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Basque dialects

Euskara batua (English "Unified Basque language") is a standardised version of the Basque language, which nowadays is the most widely and commonly spoken throughout the Basque Country. Heavily based on the Gipuzkoan dialect on account of its richer (versus other Basque dialects) literary heritage, this is the version of the language found on the official texts, schools, TV, newspapers and in common parlance by new speakers, especially in the cities, whereas the countryside, with more elder speakers, remains attached to the historic dialects to a higher degree.

Batua is a planned language using unified orthography and is accepted as the literary standard. Today, it is widely used in teaching, public administration, communication and in the majority of Basque printed today. It enjoys official language status in Spain (in the Basque Country: three provinces, and sections of Navarre), but remains unrecognised as an official language in France, the only language officially recognised by this country being French.



The Batua version was created in the 1970s by the Euskaltzaindia (Royal Academy of the Basque Language). Having been for centuries pressured by acculturation from both Spanish and French, and particularly under the rule of Franco in which the Basque language was prohibited and came closer to extinction in Spain, the Academy felt the need to create a unified dialect of Basque, so that the language had a greater chance of survival.

The 1968 Arantzazu Congress laid down the basic guidelines for achieving that objective in a systematic way (lexicon, morphology, declension and spelling). A further step was taken in 1973 with a proposal to establish a standard conjugation.

The debate arising from this new set of standard language rules (1968 - 1976) did not prevent Batua from becoming increasingly accepted as the Basque standard language in teaching, the media, and administration (1976 - 1983), within the context of burgeoning regional government (Statute of Autonomy of the Basque Country, 1979; Improvement of the Charter of Navarre, 1982).


Batua has been described as an artificial language by its detractors, as it is at times hardly mutually intelligible with some of the historic dialects. Then, Basque purists (such as Oskillaso and Matías Múgica) have argued that its existence and proliferation will kill the historic and genuine Basque languages. Others argue that Batua has safeguarded the future of a language which is competing with French and Spanish.

Research by the Euskaltzaindia shows that Basque is growing most in the areas where Batua has been introduced and taught in preference of local dialects. Indeed, this has permitted a revival in the speaking of Basque, since many of the current elder generations cannot speak the language in part as a result of the prohibition during most part of General Franco's dictatorship.

Another point of contention was the spelling of h. North-Eastern dialects pronounce it as an aspiration while the rest do not use it. Batua requires it in writing but allows a silent pronunciation. Opponents complained that many speakers would have to relearn their vocabulary by rote.

Federico Krutwig also promoted the creation of an alternative literary dialect, this time based on the Renaissance Labourdine used by Joanes Leizarraga the first translator of the Protestant Bible. It also featured an etymological spelling.

Historic Basque dialects

The following dialects are the pre-Batua historic Basque, spoken in the Spanish and French Basque regions. Batua was then created using Gipuzkoan as a basis, also bringing scattered elements from the other dialects. They are typically used in the region after which they are named, but have many linguistic similarities.



See also



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