Re: Basque, where did they come from?

Rich Wales (
8 Sep 1995 21:52:45 -0400

Jong <> wrote:
The Basque lang has got SOV structure which is the
same as Ural Altaic languages . . . . Basque must
be one of the branches which has been surrounded by

to which claird@Starbase.NeoSoft.COM (Cameron Laird) replied:

Baltic-Finnic languages are largely SVO. Hungarian
has free word order.

Hungarian word order is "free" in the sense that subjects and objects
are not, as a rule, identified by word order. However, word order in
the language is intimately tied up in issues of emphasis and news value.
Specifically, the focus of a Hungarian sentence is normally the word or
phrase immediately before the verb.

>From what little I know about Basque, it also places the focus of the
typical sentence just before the verb. However, this is hardly enough
of a basis for postulating a relationship between the two languages.
Even if you consider that both languages are agglutinative and use
postpositions, that still isn't nearly enough, especially since (from
what I understand) there are =no= similarities at all in the basic
vocabularies of Hungarian and Basque.

Also, Basque's well-known (at least amongst linguists :-}) ergative-
absolutive structure is quite distinctive -- though that one difference
is, to be sure, not (by itself) enough to prove that Basque is unrelated
to other languages without this feature. I understand some linguists
have tried to connect Basque with the Caucasian languages, because some
of them exhibit a limited degree of ergative structure, but that's prob-
ably stretching things too -- especially given the apparent lack of any
vocabulary similarities.

Disclaimers: Linguistics is not my field; I've studied a little bit of
Hungarian, but can't speak it; and although I've read some descriptions
of Basque grammatical structure, I have never studied it and definitely
can't speak a word of it.

Rich Wales (; formerly
Kitchener, Ontario, Canada