Author: Angus J. Huck
• Wednesday, February 14th, 2024

Basque ote, ota “gorse”

Gorse is one of a group of closely related shrubs that belong to the pea family. It is characterised by multiple spines and a bright yellow flower that blooms irregularly throughout the year. There are around 15 species of gorse. The best-known and most widespread is Ulex europaeus (“common gorse”). In Europe, gorse is confined to the Atlantic fringe, running all the way down from Scotland to Madeira. It is typically to be seen on lowland heath and unimproved moorland. Often, it grows in close proximity to bracken and heather. Because gorse has such a limited geographical distribution, there is no common Indo-European word for “gorse”. Indeed, there is no common Romance word for “gorse”, there is no common Germanic word for “gorse”, and there is no common Insular Celtic word for “gorse”. The foregoing analysis would predict that Vasconic also has no common word for “gorse”, and the available evidence strongly suggests this.

Azkue lists the following:

ote (G, AN-Baztan-Lezaka), othe (L, BN, Z) “gorse”

ota (B) “gorse”

otar (B-Gernika, L-Ainhoa), “hard gorse (?), male gorse (?)”

othar (BN-Amikuse-Garazi, Z) “big gorse (?)”

oteme (B-Gernika) “species of gorse without spines, female gorse (?)”

Azkue also lists (R-Uztarroz) ote “line of seeds in an ear of corn”, and (BN-Baztan) oti “first bud of a plant”, both of which I believe to be internally cognate with the above, as we shall see shortly.

Basque oti “grasshopper” and the hearsay prefix, ote-, are probably distinct homonyms.

The forms, otar, othar and oteme have been misanalysed by Azkue. This is not Azkue’s fault. Azkue knew little or nothing of Iberian and Vasconic languages further afield. The data that would have put him right on this point were simply not in front of him. oteme arose from a folk etymological misunderstanding of otar, othar. There is no such thing as “hard gorse” as far as I know. otar, othar probably refers to a gorse thicket. Individual gorse shrubs are very rarely freestanding. The -ar in otar, othar is the fossilised collective suffix, *-(a)r. In Iberian, *-(a)r exhibited fortis final /r/, whereas -ar “male” exhibited lenis final /r/. In Basque, the two have coalesced. otar “gorse thicket” was present in Iberian (see below).

Basque ota, ote is the only Basque word for “gorse” that I can find. Was it present in Iberian? Indeed it was. Consider the following:

UTTARIS, a mutatio listed on the Antonine Itinerary somewhere in the Galicia or Leon regions: Iberian *utar or *otar “gorse thicket”.

AUTRAKA, a place listed only by Ptolemy, somewhere in the Burgos region: *autar-aka “place of the gorse thicket”. This would have become *Otarraga in the modern language. /o/ and /au/ had a high degree of interchangeability in the Cantabria and Asturias regions. AUTRAKA is probably the source of the ethnonym, AUTRIGONES (from *Autrigo, a variant of *Autaraka).

There is no suggestion of masculinity in either of the above.

Does Basque ote, ota have cognates in other Vasconic languages further afield? Probably. Consider the following:

Welsh eithen “gorse” (usually in the plural form, eithin), Old Irish aitenn “juniper”, a probable loanword from British Vasconic. The surprise here is that the semantic movement from a grass-like plant to a prickly shrub has also occurred in British Vasconic. English did not inherit this word, but took up instead a word meaning “holly” (see below).

English oats, the grass-like serial crop (Avena sativa), a probable loanword from British Vasconic. What possible connection does oats have with gorse? Well, consider (R-Uztarroz) ote “line of grains in an ear of corn”. Might this have been the earlier meaning of ote, ota, before the first Vascophones arrived in Iberia following the melting of the ice, discovered gorse and had to find a word for it? In prehistoric times, grass was not the manicured or closely cropped stuff that one finds on lawns or in meadows. It was often waist high and grew in clumps in spaces in the wildwood where there was sufficient light. Gorse would have grown in similar situations, possibly in places where trees had difficulty establishing themselves, such as clifftops and rocky outcrops. English oats was first recorded in 1000 as ate “grain of the oat plant”. It has no Germanic cognates.

Does Basque ote, ota have variants that exhibit the fossilised phytonymic class prefixes, *g= and *m=?

I am aware of one possible instance of *g-ote, and that is the toponym, Gotein (Soule). This might be *g-ote-ain “place where gorse grows”. However, an alternative interpretation is *gon-t-ain “place of the height” (the final /n/ of Iberian gon “height” was often lost in compounds, and /t/d/ is a frequent connective in -ain toponyms).

As for *m=, Azkue lists the following:

mota (B-Lekeitio-Markina) “steep bank, section of land covered in grass that surrounds sown fields”

mota (B-Mundaka) “flower bud”

motta (AN) “crest of a bird, tuft”

motabedar (Ms Lond) “tansy”

mote (G-Usurbil) “flower bud”, (G) “shoot, bud of a tree”

moto (B-Oñate, G, BN-Aldude-L-Ainhoa), motho (BN, Z) “bun, crest of a bird”

moto (G) “pigtail”

moto (BN-Amikuse-Bardos, Z) “child’s beret”

motto (AN-Baztan, L-Ainhoa, R) “crest of a bird”

motots (G-Andoain-Aia-Donostia-Etxarri-Aranaz-Tolosa-Usurbil) “crest of a bird”, (G-Alegi) “head of hair”

mototx (G-Urnieta) “head of hair”

Basque mota “species, race” is probably a distinct homonym.

