Basque Influence in French

Xatufan   Wednesday, December 15, 2004, 23:41 GMT
One of the most obvious changes Latin suffered when it evolved to Spanish is that some of the f's at the beginning of the word became h's (e.g. filius -> hijo ; farina -> harina). This was one of the most important influences from Basque.

But let's see the following Latin word: "foras". It's beautiful, don't you think? It means "outside". The incredible thing is that in French it is "hors" (the h is not a typo!!!). Is this Basque? Are there other words like this?

PS: In Spanish "foras" is "fuera". The f didn't become h !!!
Jim   Thursday, December 16, 2004, 00:16 GMT
Did Latin "suffer"?
Brennus   Thursday, December 16, 2004, 07:44 GMT


The reasons behind the change of Latin f to h in Spanish are not certain. Frederick Bodmer and Mario Pei believed in the Basque theory . However, W.D. Elcock in his book "The Romance languages" (1960) questions this and says that the change probably occured during the Vulgar Latin period. He cites examples in some southern Italian dialects and one Romanian dialect where Latin f has also changed to h as in Vulgar Latin *FOCU "fire" to huoco & hocu and *FILU "thread" to hilo & hilu rspectively.

Another author I read thought that the change originated during the Roman period and may have been due to a military (Roman Army) influence since officers have a tendancy to sound out words from the pits of their stomachs as in English today when a drill instrctor shouts "Horward, march! (Forward, march!) and Right, hace! (Right face!) etc.

Even in Spain, there are some contradictions. For example, Fuente "fountain" is pronounced as hwen-ta in some Andalusian dialects but fwen-te in northern Castile which is closer to the Basque speaking region.
Jordi   Thursday, December 16, 2004, 08:32 GMT
Dear Brennus:
You are wrong with the contradictions. I think you are confused with the j/h distinction in Andalusian dialects. Spanish "juerga" sounds as "huerga" in Andalusians dialects, with a strong aspirated "h", which is actually where the typical modern Spanish "j" comes from.
Regarding the fact of the loss of initial "f" Spanish was born in an area where Basque was also spoken (therefore "bilingual"). Andalusians actually pronunce their "f" in Castilian perfectly. I live in Spain, I'm a linguist and I travel widely all over the Spain.
The first early medieval Spanish text ever, from San Millán de la Congolla, in Northern Spain, is actually also the same first text where there are some written sentences in Basque. Therefore, oficially as a written language, Basque and Spanish share the same sheets of paper. The scribe actually puts a few words in Basque, which would be perfectly understood my modern Basque speakers. The other fact is that the only Occitan dialect where "f" is absolutely lost is Gascon (Gascon/Vascon share the same etym) and both Gascon and Spanish Castilian are the neighbouring Romance Languages to the north and south of Basque. The evidence is so great that there is little than can be said about this.
nic   Thursday, December 16, 2004, 13:07 GMT

I don't really know if it's the case and i don't speak basque, i am originally from the occitan area in France. As a french i don't have the feeling basque has influenced french. When i hear some basque speakers, it seems and it is totally different.
Jordi   Thursday, December 16, 2004, 14:10 GMT
Dear Nic,
As you know there is a saying in French which goes: "Parler français comme une vache espagnole.", meaning "to speaki French like a Spanish cow." It obviously means to speak very bad French.
The origin actually is "Parler français com un basque espagnol." The reason is that both Basque and Castilian Spanish do not make the difference between b/v and pronounce all "v" as "b". Therefore, a Basque would actually pronounce Occitan "vache" as "bache. (and "vasque" as "basque").
Basque related dialects were still spoken in all the Pyrennees mountain range, from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, in the early Middle Ages. All the languages in this area do not make the b/v difference because of the bascoid substratum (Basque, Gascon, Aragonese, Northern Catalan dialects). The difference between b/v is still carried out by most Valencian and Balearic Island speakers of the Catalan language. They are to the south and east.
In Roman times, speaking of Aquitania, near the present day Basque area, Julius Caesar said they were a happy people because "bibere vivere est." "To drink is to live." He was obviously making fun of Basque-speaking people who couldn't make the b/v difference.
There are quite a few basquisms in all the neighbouring historical languages. Less so in Standard French but very much so in Francitan, the regional French of Occitania, with lots of occitanisms (therefore, quite a few basquisms.)
nic   Thursday, December 16, 2004, 14:19 GMT

Thank you for the information about "parler comme une vache espagnole", interesting!

Do you have some examples which schows an influence into french?

As a french when i hear some basques speaking each others, i cannot understand anything, even their names are really diffenrent from french names, example of course with Vixzente Lizarazu ? Lizarazou? I am not a football fan so i ma sorry i wrote his name in a wrong way.
Jordi   Thursday, December 16, 2004, 17:40 GMT
As I told you the influence is strong in Occitan, specially in the Gascon dialect. Since Spanish languages were often born near Basque-speaking areas we have quite a few words. For example: Spanish "izquierda", Catalan "esquerra" (left) come from Basque "esquerra". As you can see in Catalan it's exactly the same. There is more but I'm sure that it can partially be found in the Internet.
Maybe some words have passed to Standard French through the Occitan language. I'm sure there must be something published on this matter.
Brennus   Friday, December 17, 2004, 07:16 GMT

Dear Jordi,

Andalusia is not uniform in its pronunciations at all. For example, a linguistic Atlas on Andalusia that I saw (published in Spain ) lists sol, só and thó as various pronunciations for the word "sun" . I remember seeing at least one Andalusian location (probably a couple of others) that had hwego and hwente for fuego and fuente.

