Re: Do Basque words for domestic animals resemble Indo-European ones?

Miguel Carrasquer Vidal (
Thu, 07 Nov 1996 03:19:30 GMT

Jonathan Adams <jonathan> wrote:

>The currently accepted view seems to be that the Indo-European languages were
>carried west by the first agriculturalists into Europe,

That is Renfrew's view (and mine as well I should say), but it is
certainly not the currently accepted view.

> swamping out the previously-existing languages of hunter-gatherers of which
>Basque is only a remnant.

The currently accepted view is that in the Late Neolithic/Early Bronze
Age pastoralist Indo-Europeans came in from the Southern Russian steppe
and swamped out the previously existing languages of agriculturalists,
Basque being the only modern remnant.

>I hear that domestic animal names (e.g. for sheep)
>have a common root throughout the Indo-European language family.

> If this is so, then the Basques must have got agriculture and herding from
>the Indo-European speakers.

No. Agriculture spread throughout Europe in two independent and very
different waves: a continental one and a Mediterranean one. The
continental progression goes from Anatolia to Greece and the Balkans
(7th millennium: Sesklo, Karanovo I, Starcevo, Cris, Ko"ro"s), to
Central and Northern Europe (6th millennium: LBK (Danubian/Linear Ware))
until reaching the Atlantic and Britain in the 5th millennium
(Michelsberg, Windmill Hill).

The Mediterranean wave spread rapidly in the 7th millennium, presumably
from Greece to Italy, S. France and Spain, resulting in Impressed Ware
cultures all over the Western Mediterranean (the initial spread may have
been only of pottery techniques, domestic animals and crops arriving
later). Unlike the continental agricultural "wave of advance", which
almost certainly involved language dispersal and replacement, this
advance of the Mediterreanean Neolithic seems to have been more a
movement of ideas than people. In any case, by the time the LBK folk
arrived in Western Europe, c. 4500 BC, pottery and other Neolithic
techniques (including cereals and sheep) had been known in the Western
Mediterranean already for two millennia.

>So one might expect that many of their crop names
>and domesticated animal names would show a resemblence to those used by
>Indo-Europeans, who they had presumably traded with or learnt the methods of
>agriculture from. Is there is in fact a resemblence in such words?

Not really.

pig: txerri (< Sp. cerdo?), urde
sheep: ardi
ram: ahari
lamb: ar-kume (-kume ="child")
goat: ahuntz
he-goat: aker
kid: ahuntz, antxume < *ahuntz-kume ?
ox: idi
null: zezen
cow: behi (there might be a relation with Lat. vacca)
calf: txahal

wheat: gari
barley: garagar (redupl. gara-gar)
oats: olo
millet: arta-txiki ("small arto", arto is now maize)
rye: zekale, zikirio (< Romance secale)

I don't have a Basque etymological dictionary, but on the face of it,
very few connections (rye is not indigenous, the cow and pig connections
are dubious).

>If there is
>not a resemblence, does that suggest that in fact the Basque-speakers were
>actually the neolithic farmers and that Indo-European languages are the result
>of a later wave of cultural or population movement?

Both may have been early farmers. I have the suspicion that a later
wave of "pastoralist nomads", like the one postulated by Gimbutas and
Mallory, taking place after 3 millennia of intensive agricultural
settlement in Europe, would have left far more survivors than just
Basque. It certainly did in India, where the language of the early
farmers, Dravidian, is still spoken in most of southern half of the

Miguel Carrasquer Vidal ~ ~
Amsterdam _____________ ~ ~ |_____________|||

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