The above are problematic. Some of them refer directly to plant buds or shoots (many Basque words do), while others refer to the crest of a bird, in a direct or extended sense (ie, human hair). All of these are consistent, or just about consistent, with words for grass-like plants. There is certainly very good reason to regard them as internally cognate with Basque (R-Uztarroz) ote “line of seeds in an ear of corn”, and (BN-Baztan) oti “first bud of a plant”. It seems that Iberian took its word for “gorse” from a word for a grass-like plant.

The first meaning cited above, (“steep bank, etc”), bears a possible resemblance to French motte “artificial mound of earth that supports a wooden fortification”, a word with no identifiable Latin or Germanic antecedence.

However, the actual recorded usage of the word suggests that it has more to do with grass than geomorphology:

“Etxe-aurreko mota edo bedartzea…”

“Lur landuak, zelai eta motak, larrak, basoak…”

Latin ulex, ulicis, which serves as the botanical name for the gorse family, does not actually mean “gorse” in Latin. Rather, it refers to some other prickly shrub. Gorse is not native to Italy, so few ancient Romans would have been familiar with it.

Latin ulex, ulicis is likely to be a substrate loanword from Italian Vasconic. Compare the following Basque words (listed by Azkue):

mullo (G-Andoain, R-Uztarroz) “a grass without a flower that grows in both shady and open places”

mullo (G-Andoain) “shrub, scrub”

mullo (B-Markina) “stalks in a bunch of grapes”

mulu (B-Markina, G) “shrub, scrub”

This group of words seems to derive from a Proto-Vasconic *uLo, *uLu, and carries the fossilised phytonymic class prefix, *m=, though in Italian Vasconic it exists in its freestanding form. It is possible that the substantive part of this word can exist in freestanding form in Iberian. There is an anthroponymic compound element, ULO, that is recorded in the Roman Script in the Upper Garonne region. Of course, we cannot be certain of its meaning. Consider the following:

CIL 13, 00170


English gorse has no Germanic cognates. It was recorded as gorst in 950. It is likely that English gorse is a substrate loanword from a British Vasconic word cognate with Basque gorosti “holly” (a prickly tree).

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Author: Angus J. Huck
• Sunday, March 26th, 2023

Basque gersti “handle of a vessel”

The 17th century lexicographer, Sylvain Pouvreau, a Francophone who studied mainly the Labourdin dialect of Basque, listed the following:

gersti “handle of a vessel”

gersti is not an isolated error. It is or was a real word. Azkue lists the following degraded variants (along with gersti):

(AN, Araquistain) feste “handle of a pan”

(Z) greste “handle of a pan or a basket”

(BN-Salazar) keste “handle of a little basket or a pan”

I say degraded variants. Orthodox Vascologists will doubtless disagree. But I go to places to find answers where orthodox Vascologists refuse to tread. I follow Basque words back to Iberian, just as one follows French and Spanish words back to Latin. More on that shortly.

(Z) greste exhibits a curious metathesis of /e/ and /r/ to produce the initial /gr/ cluster, which is forbidden in Vasconic languages (except in very recent loanwords and phonosymbolic words). Orthodox Vascologists have tried to explain greste as a borrowing of Spanish cresta or Old French creste “comb of a bird, tuft, top”. While the metathesis might have been influenced by these words, the meanings are quite different. Spanish cresta and Old French creste always refer to something on top, whereas the handle of a vessel or pan is likely to be at the sides (in order to avoid scalding). A basket can have a handle that is on top, but only two of the four words refer to a basket.

(BN-Salazar) keste appears to have been influenced by Basque ertsi or estu “narrow”, which alternates been /r/ and no /r/ forms sometimes within dialects.

(AN, Araquistain) feste is quite strange because it exhibits the rare initial /f/. I would suggest that this variant has been influenced by Spanish fiesta, Old French feste “festival”.

I regard gersti as original because the first part of this probable compound is recorded in Iberian. It is to be found on the First Lead Foil of Alcoy, a roll of donors of grave goods written in the Ionian Script. In that text, Iberian gers is the second component in the tripartite anthroponym, Sesgersduran.

gersti might be a compound comprising an Iberian gers “vessel” and ti or di “handle”. Iberian ti and di are both attested as anthroponymic compound elements.

It is clear from the context that Iberian gurs referred to a large ceramic vessel that was donated as a grave good (possibly a funerary urn). This word does not exist in Basque. Could gers and gurs be the same word? Could it be that the addition of a suffix has shifted /u/ to /e/? Are gers and gersti a rare example of ablaut in Vasconic? Possibly. However, both gursand gers are present on the First Lead Foil of Alcoy, so they were clearly separate words 2,000 years ago. A /u/ to /e/ ablaut in Basque does exist. In Gipuzkoan, one says det and degu for dut and dugu, following the addition of agreement suffixes, but du where the agreement suffix is null. British Vasconic probably has *kurvV and *kervis and *survV and *servis, where the addition of the sibilant suffix has resulted in a shift from /u/ to /e/ in the substantive part of the word. Basque has (AN) guldi and (c) geldi, both “quiet”. Perhaps the deflection of noun suffixes on to this adjective has exceptionally resulted in a shift from /u/ to /e/? However, geldi is recorded in Iberian while guldi is missing from the Iberian record (much of the Iberian lexicon is unrecorded, so guldi could still be there). Another possible ablaut vowel change is Basque (B) guzur, (c) gezur, both “lie”.

