Basque beginners' course

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Zoroa
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Basque beginners' course

Postby Zoroa » 2006-04-21, 11:55

Okay folks, first welcome to this new thread.

I don't have much time to write a complete and beautiful course, but I intended to open this thread in order for it to be more of a question/answer on some basic stuffs (or more complicated if you wish :wink: ).

Now to start, check this to see how to pronounce Basque. Don't be afraid, nothing really hard here. You will also have the basic word list I am a bit lazy to write about.
I'll try to write in batua, the official Basque language.

Then, we'll tackle two very easy issues.

1. How to conjugate the verb izan (to be)

Izan is the equivalent of to be, a close approximation of ser in Spanish. It is used to describe the inner qualities of the subject, and also used in conjuagation.

Ni naiz I am
Zu zara You (sing) are
(Bera, Hura) da He, she is
Gu gara We are
Zuek zarete You (plur) are
(Hauek) dira They are

Several remarks :

1. For the third persons, Basque almost never use the pronoun. That's why I put them between brackets.
For the other persons, it's not complusory to use the pronoun.

2. The singular form of "you" is said to be the formal one. Another one exists, I'll talk about it a bit later.

3. For all the persons, except the third ones, notice that the first letter of the verb is the same as the pronoun's.

4. The "ek" of "zuek" and the "te" ending of "zarete" are marks of the plural.

5. The pronouns are at a case called absolutive.

2. The noun and the adjective

No special ending for a noun in Basque.
At the absolutive case, in which you'll find words in the dictionnary, the ending is nothing. To form the plural, just add AK.
In singular, you have a distinction between "definite" and "indefinite". Just remember this, the equivalent of "the" in English is the word "-a" that you add at the end of the name.

Let's take a word : gizon, man.

Gizon : man Gizona : The man Gizonak : The men/Men

When a word ends with an "A", the two As merge.

EX: Neska, girl

Neska : The girl/Girl Neskak : The girls/Girls


For adjectives, use the same rule.

Now I add two other important rules.

1. The one I called the train rule : a nominal group is regarded as a whole.

Let's take the adjective gazte (young) and the noun gizon (man). The ending is only added to the last part of the nominal group.

Gazte gizon : Young man Gazte gizona : The young man Gazte gizonak : The young men/young men.

And it is the same if you, for instance, link two adjetcives with, let's say "eta" (and). Let's add eder (nice, handsome) to the wordlist.

Eder eta gazte gizon : Young and handsome man
Eder eta gazte gizona : The young and hansome man
Eder eta gazte gizonak : The young and handsome men/Young and handsome men.

2. The subject attribute is always marked with the "-a". Thus, I am a doctor is said I am the doctor.

Ni medikua naiz, ni pilotua (pilote) naiz, ni ikaslea (student) naiz, etc...

Feel free to ask your questions.

Zoroa ;)
Last edited by Zoroa on 2006-04-21, 20:05, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby pasalupo » 2006-04-21, 17:16

Thanks - it's great to know something about this language. Are there some clues where to put the stress?
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Postby Zoroa » 2006-04-21, 17:40

There are a lot of variations for the stress, depending on the influence of French and Spanish.
The Euskaltzaindia (the Royal Academy of the Basque Language) says the second syllable must be stressed with a high pitch and the last syllable must be stressed with a low pitch, except for plural when it goes to the first syllable.
But you often hear what is called decaffeinated pronounciation, ie applying Spanish phonology to the language (ex : nire ume, my kid, is pronounced niré ùme where it should be niré umè). This is typical of Hegoaldeko euskaldun berriak (new Basque speakers from the South) who tend to be native in Spanish and very fluent in Basque.

Zoroa ;)
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Postby theinterpreter87 » 2006-04-24, 7:40

wow! i'm so happy you're doing this. i never thought i would get someone to break it down for me! i'm so excited!!! i'm taking notes and everything! thank you so much! i don't even know your name. what's ur name? I'm julian! whoever you are, thanks a whole lot!!! :lol:

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Postby Zoroa » 2006-04-24, 9:06

Thx, I am glad Pasalupo and you answered. I did not want to make a course because I was afraid nobody would follow it, nor be really interested in it.
I should write first a "Basque language : debunking the myth of difficulty" thread :D

Now if you have questions, want some small translations, go ahead. and if you want some exercises on an issue you did not get, I'll be glad to help. I can make vocabulary lists about a topic if you wish too.

