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Linguistic and genetic singularities in the Western Pyrenees: a review of the latest proposals about Basque. B. Oyharçabal (CNRS, UMR 5478) HIPVAL ( OHLL ) Aussois, 22/09/2005. Linguistics Presence of a non IE language spoken in the Aquitanian-Iberian region since a remote period

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Linguistic and genetic singularities in the Western Pyrenees: a review of the latest proposals about Basque

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    1. Linguistic and genetic singularities in the Western Pyrenees: a review of the latest proposals about Basque B. Oyharçabal (CNRS, UMR 5478) HIPVAL (OHLL) Aussois, 22/09/2005

    2. Linguistics Presence of a non IE language spoken in the Aquitanian-Iberian region since a remote period (Michelena 1964, Trask 1997) Anthropology Basquesmay be the most direct descendants of upper Paleolithics (Bernard & Ruffié 1976, Cavalli-Sforza et al 1994)

    3. Presentation’s steps • Basic background on the past of the Basque language and the Basque population • Review of the Dene-Caucasian hypothesis • Review of the Vasconic hypothesis • Conclusion

    4. I. Background

    5. What do we know about the past of the Basque language? • Spoken in Western Europe before Indo-Europeanisation occurred • What Basque words looked like 2000 years ago • Where Basque was spoken at this time.

    6. Basque preceded the spread of IE languages across Western Europe Non-IE languages present in Western Europe 2000 years ago (or before) are supposed to have preceded the spread of Indo-European languages (except Punic settlements) : Basque, Iberian, Ligurian, Tartessian, ... Only indirect evidence, because first evidence of the presence of Basque is recent (2000 years ago).

    7. First mention of Basque language:J. Caesar’s De Bello Gallico “Gaul is divided into three parts, one of which is inhabited by the Belgae, another by the Aquitani, and the third by those who in their own language are called Celts, in ours Gauls. All these differ from each other in language, customs and laws. The river Garonne separates the Gauls from the Aquitani.” Aquitanian = Proto-Basque (Luchaire, Lafon, Michelena, Gorrotxategi)

    8. First Basque words and texts • Aquitanian anthroponyms and theonyms (1-3 c.) • First Basque words (11th c. on) (onomastic lexicon) • Connected texts (16th c.)

    9. What Basque words looked like 2000 years ago. Thanks to: • Aquitanian forms, • Latin and Romance borrowings, • Internal reconstruction,  It was possible to reconstruct the phonology of Basque (major achievement of Michelena 1960/1976)

    10. The Basque speaking region 2000 years ago • J. Caesar’s and Strabo’s indications, • Geographical distribution of Aquitanian names, • Basque was spoken between the Garonne and the Ebro, as far as the Central Pyrenees. However, it is not clear where Basque language’s western limits were at this time.

    11. Genetic singularity of the Basque population was established a long time ago using data linked to classical polymorphisms, such as: Rhesus Negative Blood Group frequency (Boyd & Boyd 1937, Mourant 1947) O-Allele frequency (Bernard & Ruffié 1976) Histiographical background regarding genetic studies on Basque population

    12. Frequency map of theRh Negative Blood Group factor(based on Mourant et al. 1976,from Sykes & Renfrew 2000)

    13. Rohlf’s linguistic map(1935/1970) • Red line: Western limit of compact diffusion of toponyms with -an and -ac endings (early Romanisation) • Orangepoints: toponyms with the Aquitanian -os suffix.

    14. Rohlf’s map and isogenic curves(after Bernard & Ruffié 1976) Thick lines: isogeniccurves O-allele frequency: 0,70 (yellow) O-allele frequency: 0,73 (green)

    15. Postglacial population expansion Late paleolithic population expansion as revealed by mtDNA analysis (Haplogroup V) From Torroni & al 1998

    16. How linguists have linked their research work to genetic studies • Until a few years ago most linguists (contrary to anthropologists) didn’t try to relate their work on the history of Basque to population history. • However, more recently, two proposals have been made to establish remote relationships for Basque.

    17. More recent linguistic proposals for remote relationships • Dene-Caucasian hypothesis (Bengtson, Ruhlen) • Vasconic hypothesis (Venneman) These linguists try to make their proposals coherent with geogenetic data

    18. Main proposals in search of Basque’s relatives until 1990 • Iberian: Humboldt (1821), Schuchardt (1908). • Hamito-semitic: Mukarovsky (1981) • Pan-Caucasian: Bouda (1951), Lafon (1968)

    19. Vasco-Iberian hypothesis abandoned when it became clear that despite some similarities Basque was of no help to understand Iberian texts, which can be read since the middle of the 20th century (contrary to what happens with Aquitanian names). Vasco-Caucasian hypothesis abandoned when it was noticed that the proposed comparisons had serious methological flaws, especially because all the Causasian languages (Karvelian + Eastern and Western Northern Caucasian languages) were considered as forming one family. Why the two major hypotheses were set aside