A curious fact about this group of words is that Basque gersti and all its variants exhibit the apical /s/ only, while Iberian gers and gurs are written with the No-2 S-sign.

Do Basque gersti and Iberian gers and gurs have cognates in other non-Vasconic Dene-Caucasian languages further afield? Consider the following:

North Caucasian

Lezghian k:ur “cup, basin”

Rutul gɨr “cup, basin”

West Caucasian

Abaza gara “cradle”


kerǝ “bowl”


Yasin grangirán “large basket”

Hunza girán “large basket”

Nagar girán “large basket”

Old Chinese

kraʔ “round basket”

Note the distribution of first syllable vowels in the above and compare them to how the word behaves in Basque.

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Author: Angus J. Huck
• Sunday, March 19th, 2023

Is the Deba Celtic?

Orthodox Vascologists who maintain that the Basque language was implanted in what is now Euskal Herria from the Central Pyrenées during the Dark Ages hold up as their unanswerable proof the River Deba, whose name they say is Celtic and means “goddess”. If a river that flows through the western part of Euskal Herria entirely contained with the province of Gipuzkoa has a Celtic name, they say, this proves beyond all doubt that the language spoken in that region in ancient times was Celtic, not Basque. To orthodox Vascologists, it is game, set and match. But is their argument as slam dunk as it first appears?

We have two inquiries to make, and they are cumulative. First. Is the river name, Deba, Celtic? Second. Even if it is Celtic, does that prove that the language spoken in that region in ancient times was Celtic?

I will address the second inquiry first by posing two questions. The Guadalquivir has an Arabic name. Does that prove beyond all doubt that Arabic, and not Latin or Iberian, was spoken in the Spanish South in the classical period? The Llobregat has a Latin name. Does that prove beyond all doubt that Iberian was never spoken in Catalonia?

The Gipuzkoa Deba was probably first recorded by Ptolemy as DEOUA around 150AD, though Ptolemy may have been referring to the Cantabria Deva, further west. Ptolemy recorded three other instances of rivers with the name, DEOUA, all of them now known as Dee. There is the Cheshire and North-East Wales Dee, the Aberdeenshire Dee and the Galloway Dee.

Is this hydronym Celtic? No, it is not. It is Roman.

Both Latin and Celtic share a word for “god”. In Latin it is deus, with a combinatory form, *diw-, and in Celtic it is dios(Welsh diw, Irish dia), with a combinatory form, *diw-. Latin has both /e/ and /i/ forms, while Celtic only has /i/ forms, as far as is known. *dewa is therefore a lost Latin word meaning “goddess”, a variant of the more usual diva.

In Gaulish and Hispano-Celtic, only /i/ forms are recorded. On the Third Bronze Plate of Botorrita is to be found the anthroponym, Diogenos “born of the god” or “descended from the god”, and Ptolemy lists a place in the north of Spain, DIOBRIGA “fortress of the god”. Then we find the combinatory form, *diwo, in DIOUODOURON, the name recorded by Ptolemy for what is now Metz (Moselle, France).

Deba is quite clearly the name given to the river that runs through Gipuzkoa by the Roman conquerors. It is a trophy name, like Caesaraugusta (Zaragoza), Pompelo (Pamplona), Leningrad, Ho-Chi-Min City, etc. The same is true of the three rivers now known as Dee in Britain. All these rivers were on the western edge of the Empire and were ways of saying to outsiders “this land belongs to Rome”.

So what, then, is the original name of the Gipuzkoa Deba?

Let us look first at the Cantabria Deva. There is a village on the west bank of the Cantabria Deva north of the confluence with the Cares known as Narganes: <*nar(V)-gan “above the River Nar(V)”. (Near the source of the Cantabria Deva is Dobarganes: <*dobar-gan “above Dobar”. The village of Dobarganes is quite literally above the village of Dobar.) Iberian *nar(V) corresponds to Basque (BN) nare “calm”. This word is also to be found in the name of the River Nairnin Scotland, recorded as Naren in 1195 (from British Vasconic *naR(V)).

Having ascertained the original name of the Cantabria Deva, let us now take a closer look at the Gipuzkoa Deba. The only toponym on the banks of this river that may incorporate a hydronym is Elgoibar. This was first recorded in the 15thcentury as the name of the field on which the new town was built. Basque ibar can mean “river bank”. So what is Elgo-? It is often assumed to be Basque (BN, Z) elge “cultivated field”, but why final /o/ rather than /e/? Might it be that Elgo is the original name of the Deba?

So, next time an orthodox Vascologist points to the presence of the Deba in Gipuzkoa as unassailable proof of the theory of the late implantation of Basque, he/she needs to be shown the above.

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Author: Angus J. Huck
• Saturday, March 04th, 2023

Basque espondaezponda “slope”

Azkue lists the following:

(AN-Arakil, BN-Salazar, Z, R) esponda “slope of the face of a wall or piece of land”

(G-Burunda-Etxandi-Aranaz, BN-Salazar, Z, R) ezponda “slope, riverbank”

Basque espondaezponda seems to be present right across Euskal Herria though it is missing from Bizkaia. The variance between orthographic /s/ and /z/ (the apical and laminal sibilants, respectively) is a little bit mysterious. As we shall see, the /s/ form appears to be original.