Zoroa ;)
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Postby Zoroa » 2006-04-24, 12:14

How to conjugate two other verbs

Joan : to go
Egon : to be (at a place or in a non permanent state, a bit like estar)

Ni noa
Zu zoaz
(Bera, hura) doa
Gu goaz
Zuek zoazte
(Haiek) doaz

Ni nago
Zu zaude
(Bera, Hura) dago
Gu gaude
Zuek zaudete
(Haiek) daude

1. Egon is also used to translate "there is/are"

2. Notice that the first letter of the verb may remind you of something, and the "te" at the "zuek" person too.

3. Izan, Joan, Egon are called synthetic verbs because they do not need any auxiliary to conjugate. Synthetic verbs are very few in Basque.

II. What about some declension ?

Now you'd like to make a few sentences.

Let's take a basic word like etxe (house) that tou can find in names like Etxeberria (I let you translate).

If you want to say that you're at home, you'll use the locative case. If you want to say you go to the house, then it's directive.

Just a small note : Cases are called by their technical names in Basque, or, by convention, following the declension of the pronoun Nor (who ?)
Absolutive is called Nor, Locative Non, Directive Nora.

Let's have a look at NON

Following the previous order, it's

Etxetan, etxean, etxeetan.

For words ending with a consonnant like haran (county, valley)

Haranetan, haranan, haranetan

Just add an e

Remember the following rules :

A+A = A and A+E = E, and then you are the master of declension.

Let's go for NORA

Etexetara, etxera, etxeetara
Haranetara, haranera, haranetara

Now you can go for basic sentences :

I am at home : Etxean nago
I go home : Etxera noa

Note that the word order is, for affirmative clauses, SOV. A rule says that the closer to the verb, the more important. If you want to stress something, put it before the verb. With cases Basque does not really care about strict word order for S and O.

Zoroa ;)
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Postby theinterpreter87 » 2006-04-25, 21:22

ooooooo!!!! i got this down!!!! ummmm yeah right... :roll:
The World is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion. -Thomas Paine

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Postby theinterpreter87 » 2006-04-25, 21:22

ooooooo!!!! i got this down!!!! ummmm yeah right... :roll:
The World is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion. -Thomas Paine

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Postby Javier » 2006-04-25, 22:29

Zoroa wrote:Thx, I am glad Pasalupo and you answered. I did not want to make a course because I was afraid nobody would follow it, nor be really interested in it.

Hey, you never know who might be following your course ;)

Google works nice for things written in Unilang, so you might be well building a treasure for generations to come. Bon courage! :D
Ecuadorian | Native Spanish speaker. | Interested in these languages
Corrections appreciated -(Even in Spanish) ;)

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Postby Guillem » 2006-04-27, 15:46

Great great great great Zoroa! Finally! :o

I'll follow it! But I still think it's the most difficult language I have ever attempted :oops:

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Postby theinterpreter87 » 2006-04-28, 0:58

Actually, now that i think about it, i think i'm going to need you to go over than again. #1 i don't understand what Absoloutive Case is. I should know, but the cold hard truth is i don't. Another thing i think you should do is put pronunciation next to some of your words like "etxe". You're right, this is a veeeeeeeeeeery basic word in Euskara b/c practically everyone has it in their last name, and b/c...well, i'm fimiliar with it. As far as i know, the word ETXE is pronounced E-CHE. Maybe you might want to break down the letters and the Basque significance before we start pronouncing them wrong in our heads. I think that is vital to your lessons. Oh! And i have more, whenever you were playing with the word Etxe, i didn't understand where the endings fit in. They're so differant from the actual endings. You said, "Absoloutive=nor, Locative=non, directive=nora." but the actual endings are nowhere around that. It's kinda hard to follow. Gosh! Euskara takes a peice of my ass in its jaws everytime i try to attempt it!
The World is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion. -Thomas Paine

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Postby theinterpreter87 » 2006-04-28, 0:58