    20. II. The Dene-Caucasian hypothesis (DCH) Bengtson (1991,1995, 2003), Macro Caucasian (MC): Basque + Burushaski + ‘Northern Caucasian’

    21. Dene-Caucasian macro-family(from

    22. DCH and genetic studies: • No genetic correlation with the DC hypothesis (Basques are similar to other Europeans).  Ruhlen (1994) argues that DC is so remote (prior to Eurasiatic) that genetic relationships between populations have been lost, • only linguistic relationships would be traceable.

    23. Appraisal of the DCH Despite recents efforts by Bengtson (2003) to establish phonological correspondances with Proto-Caucasian,  nothing convincing remains: no specialist shares Bengtson’s and Ruhlen’s view regarding Basque’s connection to DC.

    24. III. The Vasconic hypothesis (VH) T. Venneman (1994,1998, 2003)  follows the tradition of substrate analyses

    25. Substrate analysis in North-Alpine Europe • Non-IE features in IE languages can be explained by substrate features. • There were only two language families in Europe before IE expansion; some features can be traced because there are direct descendants of these proto-languages.

    26. Vasconic (VH) Semitidic Non-IE languages in Europe after last Ice-Age (Venneman 2003) Old European Basque Semitic Atlantic (Pictish)

    27. The VH and genetic studies showing post-glacial colonisation of Europe(Torroni et al 1998, 2001) Vasconic expansion would have followed the repopulation of Europe by Vasconic people leaving the Aquitanian-Iberian refugium after the last ice-age (from Venneman 2003)

    28. Linguistic arguments for the VH • Visegimal counting in some Romance, Celtic and Germanic languages. • First syllable accent innovation in Germanic, Celtic and Italic languages. • River-names of North-Alpine Europe with Vasconic roots (is-, ur-, aran-, -alde) and morphems(-a); + agglutinative morphology. • Etymologies of non-IE words found in IE languages.

    29. Negative appraisal of the VH • Analysis of hydronyms criticised on several grounds: eg. -a (suffixed det.) is lately derived from dem. har-; • No further confirmation of phonological proposals made in order to establish Vasconic etymologies. eg. lat. grandis, bq. handi or haundi> vc.*grandi or *graundi (Proto-Basque words admitted no initialconsonantclusters) • Unlikely late (medieval) borrowings: eg. -ing. knife < fr. canif / canibet < bq. ganibet (von Wartburg: o.frq. *knif > fr. canif / canibet). (OldBasque nouns had no final plosives)


    31. Negative general balance • The most recents attempts made to establish long distance relationships for Basque have failed,  Despite the support of genetic studies on population, disappointing results of Vennemann’s substrate analysis ...

    32. two reasons - inherent limits of substrate analysis, especially in the case of remote substitution (very little or no information at all regarding the substituted language); - the alleged linguistic homogeneity of W-Europe before IE-expansion may be wrong; cf. Trask’s patchwork pattern, which makes substrate analyses unavailable (because unrestricted).

    33. Moreover, During the same period, historical studies on Basque have progressed outside multilateralist studies (Gomez & Sainz, Hualde, Igartua, Lakarra, Trask, etc.), which have been of no benefit at all to Basque historical studies;  Internal reconstruction is still the best tool to make our knowledge of the history of Basque advance.

    34. New orientations for interdisciplinary studies in the W-Pyrenees As genetic studies are making progress, the correlation between isolated languages and population histories can be studied in a more effective way focussing on shorter periods of the past.

    35. Some questions to be adressed • Is the genetic profile of Basques and W-Pyreneans the result of late neolithisation of W-Pyreneas? • What kind of links did endogamic behaviour of populations have with language survival? Was there any cultural anthropological basis (family structure?) to such a behaviour (outside language itself)? • If there was some late Basque language spread, did it occur into non Basque populations, or was it the result of population expansion? • Is there any link between tribal limits and Basque dialects? In this case, how can we explain them?

    36. Some recent studies(Iriondo et al 2003)

    37. Work in progress(CHCB, CNRS, INSERM, Univ. Bordeaux II, Univ. del País Vasco, Univ. Pompeu Fabra) Population History and Linguistic Variation in the Western Pyrenees (HIPVAL): heterogeneity factors among Basque populations First results : 2007

    38. Researchers Anthropologists B. Arveiler , F. Bauduer, P. Darlu, N. Izagirre Geneticists D. Comas, L. Quintana-Murci Linguists R. Etxepare, E. Montoya, B. Oyharçabal, J. Salaberria