Attempts have been made to derive Basque espondaezponda from Latin sponda “bedframe, bed, couch”, but this is misconceived. A slope is the opposite of a bed, which is generally something flat or at least low-lying (like a bed for sleeping in, or a river-bed, a sea-bed or a flower-bed).

The misconception is a very old one. An 11th century scribe called Navarrenx (Pyrenées-Atlantiques) sponda Navarrensis. This is a twofold false Latinisation. First, the scribe mistakes Basque espondaezponda for Latin sponda. Secondly, he confuses the toponymic suffix, -enx (quite frequent in this region), with the Latin local genitive, -ensis. Then in the 16th century, the poet, Joanes Ezponda (1557-1595) was known in French as Jean de Sponde.

Basque espondaezponda seems to have spread into neighbouring Romance languages. There is a Gascon esponne, which appears to have a similar meaning to Basque. It is often to be found as a name for steep mountainsides in the Western French Pyrenées. Italian sponda “slope, edge” cannot be derived from Latin sponda “bedframe, bed, couch”, because the meanings are opposites. The appearance of these words in Romance languages is an example of a superstrate borrowing. Western Romance languages share numerous words and forms that do not derive from Latin. Most are Germanic, a few are Arabic and one or two are Vasconic. Within Romance they are capable of spreading around quite freely. An example is Spanish zanca, Italian zanca, both “leg”, and Basque, zankazango, etc, “leg”. Another is Spanish guinda, French guigne, both “sour cherry”, and Basque ginda “cherry”.

Dutch sponde “bed” does actually derive from Latin sponda.

Basque espondaezponda plays little part in the toponymy of Euskal Herria. However, it is quite possibly present in the following toponyms further afield:

Esponzues, a village of Cantabria overlooking the Pas Valley south of Santander: <*espon-su “place of the slope”.

This would suggest an Iberian *espon. It is possible that the final -da in espondaezponda is augmentative -ta/-da. (It is important to note here that Iberian west of the Nerbioi discontinuity is evidenced only in onomastics. There are no native inscriptions.)

Espondeilhan (Herault, France), which was recorded as Espondeilla in 1170: <*esponda-ili “settlement on the slope”, to which the Roman -anum has been added. (The village is in fact located on a small hill rising above the coastal plain.)

In Iberian, there appears to have been, in addition to the *espon preserved in Esponzues, a form that had undergone component metathesis. It is recorded in both Roman and East Iberian Scripts, but is missing from the modern language. In some dialects at least, an original *es-pon appears to have become *bon-es. Or perhaps an original *bon-es became *espon. Consider the following:

Roman Script, Upper Garonne Valley

These texts were written in Latin but include many Iberian anthroponyms and theonyms. The following anthroponyms consist of Iberian *bones alone:

BONEXSI (CIL 13 00178)

BONNEXI (CIL 13 00071)

In the Upper Garonne texts, XS and X appear to denote the sounds represented in Basque by /ts/, /tz/, /x/ and /tx/.

East Iberian Script, Catalonia

The following bipartite anthroponyms are recorded on the Lead Foil of Palamos, a roll of donors of grave goods:

Adinbones (adin “age, intelligence”)

Bilosbones (bilos “round”)

The following bipartite anthroponym is recorded on the Lead Foil of Ullastret, another roll of donors of grave goods:

Biurbones (biur “bent”)

The No 2 S-sign of the East Iberian Script appears to denote the sounds represented in Basque by /s/, /ts/, /x/ and /tx/.

Note how the Upper Garonne and Catalonia agree on the form of this word but disagree with Basque. This is one of a group of words where this happens. The language of the Upper Garonne is demonstrably closer to the language of Catalonia than it is to modern Basque. Yet the bunch of cranks that we call orthodox Vascologists insist that the Upper Garonne language is the antecedent of Basque while Iberian is wholly unrelated to Basque.

*bon-es puts in a single appearance within the borders of Euskal Herria. Consider the following:

Arbonies (Navarra), a village in the far east of Navarra close to Lumbier which was recorded as Arbones in 1110: <*ar-bones “stone slope”. The meaning of Iberian bones is thereby narrowed down do something geomorphological that can be made of stone, like a slope.

Component metathesis is the placing in a different order perceived lexical components. They may not actually be lexical components, they may just be perceived as such. Sometimes it is quite hard to say which coupling is correct. So when one is dealing with a component metathesis it can be very difficult to look for cognates in Vasconic languages further afield, let alone in other non-Vasconic Dene-Caucasian languages.

Greek sfondülios “vertebra, spinal column” might possibly derive from a Pelasgian cognate of Basque espondaezponda. If so, *es-pon-da is likely to be original and *bones secondary.

However, if we look for possible cognates in other non-Vasconic Dene-Caucasian languages, we might conclude that Basque espondaezponda is a tripartite compound dating back to the Proto-Vasconic stage, and that -pon- or -bon- is the primary component. Consider the following:


Preclassic Old Chinese paŋ “side, quarter, place, region, square, regular thing, etc”

Lushai paŋ “body, side, flank”

Limbu ku-buŋ “foot of a mountain, bottom”

Sadly, the data that would allow a complete analysis of Basque espondaezponda have yet to be unearthed.

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Author: Angus J. Huck
• Sunday, February 19th, 2023

The Second Lead Foil of Alcoy

There are several lead foils of Alcoy (Valencia, Spain). Some are inscribed in the East Iberian Script, some in the Ionian Script. The most famous is a double-sided text inscribed in the Ionian Script that is amongst the longest and most complete of all the lead foil texts. Most, if not all, of the Alcoy texts are rolls of donors of grave goods.