Actually, now that i think about it, i think i'm going to need you to go over than again. #1 i don't understand what Absoloutive Case is. I should know, but the cold hard truth is i don't. Another thing i think you should do is put pronunciation next to some of your words like "etxe". You're right, this is a veeeeeeeeeeery basic word in Euskara b/c practically everyone has it in their last name, and b/c...well, i'm fimiliar with it. As far as i know, the word ETXE is pronounced E-CHE. Maybe you might want to break down the letters and the Basque significance before we start pronouncing them wrong in our heads. I think that is vital to your lessons. Oh! And i have more, whenever you were playing with the word Etxe, i didn't understand where the endings fit in. They're so differant from the actual endings. You said, "Absoloutive=nor, Locative=non, directive=nora." but the actual endings are nowhere around that. It's kinda hard to follow. Gosh! Euskara takes a peice of my ass in its jaws everytime i try to attempt it!
The World is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion. -Thomas Paine

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Postby culúrien » 2006-04-29, 13:25

Oh! I just discovered this. Thank you very much! I've always wanted to learn some basque, but I've never been able to find a good non-french resource. :D
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Postby pasalupo » 2006-05-01, 10:33

Great, howver I still suffer from beginner's confusions.
You said that absolutive is the dictionary form. That is because it's the word as such without an ending, OK? What is the function of absolutive?

How many cases are there in Basque?
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Postby Zoroa » 2006-05-02, 23:35

About the absolutive case:

Many of you do not understand what it means. Don’t worry, it’s very easy. I’ll have to go a bit forward in the crux of one important feature of euskara.

The concept of nominative (subject case) is not wide enough to cover the possibilities of Basque.

You can basically see the subject as being passive to the verb or being active. If the verb admits one direct complement, its action through the verb is active. If it doesn’t, it is passive.

Let me put it in sentences:

If you say: John is young. Whatever you do, being young is a quality of John, and thus he is not active for this verb. Now if you say John eats the apple, you clearly see that John is being active as far as the eating the apple is concerned.

In Basque, it is very easy. If the subject admits no direct complement, it takes the absolutive case. If it admits a direct complement, it takes the ergative case.
Now, to go a bit deeper, you see that if the subject is active (and takes the ergative case), its complement is passive as far as its action is concerned. To “spare” cases, Basque uses absolutive for the accusative too. And I hope you now see why.

John is young: John gaztea da. John takes the absolutive case, “to be” being intransitive

John eats the apple: Johnek sagarra jan dut. John takes the ergative case, sagar (the apple) takes the absolutive case, “to eat” being directly transitive.

When you search the dictionary, you will fin the word without the article “a”, like sagar. This is the absolutive case. (Just a small note here, some words ending in “r” doubles the “r” when they take the article).

The absolutive case is called Nor, the ergative Nork. (For “who” at the absolutive case is translated by Nor and at the ergative case Nork)

Zoroa ;)
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Postby culúrien » 2006-05-02, 23:56

I feel really confused. All these cases. I feel confused. Like on lesson 2 this example is given for the locative:

Etxetan, etxean, etxeetan.

Why are there three ways? I don't get it.
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Postby toksave » 2006-05-03, 1:24

i'm totally following this

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Postby Zoroa » 2006-05-03, 7:50

Etxetan, etxean, etxeetan.

Why are there three ways? I don't get it.


If you read the first lesson ( :D ) you would see that there are three numbers Basque :

Indefinite singular
Definite singular
Plural

I always present nouns that way.

Indefinite sing Definite sing Plural
Abs. Etxe Etxea Etxeak
Erg. Etxek Etxeak Etxeek
Alla. Etxetara Etxera Etxeetara
Loc. Etxetan Etxean Etxeetan


And with the following rules :

A+E = E
A+A = A

Some words ending in R double the R (like sagar)

You can decline all the words in those cases, for there are no exceptions.

There are about 16 cases in Basque
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Postby culúrien » 2006-05-03, 19:48

Oh I see. (I did the read the 1st lesson, and printed it out :wink: )
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Postby Zoroa » 2006-05-04, 0:17

Don't worry, I was just joking :D
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