As I said before, the change of Latin frontal f to h is not limited to northern Spain. It also turns up in several South Italian dialects and one Romanian dialect (Elcock cites this in his book) casting some doubt on the Basque theory. Ladino, which is derived mostly from Mozarabic (Andalusian) has both fada and hada for "fairy tale" and fizhika and hizhika for "daughter; young girl" just to mention a few examples.

True, h is a silent letter in Modern Spanish but was still pronounced until at least the 14th century e.g. - Old Spanish hiniestra (hee-nee-estra) window < Latin finestra. In Old Spanish j was pronounced zh just as it still is in Portuguese and Ladino e.g. justicia (zhoos-tee-see-uh). Often, the j in modern Spanish words was an x (pronounces sh) in Old Spanish i.e. Ladino basho, el kashón, la shoya for bajo, el cajón, la jolla. Méjico was originally spelled Mexico and pronounced may-shee-ko, later may-chee-ko and finally may-hee-ko.
Jordi   Friday, December 17, 2004, 07:49 GMT
Dear Brennus:
I don't have the time right now to look up the bibliography and I would love to do so when I have a couple of days of holidays. I'm in Antimoon to oblige me to write in English a few times a week with English and advanced-English speakers.
I totally agree that Andalusia is divided as far as so/tho (sol) are concerned. All Spaniards know that, whether they are linguists or not. It's called the Andalusian "seseo" and "ceceo".
As you know, the Spanish spoken in Andalusia is basically a "language of importation" as all colonial languages are (English in the US). That does not mean that the previous languages didn't leave their influence as also happens in all colonial languages. Castilian Spanish has only been spoken in Andalusia since the Middle Ages. Before that, it is a known fact that almost all the population spoke an Arabic dialect with a certain Latin substratum.
I don't agree that Ladino is derived from Mozarabic. The only Mozarabic texts that are really known "las jarchas" speak of a long lost Latin language. Spanish scholars agree in that Mozarabic was hardly spoken at all --if any-- by the 13th century. The characteristics of Ladino, as it is known, are far from those few Mozarabic sentenced and words, which are known and very close indeed to Standard 1492 Castilian Spanish. That's why it's so useful although it has taken words from the places where there were Sephardim colonies. I've known a few of them in my travels and I can assure they are fully understood from the start although they seem "quaint" to my contemporary Spanish ears.
Anyway, many of the Jews who left Spain at the end of the 15th century where actually Castilians. Remember that Toledo, for instance, had one of the biggest jeweries in Spain. Some Catalan-speaking jews ended up blending with the Castilian ones who outnumbered them by much.
On the other hand, all that is spoken in Southern Spain is not Castilian Spanish. There are still pockets --with a greater territorial extent in the very near past-- who speak Asturian-Leonese, all along Extremadura.
Concomitances between evolutions in far away areas must be considered, of course, but any good linguist must first study the neighbouring languages and dialects to see what happens. The fact that "f" is lost in Gascon, Basque and Castilian Spanish, in the same linguistic continuum, does tell us a lot because Basque isn't a Romance language and has never had the "f" sound. Furthermore, in this continuum, there is no b/v difference (always pronounced as "b" against neighbouring Romance languages as I explained in another thread. The rhythm and pitch of those three languages is also very similar (at least the Northern Spanish varieties) whilst it is totally different in Galician to the west and Aragonese and Catalan to the east.
As far as your references for "hwego" and "hwente" (fuego and fuente), in a few Andalusian villages, I'll take you word for it but I can tell you that is quite astounding and new to me. I know Gascon has "huèc" whilst Castilian keeps the "f" in this case "fuego". The fact is that the initial "f" is lost in Basque and Gascon but not, as far as I knew, in any Spanish dialect. When studying Andalusia one must also study where the Medieval settlers came from. There are some valleys in Jaén which were settled absolutely with Germans, as far as the 17th century, after the expulsion of the Moriscos. A beautiful Andalusian accent, they have, blond and blue eyes and a special knack for some archaic German cuisine. They aren't newcomers those (if you're interested look up the town of La Carolina, in Jaén) and yet who would say that Germanisms in that are didn't arrive with the 5th century Germanic Invasions? Dialectology is also a multi-disciplinar science that requires a deep knowledge of the hsitory and the peoples of the land one studies.
It all came out in one go and I apologise for the length.
nic   Friday, December 17, 2004, 08:37 GMT
Excuse me guys, i don't really know about Andalousian accent but this how the world works, even in a same region, country, pronuncaitions cannot be the same. If you look about provençal accent in France, the accent from Avignon is not the same with the one from Marseille, Nice...

It's the same for every part of the world, every culture