There is a fragmentary lead foil text inscribed in the Ionian Script that I will call the Second Lead Foil of Alcoy. The text is not complete, but enough survives to make some sense of it. The Ionian Script has the advantage over the East Iberian Script that it has no syllabic signs and it distinguishes /d/ and /t/ and /g/ and /k/, but it does not distinguish /b/ and /p/ and /m/ and /n/.

My transcription is as follows:

iriseret Ilaeri Isaigudu Leis[…]ai leik(e)ta beri leiria salir iride[…] Setaber(e)n […]ar mai[…]

Ilaeri and Isaigudu are rather clearly bipartite anthroponyms. Leis- appears to be the first half of a bipartite anthroponym, the second part of which is missing. Setabe seems to be the modern Jativa, a town not too far to the north of Alcoy.

iriseret is not encountered elsewhere in the corpus of texts, at least not as far as I know. It is possible that -eret corresponds to Basque -erat “towards” (in Northern dialects).

If so, what is iris-? Five Basque words are worthy of consideration:

(R) iriz-tu “to become overripe (of a fruit)”. Hardly likely. While growing old and dying might be seen to be analogous to a fruit becoming overripe, the person in question was already dead when this text was written and his body was waiting to be cremated and the ashes buried beneath a tumulus.

(B, G) iritzi, (B) eritxi “to judge, give an opinion”. Unlikely. Judgment Day is a Christian concept. There is evidence that Iberians believed in reincarnation: are dake “again, he departs” and seldar ban berbein ari eukiar gatu “once again this tumulus is containing us”.

(G) iritsiiritxi “to arrive”. This is more probable. The deceased could be thought to be about to arrive in the next world. The purpose of donating the grave goods was to facilitate his passage.

The above three Basque words are verbs but -erat is a noun suffix. Let us therefore consider the following two Basque nouns:

(AN-Lekunberri) eritzi “communal land”. I am unaware of the precise meaning of “communal land” in Euskal Herria. In England, “common land” was unenclosed land over which local people had rights, such as the right to graze animals and kill deer and rabbits that strayed there. Much of it was enclosed before the modern era and only fragments survive. In the Iberian context, iris might have referred to outlying open land that was accessible to the people and could be used for burying the ashes of the dead. Hence “towards the common land”. It might also have been the belief that the dead, or at least the worthy dead, went to a pastoral paradise analogous to the Elysion pedion of the Ancient Greeks (no doubt based around what those who had undergone the near-death experience had observed).

(B-Bergara) irizi “fence that surrounds a whole field”. The burials at Alcoy could have taken place in an enclosed section of open land set aside for that purpose.

The name of the deceased is often omitted completely from rolls of donors of grave goods. In this case, it seems likely that iriseret relates to Ilaeri, son of Isaigudu. He is the one who is heading towards the communal land, or wherever it is. Ilaeri Isaigudu might be two separate people, but the context suggests that they are a single person.

Iberian ila “moon” (Basque ila-bete “month”) and eri (Basque (h)erri “people, community, village”) are rarely encountered as Iberian anthroponymic compound elements.

Iberian isai (Basque izai “fir tree, poplar”) and gudu (Basque gudu “war”) are more frequent. Both are present (recorded in the East Iberian Script) on the lead foils of Orleyl: Binisai “true/fir tree” and Guduboike “war/?/sun”.

Leis- (Basque leize “chasm”) is the first part of a bipartite anthroponym whose second element is missing. -ai “family” (Basque aiko “lineage”) is usually connected to the preceding anthroponym by the genitive singular suffix, -en, the final /n/ of which is generally elided in the East Iberian Script. The family of Leis- is probably one of the donors.

leiketa is a little bit tricky. There is Basque lehiaketa “competition”, composed of le(h)ia “persistence, diligence” and the noun suffix, -keta. The original meaning of Basque le(h)ia is hard to pinpoint. The medial /h/ in Northern dialects is probably secondary, which is why it is missing in Iberian. From the context I would suggest that Iberian leiketa means “workforce”, “employees”, “supporters”. beri (lenis medial /r/) is almost identical to Basque bere “his”. So leiketa berican reasonably be taken to mean “his workforce, employees, supporters”.

leiria is probably much the same word as leiketa. Here, Iberian lei is suffixed with -eria, which probably corresponds to the Basque noun suffix, -eria, though Basque exhibits lenis /r/, Iberian fortis /r/. beri might refer to leiria rather than leiketa, or it could refer to both nouns.

salir iride- replaces the much more usual phrase, salir kidei “coins to the members”. It refers to the donors giving money to the members of the funerary society (which appears to operate according to the modern English law of unincorporated associations!) in lieu of donating grave goods. Iberian sali “coin” corresponds to Basque sari “reward, prize” and sal-du “to sell”. The No 2 S-sign is nearly always used, but in this case exceptionally the No 1 S-sign is used. The final /r/ is the truncated form of the partitive suffix that is normally employed in the texts. The First Lead Foil of Alcoy presents this suffix in its (nearly) complete form: salir(i)g. Why salir iride instead of salir kidei? Well firstly, iride is incomplete. The likely final /i/ (creating the dative plural) is missing. In Basque, kide “member” can appear as -ide in compounds, such as senide “family member”. That might also have been the case in Iberian. ir- is likely to be Iberian iri, which from the context in which it is normally used probably means “joy” or “merriment”. As such, it is likely to correspond to Basque irri “nasty smile, joke” (after 2,000 years, the meaning has drifted somewhat). As a compound, iridei is likely to mean “to the members (who are also friends and share a common cause)”.

