Aquitanian language: Wikis


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Spoken in France, Spain
Region West of the Pyrenees
Language extinction by the Early Middle Ages
(except in the Northern Basque Country)
Language family Vasconic
Language codes
ISO 639-1 None
ISO 639-2 und
ISO 639-3 xaq
Aquitanian language in the context of paleohispanic languages in 200 BCE.[1]

The Aquitanian language was spoken in ancient Aquitaine (approximately between the Pyrenees and the Garonne, the region later known as Gascony) before the Roman conquest and, probably much later, until the Early Middle Ages.

Archaeological, toponymical and historical evidence strongly suggest that it was a Vasconic language or group of languages that represent a precursor of the Basque language.[2] The most important of this is a series of votive and funerary texts in Latin which contain about 400 personal names and 70 names of gods.



Aquitanian and its related descendant, Basque, are commonly thought to be a remnant of the languages spoken in Western Europe before the arrival of Indo-European speakers, but there is no evidence of this. Aquitanian origins may be traced more or less directly to the Chalcolithic culture of Artenac. Basque itself appears to be a language from the age of metal.[3]

Persons' names and gods' names

Almost all the Aquitanian inscriptions had been found at the north of the Pyrenees in the territory that Greek and Roman sources assign to Aquitanians.

  • Anthroponyms: Belexeia, Lavrco, Borsei, Andereseni, Nescato, Cissonbonnis, Sembecconi, Gerexo, Bihossi, Talsconis, Halscotarris etc.
  • Theonyms: Baigorixo, Ilunno, Arixoni, Artahe, Ilurberrixo, Astoiluno, Haravsoni, Leherenno etc.

But some also had been found at the south of the Pyrenees in the territory that Greek and Roman sources assign to Vascones:

  • Anthroponyms: Ummesahar, Ederetta, Serhuhoris, Dusanharis, Abisunhar etc.
  • Theonyms: Larrahe, Loxae / Losae, Lacubegi, Selatse / Stelaitse, Helasse, Errensae.

Relations with other languages

Most Aquitanian onomastic elements are clearly identifiable from a Basque perspective, matching closely the forms reconstructed by the Vascologist Koldo (Luis) Mitxelena for Proto-Basque:

Aquitanian Proto-Basque Basque Basque meaning
adin *adiN adin age, judgement
andere, er(h)e *andere andre lady, woman
andos(s), andox *andoś lord
arix *aris aritz oak
artahe, artehe *artehe arte holm oak
atta *aTa aita father
belex  ?*beLe bele crow
bels *bels beltz black
bihox, bihos *bihos bihotz heart
bon, -pon *boN on good
bors *bors bortz five
cis(s)on, gison *gisoN gizon man
-c(c)o *-Ko -ko diminutive suffix
corri, gorri *goRi gorri red
hals- *hals haltza alder
han(n)a  ?*aNane anaia brother
har-, -ar *aR ar male
hars- *hars hartz bear
heraus- *herauś herauts boar
il(l)un, ilur *iLun il(h)un dark
leher *leheR leher pine
nescato *neśka neska, neskato girl, young woman
ombe, umme *unbe ume child
oxson, osson *otso otso wolf
sahar *sahaR zahar old
sembe *senbe seme son
seni *śeni sein boy
-ten *-teN -ten diminutive suffix (fossilized)
-t(t)o *-To -t(t)o diminutive suffix
-x(s)o *-tso -txo,-txu diminutive suffix

The vascologist Joaquín Gorrotxategi, who has made several works about Aquitanian[4], and Mitxelena have pointed the similarities of some Iberian onomastic elements with Aquitanian. In particular, Mitxelena spoke about an onomastic pool[5] from which both Aquitanian and Iberian would have drawn:

Iberian Aquitanian
atin adin
ata atta
baiser baese-, bais-
beleś belex
bels bels
boś box
lauŕ laur
talsku talsco[6] / HALSCO
taŕ t(h)ar [7] / HAR
tautin tautinn / hauten
tetel tetel[8]
uŕke urcha [8]

For other more marginal theories see Basque language: Hypotheses on connections with other languages.

Geographical extent

In red the pre-Indo-European tribes that might have spoken Aquitanian, Basque or other maybe related languages in the 1st century

Since ancient times there are clues that indicate the relationship between Southwestern France and the Basques. During the Roman conquest of Gaul by Julius Caesar, Aquitania was the territory between Garonne and the Pyrenees. It was inhabited by tribes of horsemen who Caesar said were very distinct in customs and language from the Celts of Gaul. During the Middle Ages, this territory was named Gascony, a name derived from Vasconia, and cognate with the word Basque.

There are many clues that indicate that Aquitanian was spoken in the Pyrenees, at least as far east as Val d'Aran. The placenames that end in -os, -osse, -ons, -ost and -oz are considered to be of Aquitanian origin, take for instance place-name Biscarrosse, directly related to Biscarrués (output after Navarro-Aragonese phonetic change) south of the Pyrenees, where "biscar" means ridge-line (modern Basque spelling "bizkar", same meaning). Such suffixes in place-names are ubiquitous in east of Navarre and Aragon, with the classical mediaeval -os > -ues taking place in stressed syllables, pointing to a language continuum both sides of the Pyrenees. This strong formal element can be traced at either side of the mountain range as far west as an imaginary line roughly stretching from Pamplona to Bayonne (cf. Bardos/Bardoze, Ossès/Ortzaize, Briscous/Beskoitze), where it ceases to appear.

