Throughout the history of Basque studies, the language has been compared to many others across Europe and North Africa in order to find a possible genetic relative. Among the least likely contenders are: Berber and the entire Afro-Asiatic family, Caucasian languages, Sumerian (!), Minoan, Pictish, and Etruscan (these last three considered simply due to a lack of extensive knowledge about their characteristics). However, based on the data recovered, namely place-names and lexical lists, it seems clear that the closest possible relative is either Aquitanian (spoken in Roman times around the Bay of Biscay), for which there is ample evidence to the point that Trask (1995) has claimed that it is, “more or less”, a, “direct ancestor of Basque” (87), or Iberian, for which there is little concrete evidence other than several flawed comparative studies.
Since it seems fashionable in the field to have at least one theory on the origins of Basque, and since, obviously, any theory is taken at face value (Sumerian? Seriously?), I have decided to provide my own interpretation, based on about half a semester of instruction in modern Basque and Historical Linguistics. I propose the Central Turkic language of Kazak as the undisputable origin of Basque based on the following (scanty) evidence:
1 /bir/ /bat/
5 /bes/ /bost/
-Clearly what is observed here is general vowel lowering, a retention of /b/, an odd lenition from /r/ to alveolar /t/ (that I will conveniently ignore, as I have no way of explaining), and the epenthesis of a word-final /t/ (based on this data, it actually seems more likely that Kazak evolved from Basque…).
“horse” /jilqi/ /zaldi/
“father” /ata/ /aita/
“mother” /ana/ /ama/
-Nothing could explain the change from semivowel to sibilant in “horse”, however, the change from uvular /q/ to alveolar /d/ is equally unexplainable. The vowels do support the initial theory that there was a tendency towards lowering. In the case of “mother”, it is common among languages to use nasals interchangeably (though in Basque specifically, it is more common for nasals to change based on place of articulation). Additionally, Basque has a “monophthongizing” tendency in which the exact opposite of what has allegedly happened in “father” occurs in many etymological examples.
Based on the following data, it appears that I must amend the previous statement on Basque’s origin: it appears that I have accidentally proven that Kazak is a descendant of Basque instead (that is, if we conveniently ignore hundreds of years of Turkic migrations and the comparative likenesses of most the languages in the Altaic family).
“Central, Western, and Northern Asian Languages.” One Thousand Languages: Living, Endangered, and Lost. Ed. Peter Austin. Berkeley: University of California, 2008. 144. Print.
Trask, R. L. “Origin and Relatives of the Basque Language.” Towards a History of the Basque Language. Ed. José Ignacio Hualde and Joseba Lakarra. Amsterdam: J. Benjamins Pub., 1995. 65-92. Print.