Setabe is probably the modern Jativa. On a coin issue it is recorded as Saitabi (in the East Iberian Script). In the Ionian Script, the genitive suffix is written -r(e)n. In the East Iberian Script, it is usually written -e or occasionally -en.

ar mai is comprised of the masculine suffix, -ar (in Basque, the final /r/ is fortis, in Iberian it is lenis). In the First Lead Foil of Alcoy this has been disagglutinated and placed before the anthroponym that it marks. mai is an emphatic, and is cognate with Basque na(h)i “desire” and mai-te “love” (“great desire”). At the very end of the second side of the First Bronze Plate of Alcoy is written ar mai Saxarisker, where Saxarisker is presumably the name of the officer of the funerary society who is asking the Libitinarius to place the grave goods in the tomb. On the Second Lead Foil of Alcoy the anthroponym that follows ar mai is missing.

So, a translation of the entire text might be something like the following:

“Towards the communal land (or the enclosure) (where the ashes of the dead are buried) (comes) Ilaeri (son of) Isaigudu. The family of Leis[…], his workforce and his household (are about to donate) coins to the members (in lieu of grave goods). (Signed by) Mr X of Jativa.”

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• Tuesday, February 14th, 2023

Iberian Funerary Texts – a Glossary of Terms

Most of the texts recorded in the East Iberian and Ionian Scripts are funerary texts. They are either epitaphs inscribed on sections of stone or rolls of donors of grave goods recorded mainly on lead foils. The large majority of the lead foil texts (and almost all of the longer ones) fall into this latter category. Iberian funerary texts are very formulaic and share many common words and phrases. The very close relationship to Basque is fairly obvious to anyone with an eye to see, but not to those who do no wish to see (ie, orthodox Vascologists). Below is a glossary of the key words and phrases used in these texts:

ai – family

akar idiran ebon – it is said that he brings you (the donated item) to be found (by the deceased)

are dake – again he departs (e-ke-n “to leave (intransitive)”)

ari – funerary stele

ari gu(k) ditigu – we are having them (the grave goods)

ari ne junstir – who are about to provide the funerary stele

arika – making of the funerary stele

arika ne – who has made the funerary stele

arikale – stonemason

aro – burial pit (beneath the tumulus)

asgandis – last of all

aste – priest

aste beikeaie – have the priest leave it (the donated item) for him (e-ke-n “to leave (transitive)”)

ati – trousseau, grave goods

atu – trousseau, grave goods

atu ne junstir – who are about to donate the grave goods

aur – child

aurunin – heir, heres, heredis

auruni(n) beikeai – have the heir leave it (the donated item) for him (e-ke-n “to leave (transitive)”)

axari salir(ig) – coins bearing a ram’s head

badi – specific item

badi bi – two specific items

badir(ig) – specific items

bagarok – we, the people outside the funerary society

baides – permission

baidesir(ig) – permissions

baideski – with permission

baides bi – two permissions

baitura – kind of ceramic vessel

bale – if he had it

banir(ig) – specific items

barer(ig) – cries of joy

bartin – one who makes peace, judge, trustee

bas – funerary society, collegium funerarium

baserok – we, the members of the funerary society

baspide – rules of the funerary society

baspiderok – we, who follow the rules of the funerary society

baspidirbartin – trustee of funerary society

belagas ixaur – garlic scattering (in the tomb)

berbein – once again

bexor – mare (a votive statuette)

biderok – we, the followers of the rules (of the funerary society)

da baipen – there is permission

dadei – he leaves it

eban – here

ebanen – in here

ebon – it is said

egiar do ne – the one who made it

eparikame du ixesira – the mother partridge (a deity) has an escape

erderok – we, who are outside the funerary society

eri – dead person

erirtan arora – all the dead people to the burial pit

erpakale – scribe

gade – clay used for making funerary urns

gai bi gait – because of two things

gatu – he has us

gatu bareka – he has us (our grave goods) joyously

gatu ladien – he has us (our grave goods) so that he may be

gatu ladien ban idiran – he has our things (grave goods) to find so that he may be

gurs – kind of ceramic vessel

igon mugei – to rise to the boundaries

irika – joyously

irike – joyously

irikide – friend, colleague

iriseret – towards the enclosed area where the ashes of the dead are interred

jei – ceremony

junstir – about to donate

kide – member (of the funerary society)

kidei – to the members (of the funerary society)

leik(e)ta – household, employees

lere udinir(ig) – blue (fresh) ripe fruit

lur – clay used for making funerary urns

mai – desire, love, an emphatic

ne – who

neitin – undertaker, Libitinarius

orkei – kind of ceramic vessel

osereri – hemlock (for scattering in the tomb)

sali – coin

salir(ig) – coins

salir(ig) pos ita sali pos – lucky coins and the lucky coin

sebakaratura – mortarium

seldar – tumulus

seldar ban berbein ari eukiar gatu – this tumulus once again is containing us

sibantin – they erected it (the funerary stele)

surabetika – cornucopia, kind of ceramic vessel

surse – kind of ceramic vessel

sursebetika – cornucopia, kind of ceramic vessel

tai – purvey for the wake

tura – kind of ceramic vessel

turabai – kind of ceramic vessel

tutura – censer

ulti ladie(n) – so that he may be zestful

un – good

unin – best

ure – clay used for making funerary urns

ures udinir(ig) – blue (fresh) hazelnuts

ures unir(ig) – good hazelnuts

uteti – outside (the funerary society)

