Did you know…?

While the survival of the Basque people and culture to modern times is often ascribed to the isolated region in which the people inhabit, the Basques are not so secluded as one might think. Some great examples demonstrating this are the various pidgin and mixed languages that have sprung up out of the interactions of the Basques and other cultures…

familia-gitanos-vascos-inicios-xxThe Romani, or gypsies, are well known throughout Europe. They have also settled in the Basque Country. As seems to be common in many places where the Romani are found, they have created a language that combines their own with the local language. Euskara is no exception. The Erromintxela language uses the vocabulary of the Kalderash Romani but the grammar of Euskara. While evidence of this mixed language dates to the 19th century, it is only in the last few decades, as the language is in danger of being lost, that it has been studied in any detail.

The Basques sailed far and wide in search of fishing grounds that would provide an economic advantage. During the course of these excursions, they naturally met other peoples and, to communicate, new languages were created synthesizing the two original ones. Two examples of these are with Iceland and several Native American tribes in Newfoundland…

Picture 1The Basques and the Icelanders had many encounters, some of them not so pleasant. However, their interactions were so extensive that a Basque-Icelandic pidgin formed, spoken in Iceland in the 17th century. This pidgin had a number of colorful phrases, including one for “go shag a horse“.  Fortunately, the hostilities that arose way back in those seafaring days have been peacefully resolved.

map-whale hunting groundsOne the Basques reached the Newfoundland shores and established their whaling refineries, they also had extensive interactions with the native populations, including the Algonquians. In several cases, pidgins arose, particularly with the Algonquians. When Basque sailors asked an Algonquian how he was (nola zaude) the response would often be apaizac obeto: the priests are better. This pidgin was used primarily in the 16th century, with the last attested use being in 1710. This is the oldest known pidgin in North America.

Are there any others?

One thought on “Did you know…?”

  1. I knew a bit but, I didn’t know a lot! I feel educated! What about the Phillipines? Was their language affected? Keep the info flowing!

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