ve created a lot of biographies about women recently but in my opinion, more than a question of increasing the numbers or figures, it’s more important to circulate those biographies in social networks, educational circles, the media, and any other places we can, because that’s the only real way for women to gain visibility.”

See the full report in Naiz (in Basque) here.

Plans for Welsh-language revitalization: Lessons from and for the Basque Country

Sign promoting the learning of Welsh. Photo by Alan Fryer, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The August 6 edition of Basque-language daily Berria included an interview with Alun Davies, the Welsh Government Minister for Lifelong Learning and Welsh Language. In the interview, Davies speaks about Cymraeg 2050 – the Welsh government’s ambitious plan to double the amount of Welsh speakers, to one million, by 2050.

In the interview, Davies explains that the first stage of the plan is to extend knowledge of the Welsh language, to be followed later by focusing on encouraging people to use it, all as part of a 3-point plan. With 22% of the Welsh population (of approximately 3 million people) enrolled in Welsh-language medium schools at present, the plan seeks first to increase this figure to 30% by 2030 and 40% by 2050. It will then attempt to put mechanisms in place whereby students continue to use Welsh on leaving the school system (with the objective that 70% of all students leaving the school system will be able to speak Welsh), but with the main aim of creating new Welsh speakers. Finally, the plan envisages creating a wider context in which knowledge and use of Welsh are encouraged, especially in the workplace.

For Davies, the Basque experience has been a frame of reference and the Welsh Government can learn much from its Basque counterpart.

See the full Berria article (in Basque) here.

And check out the Welsh Government’s own outlining of the plan here.

Check out Estibaliz Amorrortu’s Basque Sociolinguistics: Language, Society, and Culture, available free to download here.

See, too, The Challenge of a Bilingual Society in the Basque Country, edited by Pello Salaburu and Xabier Alberdi.

 

BBC Travel reports on Basque language

If you haven’t already read it, check out a report by the BBC Travel website on Euskara, the Basque language. One of the interviewees in the piece, Karmele Errekatxo, offers a profound perspective on Euskara: “Language is the identity of a place … If you take language from a place, it dies.” Also interviewed is a good friend of the Center, Pello Salaburu, author of Writing Words: The Unique Case of the Standardization of Basque, and coeditor (with Xabier Alberdi) of The Challenge of a Bilingual Society in the Basque Country.

Check out the full BBC article here.

The Center has published a number of books on the topic of the Basque language.

Basque Sociolinguistics: Language, Society, and Culture, by Estibaliz Amorrortu, is a great introduction to the social dimension of Basque. This book is available free to download here. See, too, Koldo Zuazo’s fascinating study The Dialects of Basque.

And these works are complimented by the handy and instructive CBS-Morris English-Basque/Basque-English Dictionary-Hiztegia.

* Image: Inkscape 0.91 screenshot in Basque (Fedora 22) by Assar, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

July 15, 1738: Church ruling on knowledge of Basque in Navarre

Francisco Ignacio Añoa y Busto (1684-1764)

On July 15, 1738, the bishop of Pamplona-Iruñea, Francisco Añoa (from Viana) decreed that no receiver who did not speak Basque should be allowed to work in Navarre. Receivers were functionaries who received and collated all kinds of information about legal disputes and judicial business. The decree was made following a long dispute between the receiver Juan José Huarte, a non-Basque speaker, and several Basque-speaking locals in Izaba, which ultimately resulted in Huarte being removed because he could not communicate with the local people with whom he was obliged to work. In this general dispute, non-Basque-speaking receptors suggested hiring interpreters, but this idea was rejected by the Civil Courts of Navarre because of the “difficulty of understanding the scope of the words” and because there were perfectly qualified Basque-speaking receptors to do the work. Interestingly, Gipuzkoa did hire interpreters because legally it belonged to the Chancellery of Valladolid in Castile.

Information sourced from Iñaki Egaña, Mil noticias insólitas del país de los vascos(Tafalla: Txalaparta, 2001), pp. 139-40.

New figures just released on Basque-speaking population in the Basque Country

Street sign in Basque in Iparralde. Image by Lucyin, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In a press conference organized today, July 5, in Baiona (Lapurdi) by the Basque government, the Navarrese Institute of Basque (part of the Navarrese government), and the Public Office for Basque in Iparralde, the findings of the Sixth Sociolinguistic Survey (2016) were announced. These are surveys carried out every five years to gauge the health of Basque and serve as a basis for pro-Basque initiatives in education as well in wider society as a whole.