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• Sunday, February 05th, 2023

Basque zaliga “wild osier patch”

Azkue lists the following:

(Z) zaliga “wild osier patch”

Llande lists the following:

(Z) zaligar “field covered with osiers”

In a Roman Catholic periodical of 1902 the following appears:

zaligatze “osier patch” (sahats eta zaligatzeen gainetik “from above the willows and osier patches”)

Basque zaliga bears a rather obvious resemblance to Latin salixsalicis “willow”, which is the origin of French saule, Spanish sauce, Italian salice and Portuguese salgueiro. It would therefore not seem unreasonable to regard Basque zaliga as a borrowing either directly from Latin or from a neighbouring Romance language. An orthodox Vascologist, who is likely to know little or nothing of the prehistory of Basque, is going to find no reason whatsoever for doubting it. But a deeper inquiry suggests that there are quite cogent reasons for doubting it. These are as follows:


Basque zaliga only refers to “osier”, never “willow”. Latin salixsalicis, French saule, Spanish sauce, Italian salice and Portuguese salgueiro only mean “willow”, never “osier”. In Latin, “osier” is vimenviminis, in French, osier, in Spanish, mimbre, in Italian, vimine and in Portuguese, vime. Willow and osier are related trees, but different, and are treated differently in most languages, including Basque and the Romance languages that surround Basque.


Latin salixsalicis is feminine, but French saule, Spanish sauce, Italian salice and Portuguese salgueiro are all masculine. It seems unlikely, therefore, that Basque would acquire this word in a version that exhibited final /a/. The expected form would be *zalike, but it is zaliga, not *zalike.


Basque (Z) zaligar “field covered with wild osiers”, the form recorded by Llande but not Azkue, carries the fossilised collective suffix, -ar. The dendronymic suffix, -atze, as in Basque (Z) zaligatze “osier patch”, though pre-Roman in origin, has remained productive until recent times and is capable of being carried by loanwords. The -ar suffix, by contrast, is thoroughly fossilised and ceased to be productive long before contact with Romance. It cannot be carried by loanwords.


Basque zaliga appears to be present as the substantive component of a number of ancient toponyms. Consider the following:

Saligos (Hautes-Pyrenées) <*saliga-os

The -os toponymic suffix is always pre-Roman and is only ever attached to native Vasconic words. In this case, it is attached to an Iberian *saliga, which looks to be identical in every way to Basque zaliga.

Saugon (Gironde) <*saliga + Roman -onium

Saulges (Mayenne), which was recorded as Salicam in the 9th century <*saliga

Saugues (Haute-Loire), which was recorded as Salga in the 12th century <*saliga


Let us take a closer look at Latin salixsalicis. The following branches of Indo-European have similar words:


Welsh helygen “willow”


English sallow


Greek helike “willow” (many linguists claim that this word is of a different origin)


Albanian shelg “willow” (which may be from Latin)

Note that these are the westernmost branches of Indo-European. These are the branches that have been subject to the greatest influence by the Vasconic substrate. The word is missing from all the Asian Indo-European languages. The westernmost Indo-European languages have borrowed numerous Vasconic phytonyms and dendronyms. The set that includes Latin salixsalicis may well be one of them.


If Basque zaliga is native Vasconic, we would expect to find cognates in other non-Vasconic Dene-Caucasian languages. We probably do. Consider the following:


Ket dʌĺɣit, dʌĺɣit, dʌĺɣit, dʌĺɣit “willow wood”

Yug dъ̄ĺ-git, dъĺgat “willow”

Note that all the variants listed include the second part of the stem with /g/, which we also see in Vasconic.

Yeniseian initial dentals sometimes do correspond with Vasconic initial /s/. Consider the following:

Kott ten “nipple”, Arin téŋul “milk”, Pumpokol den “milk” and Basque esneezne “milk”, zenberauen “cottage cheese” (literally “milk lead”)

Ket tatǝŋ, Yug tatɨŋ “straight” and Basque zuzen “straight”, Iberian sosin

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• Saturday, January 21st, 2023

Three Basque words for “mint”

Mint is an iconic plant that is distinguished not so much by its appearance but by its exceptional taste and smell. It is therefore not surprising that words for “mint” are capable of remarkable stability across many languages in both form and meaning. Basque has two and possibly three words for “mint”, all of which are of likely Vasconic antecedence. These are as follows:

(1) batanpatan

Azkue lists (B, G) batan, (B-Arratia) patan “mint”

In the onomastics of Euskal Herria, batan and patan are not confined to Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa. Consider the following:

Batan, a minor place of Ultzama Navarra.

Rio Batan, a stream of Gasteiz, Alava.

Sotiko Batan, a minor place of Zangoza, Navarra.

Batanda, an unidentified stream of Bizkaia.

Batantza, a minor place of Azua, Ganboa, Alava.

Patanbelxa, a stream of Lekunberri, Basse-Navarre.

The fact that patan is present in the hydronymy of Basse-Navarre suggests that initial /p/ rather than /b/ might be original rather than just an isolated irregularity. Orthodox Vascologists like to insist that initial /p/ did not occur in what they call Pre-Basque, but the facts (never of much interest to orthodox Vascologists) show that it did. Iberian initial /p/ generally shifted to /b/ in the modern language, but not always.

