Basque, or Euskera, is not an Indo-European language, and since it has no relationship with any other languages, nor relations with French or Spanish, it can be considered the only language to have survived the Indo-European invasion, a genuine enigma for linguists and glottologists, who still consider it to be a completely separate language.
It is spoken by 600,000 persons in Northern Spain (in the País Vasco in Spain and the area north of Navarra) and the extreme South West of France (French Basque country) in the Département des Pyrénées Atlantiques, although it was originally spoken as far away as Aquitaine and the Central Pyrenees, and seems to have had considerable influence on the phonetics of Castilian.
Having been prohibited for almost 40 years under Franco (speaking it was a criminal offence), it almost completely disappeared in the last century. It was forbidden to give children Basque names, display signs and signals in Basque and the Academy of the Basque language was only recognised anew in 1976. It only started to flourish again in the late Fifties and early Sixties. With the arrival of a democratic regime in Spain, the Constitution of 1978 and the Estatuto de Gernika both achieved official recognition in the Basque Country, and Basque slowly returned to public life. The language is called “Euskera” since there was a need to unite the new dialects under a common set of linguistic rules.
The Basque people attribute so much importance to their language that they define and identify themselves above all in terms of the language itself.
They go so far as to call themselves Euskal Herria – the people of the Basque language – a term which identifies both the country and its population. The Euskal Herria today covers the provinces of Araba, Gipuzkoa and Bizkaia in Spain, Lapurdi and Zuberoa in France and Navarra, through which the national border runs.
The risk for Basque, which has recently increased in popularity as a spoken language in the south of the Basque Country, is that Euskera will become an academic language rather than the language of everyday, spoken by all those who agree with the Basques and identify their people with the language.
This trend, already evident in the Seventies, gave birth to the (originally clandestine and now officially recognised) counter-movement of the Ikastola – in other words, schools which use Basque as the medium of instruction.
Like Catalan and Galician, for example, Basque is an official language of the European Union, and Spain has agreed, since 1 January 2007, that certain secondary legislative acts will be published in Basque as well as Spanish.
Does Basque use any special characters which create problems in Word?
No, it uses only the Roman alphabet without any special characters, and can be displayed and printed without any particular problems.