Do Basque words for farm animals resemble Indo-European ones?

Jonathan Adams ((no email))
7 Nov 1996 00:04:51 GMT

It seems to be generally accepted that Basque is a remnant of the previous
hunter-gatherer languages and cultures of Europe that were swamped out by
neolithic farming cultures in which Indo-European languages were spoken. But of
course, the Basques now farm and herd animals just like anyone else. If the
Basque language represents a pre-farming culture, then presumably the Basques
would have picked up a large number of words for farm animals, neolithic crops
or basic farm implements from the neighbouring Indo-European speakers with
which they traded and who (presumably) taught them the basics of farming. Is
this in fact the case? If in fact Basque has its OWN words for such things like
sheep and goat, does that not suggest that in fact they were already farmers or
herders when the Indo-Europeans got to them (i.e. that the Basque language is
an early neolithic language and that the Indo-European group is a rather more
recent arrival).
I don't know - I'm just a plant ecologist who doesn't know any better. But
I'd be interested to know what the current thinking is on the subject.
By the way, what patterns for crop names are observed in other parts of the
world, for example the indian languages of the eastern USA - do they tend to
show patterns of crop names in common between otherwise very different
languages, reflecting the relatively late spread of farming? If not, can that
be used to show how very rapidly can languages diverge from one another in the
'primitive' state (unwritten and spoken by small, tribal populations)losing
even the similarities between relatively recently introduced crop names.