Sign in Basque and Spanish signaling the Trail to Santiago, Barakaldo, Bizkaia. Image by Tuc Negre, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Taking into account the whole Basque Country in Spain and France, 28.4% of the population aged 16 or over can speak Basque, and a further 16.4% are passive Basque speakers (in other words, people able to understand Basque, without being able to fully communicate in the language). Compared to the findings of the first survey, which was organized twenty-five years ago, approximately 223,000 more people speak Basque today. The largest percentage of Basque speakers is to be found among young people aged 16-24 (55.4% of whom speak the language), whereas the lowest percentage of Basque speakers is now to be found among those aged 65 or older (20.4%).

Among the major findings are the following points:

According to the findings of the 1991 survey, 22.3% of the population spoke Basque, so these latest data demonstrate an approximately 6% growth rate in the last 25 years. The driving force behind this change is clearly that of young people, who now occupy the largest percentage of Basque speakers; in contrast to 25 years ago when older people enjoyed a greater prominence among the total percentage of Basque speakers.

As regards Basque-language use (in contrast to mere knowledge of the language), 25.7% of the total population speak Basque in one way or another (10.3% more typically than Spanish or French; 6.2% about equally as those two languages; and 9.2% in less of a way than the two other languages). Moreover, a further 5.2% of the total population speak Basque “a little,” that is, in a residual way.

In terms of transmission, where both parents are Basque speakers, in 93% of cases they only speak to their children in Basque, and in 7% of cases, in Basque and Spanish or French. When just one parent is a Basque speaker, in 83% of cases parents speak to their children in Basque and Spanish or French; and in 17% of cases just in Spanish or French.

And when it comes to attitudes toward Basque, 55.8% of all people aged 16 or over is in favor of pro-Basque language initiatives; 28.2% is neither for or against such initiatives; and 16% is against any such initiatives. Moreover, 85.5% of people aged 16 or over believe that in the future everyone should speak Basque and either Spanish or French in the Basque Country, while 9.2% think that just Basque should be spoken, and 4.1% would prefer that just Spanish or French was spoken.

Finally, with regard to primary and secdondary education, 57.6% of the population favor complete immersion in the Basque language for their children (Basque as the vehicular language with Spanish or French as subjects), while 23.7% favor a bilingual model (equal teaching hours devoted to Basque and Spanish or French).

Check out Basque Sociolinguistics: Language, Society, and Culture, by Estibaliz Amorrortu, free to download here.

See, too, The Challenge of a Bilingual Society in the Basque Country, edited by Pello Salaburu and Xabier Alberdi.

 

 

 

 

New study reveals that Basque-speakers have highly developed predictive language mechanisms

Noticias de Gipuzkoa reports that a recent study by a team of researchers based largely at the Basque Center on Cognition, Brain and Language, published in the journal Cognition, reveals that native Basque-speaking bilingual people have a more developed capacity to anticipate the words they are reading than their native Spanish-speaking bilingual counterparts.

Linguistic prediction is a basic mechanism of the brain that allows it to relate to the environment around it. In order to speed up communicative processes the brain attempts to anticipate what it will hear or read.  According to the study, when reading in Spanish, the native Basque-speakers studied demonstrated a faster brain response, the result of the nature of the Basque language itself, in which the important information when it comes to structuring a sentence comes at the end of the statement.

Chief author Nicola  Molinaro concludes that, “Basque speakers have learned to anticipate which words will appear, because they need to do so in order to structure the linguistic material that they have already heard or read … thus they have optimized their predictions and have gotten used to putting them into practice before the age of three, and this mechanism is also activated when they speak or read in another language.”

The findings of the study challenge previous notions that question the ability of people to predict in another language.

See the newspaper report (in Spanish) here.

See the original study here.

Thousands gather for Herri Urrats 2017

This past Sunday thousands of people gathered together in the sun to celebrate the annual Herri Urrats (A People’s Step) festival in the Senpere lake area in Lapurdi. This is a fundraising event for Basque-language education initiatives in the Northern Basque Country. And this year, specifically, all the money raised will go toward the expansion of the Bernat Etxepare Lizeoa (high school), in Baiona, to incorporate a vocational or trade school, thereby offering full technical and vocational training in Basque for the first time in Iparralde. That’s not all, though, as part of an ambitious wider plan, the new site will also incorporate a barnetegi (that is, boarding facilities for adult learners of Basque) and major new sports installations. Exciting times ahead for the Bernat Etxepare Lizeoa!

So that’s the serious side to all this, but Herri Urats is really a fun day out for all the family, a meeting place for old friends, and an opportunity to celebrate the Basque language. And when the sun shines, which is does occasionally, there are few better places to be! See some great pictures from the day here.

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