Tag: Euskera

November 4, 1979: Creation of the Euskal Herrian Euskaraz (EHE) association

On November 4, 1979, the Euskal Herrian Euskaraz (Basque in the Basque Country, EHE) association was launched in Durango, Bizkaia under the slogan “Euskararik gabe, Euskal Herririk ez” (Without Basque there is no Basque Country). It is an association that defends the right to live in Basque in the Basque Country. Today, its principal goal is to achieve a Basque-speaking Basque Country made up of polyglot or multilingual people.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Today, the association focuses its concerns on certain areas: the right to learn and study in Basque throughout the educational systems of the whole Basque Country, the right to use Basque and be dealt with in the language in all official situations (including, for example, healthcare, legal contexts, and any circumstances involving the public administration), the right to receive information via the media in Basque, the more general demand for linguistic normalization (comprising much of the aforementioned goals), and challenging what it interprets as any assaults on the linguistic rights of Basque speakers.

EHE symbol on a Basque-Spanish bilingual board, deleting text in Spanish (Zaldibia, Gipuzkoa). Photo by Josu Goñi Etxabe. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

EHE symbol on a Basque-Spanish bilingual board, deleting text in Spanish (Zaldibia, Gipuzkoa). Photo by Josu Goñi Etxabe. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

From the outset, and to this day, the EHE association emphasized its activist nature. That is to say, it is an association that is nonaligned to any political party but advocates peaceful social protest to raise awareness about the minoritized status of Basque as well as in pursuit of basic goal of demanding a Basque-speaking Basque Country. This is considered controversial in some quarters, especially as the association challenges many official administrative goals of bilingualism in the Basque Country, asserting that such goals–in the context of a minoritized language–actually result in a situation of diglossia, in which an “H” or “high” language continues to occupy a dominant position over an “L” or “low” language.

Language is a key theme for many of the Center’s publications. See, for example, Language Rights and Cultural Diversity, edited by Xabier Irujo and Viola Miglio (free to download here) and The Challenges 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.

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.

Basque speakers now in majority in Bilbao

“I want to live in Basque.” Image by Xavier Vazquez, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Basque daily Deia reported on Sunday, April 16, that Basque-speakers now account for 51.2 % of the overall population of the city. According to the Bilbao City Council’s Office of Basque and Education, the number of Basque speakers has quadrupled in the last thirty years. Councilmember for Basque and Education Koldo Narbaiza commented that, “Out of 342,370 inhabitants of the capital [of Bizkaia], 78,727 can read and write in Basque, 96,774 know Basque although not academically, and 166,869 are non-Basque speakers … In total, 175,501 Bilbao residents, that is 51.2%, know Basque.”

Basque speakers in Bilbao, from Deia.

What’s more, and interestingly, this rise in numbers is fairly evenly spread throughout the city. And another point of interest is that the average age of Basque speakers has changed significantly in recent years, with young people now outnumbering seniors when it comes to knowledge of the language.

See the full article (in Spanish) here.

Here at the Center we have a wide range of books about the Basque language. Download a free copy of Estibaliz Amorrortu’s Basque Sociolinguistics: Language, Society, and Culture here. And check out a couple of books that discuss two sides of the coin when it comes to forms of Basque: Koldo Zuazo’s The Dialects of Basque, which explores the rich variety of the language; and Pello Salaburu’s Writing Words: The Unique Case of the Standardization of Basque, which charts how a modern standard version of the language was created and embraced by Basque society.

See, too, another couple of interesting takes on how the Basque language fits into contemporary Basque society: The Challenge of a Bilingual Society in the Basque Country, edited by Pello Salaburu and Xabier Alberdi; and This Strange and Powerful Language by Iban Zaldua.