Other than place-names and little written evidence, the picture is not very clear at the west of the Basque Country, as the historical record is scant. The territory was inhabited by the Caristii, Varduli and Autrigones, and has been claimed as either Basque or Celtic depending on the author, since Indo-European lexical elements have been found underlying or intertwined in place-names from nature, like rivers or mountains (Butron, Nervion, Deba/Deva, suffix -ika etc) in an otherwise generally Basque linguistic landscape, or Spanish, especially in Álava. Archaeological findings in Iruña-Veleia in 2006 were initially claimed as evidence of the antiquity of Basque in the south but were subsequently dismissed as forgery.[9]

Cantabrians are also mentioned as relatives of Aquitanians, as they sent troops to fight on their side against the Romans.

The Vascones, who occupied modern Navarra are usually identified with the Basques (Vascos in Spanish), their name being one of the most important proofs. In 1960, a stele with Aquitanian names was found in Lerga, which could reinforce the idea that Basques and Aquitanians were related. The ethnic and linguistic kinship is confirmed by Julio Caro Baroja, who considers the Aquitanian-Basque relation an ancient and mediaeval stage ahead of the well-attested territorial shrinking process undergone by the Basque language during the Modern Age.

See also

Further reading

  • Ballester, Xaverio (2001): "La adfinitas de las lenguas aquitana e ibérica", Palaeohispanica 1, pp. 21–33.
  • Gorrochategui, Joaquín (1984): Onomástica indígena de Aquitania, Bilbao.
  • Gorrochategui, Joaquín (1993): La onomástica aquitana y su relación con la ibérica, Lengua y cultura en Hispania prerromana : actas del V Coloquio sobre lenguas y culturas de la Península Ibérica : (Colonia 25–28 de Noviembre de 1989) (Francisco Villar and Jürgen Untermann, eds.), ISBN 84-7481-736-6 , pp. 609–34
  • Gorrochategui, Joaquín (1995): "The Basque Language and its Neighbors in Antiquity", Towards a History of the Basque Language, pp. 31–63.
  • Hoz, Javier de (1995): "El poblamiento antiguo de los Pirineos desde el punto de vista lingüístico", Muntanyes i Població. El passat dels Pirineus des d'una perspectiva multidisciplinària, pp. 271–97.
  • Michelena, Luis (1954): "De onomástica aquitana", Pirineos 10, pp. 409–58.
  • Michelena, Luis (1977): Fonética histórica vasca, San Sebastián.
  • Núñez, Luis (2003): El Euskera arcaico. Extensión y parentescos, Tafalla.
  • Rodríguez Ramos, Jesús (2002): "La hipótesis del vascoiberismo desde el punto de vista de la epigrafía íbera", Fontes Linguae Vasconum 90, pp. 197–219.
  • Rodríguez Ramos, Jesús (2002): "Índice crítico de formantes de compuesto de tipo onomástico en la lengua íbera", Cypsela 14, pp. 251–75.
  • Trask, L.R. (1995): "Origin and relatives of the Basque Language: Review of the evidence", Towards a History of the Basque Language, pp. 65–99.
  • Trask, L.R. (1997): The History of Basque, London/New York, ISBN 0-415-13116-2
  • Trask, L.R. (2008): Etymological Dictionary of BasquePDF (edited for web publication by Max Wheeler), University of Sussex
  • Velaza, Javier (1995): "Epigrafía y dominios lingüísticos en territorio de los vascones", Roma y el nacimiento de la cultura epigráfica en occidente, pp. 209–18.


  1. ^ da Silva, Luís Fraga, Pre-Roman peoples and languages of Iberia: An ethnological map of the Iberian Peninsula after the Second Punic War (ca 200 BC), Associação Campo Arqueológico de Tavira
  2. ^ Trask, L. The History of Basque Routledge: 1997 ISBN 0-415-13116-2
  3. ^ S.F. Pushkariova, Primario e secundario en los nombres vascos de los metales, Fontes linguae vasconum: Studia et documenta, vol. 30, no.79 (1998), pp. 417-428.
  4. ^ Gorrochategi (1984, 1993)
  5. ^ Michelena (1977), pp. 547–48: "...cada vez soy más escéptico en cuanto a un parentesco lingüístico ibero-vasco. En el terreno de la onomástica, y en particular de la antroponimia, hay, sin embargo, coincidencias innegables entre ibérico y aquitano y, por consiguiente, entre ibérico y vasco. Como ya he señalado en otros lugares, parece haber habido una especie de pool onomástico, del que varias lenguas, desde el aquitano hasta el idioma de las inscripciones hispánicas en escritura meridional, podían tomar componentes de nombre propios."
  6. ^ Trask (1997), p. 182
  7. ^ Trask (2008) thinks this could be related to the Basque ethnonym suffix -(t)ar, but this is unlikely because the personal names where it appears (sometimes as the first element, as in Tarbeles) don't look at all like ethnonyms.
  8. ^ a b For Gorrochategui (1984), the personal name Urchatetelli (#381) is "clearly Iberian."
  9. ^ Tremlett, Giles (November 24, 2008). "Finds that made Basques proud are fake, say experts". The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-12-02. 

External links



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