Was batan or patan present in Iberian? Quite possibly.

One of the Ampurias lead foil texts (Untermann C.1.24), a roll of persons donating grave goods, includes the following anthroponym:

Tinebetan or Tinepetan (the East Iberian Script does not distinguish between /b/ and /p/).

This would appear to be a bipartite compound comprised to Iberian tine, which corresponds to Basque (BN) thin, (BN-Amikuze) thini “summit, pinnacle”, and betan or petan, which is similar to Basque batan or patan. (For other examples of the first syllable /a/ to /e/ variance, compare Basque sagar “apple” and Iberian segar, and Basque zaldar “boil on skin” and Iberian seldar “tumulus”.)

Does Basque batan or patan have cognates in Vasconic languages further afield?

Possibly. Consider the following:

BATINUS, a river mentioned by Pliny and placed by him on the Adriatic side of Italy (possibly the modern Tordino).

Greek batos “thorn-bush, bramble-bush, wild raspberry”. If this comparison is correct, it would suggest that batan or patan is ultimately a compound.

Could Latin patina “dish, pan” have referred originally to a vessel used for serving mint (or a meal cooked with mint)? There is also Latin patera “dish, saucer, bowl”. These forms might indicate that Basque batanpatan, etc, is an /-n/-r/ stem.

(2) menda

Azkue lists (B, G, AN, L) menda

menda is the most widespread Basque word for “mint” and is effectively universal across all dialects.

menda does indeed derive from Latin mentamentha “mint”, as do Spanish menta and French menthe, but that is not the whole story. Iberian had a small number of words that were similar to Latin words because Latin borrowed them from Italian Vasconic. In Basque, the Latin form, where it differs from Iberian, is usually preferred. Hence Latin fagus and Iberian bago “beech”. Basque has preserved bago alongside the Latinised fago and the intermediate form, pago. Basque menda is possibly another such case.

There is reason to believe that Iberian had a mente “mint”.

Consider the following toponyms of Roman Iberia, each recorded in more than one classical source:

MENTESA ORETANORUM (Villanueva de la Fuente, Ciudad Real)

MENTESA BASTIA (La Guardia de Jaen, Andalucia)

These seem to be comprised of mente “mint” and the suffix of abundance, -sa.

Mendexa (formerly Mendeja), the coastal village of Bizkaia, seems to have a name that is identical to the two listed above: <*mende-tza “abundance of mint”. (The internal consonant cluster, /nt/, where it is present in Iberian, usually becomes /nd/ in the modern language, though it is still quite frequent in Souletin.)

Latin mentamentha “mint” is preserved in most modern Romance languages. It is probably a substrate loanword from Italian Vasconic. Greek minthaminthe “mint” is probably a substrate loanword from Pelasgian. Latin mentamenthacannot be derived from Greek minthaminthe because the first syllable vowels are different. However, Latin has attempted to falsely Hellenise the word with the substitution of orthographic “th” for “t” (making no difference to pronunciation), which affectation is preserved in French.

Etymological dictionaries will tell you that English mint and German minze derive from Latin menta. That is most improbable. This word is present in all Germanic languages, always with /i/ rather than /e/, and in Old English it is first attested in the 9th century. The Germanic words are much more likely to be a substrate loanword from German Vasconic. Welsh mintys and Scottish Gaelic miontt are probably from English.

The data suggest that there was a Proto-Vasconic *m=ente, *m=inte “mint”, where m= is the fossilised phytonymic class prefix, m=.

We know that fossilised class-prefixes can be added to or removed from substantive words without fundamental changes to meaning, even in the modern language where understanding of class-prefixes has been lost. We should therefore expect *ente, *inte to carry other phytonymic class-prefixes or be present in freestanding form. Consider the following:

Latin gentiana “gentian” (a plant with a vaguely similar appearance to mint), from an Italian Vasconic *g=ente, where *g= is the fossilised phytonymic class prefix, g=.

(B-Gernika) endalar “sarsaparilla, a small plant similar to ivy” <*ende-lahar, where lahar is Basque lahar “brambles” (usually laar in Bizkaian)

(B-Markina) endeilar “a particular creeping plant” <*ente-ilar, where ilar is Basque ilar “peas, heather, vetch”

Iberian ente, Basque ende is present in the following toponyms:

Enderika, a baserri of Elgezabal, Mungia, Bizkaia <*ende-r-ika (where /r/ is connective) “place where mint or some similar plant grows”.

Enderika, a baserri of Kortezubi, Bizkaia <*ende-r-ika (where /r/ is connective) “place where mint or some similar plant grows”.

Endriga, a nucleated village of Somiedo, Asturias <*ende-r-ika (where /r/ is connective) “place where mint or some similar plant grows”.

Toponyms that carry the suffix, -ika, are always pre-Roman and the substantive component is always Vasconic.

(3) *narbi, *narba

Basque and Iberian clearly had this mysterious word, *narbi, *narba, which survives in toponyms but is missing from the modern language.

Consider the following:

Narbarte, a nucleated village of Navarra <*narbi-arte.

Narvaja, a nucleated village of Araba recorded as Narbaiza in 1025 <*narbi-aisa.

Narbaza, a minor place in Zunzarren, Arriasgoiti, Navarra.

Narbatza Erreka, an affluent of the Urola, Gipuzkoa.

Narp (Pyrenées-Atlantiques), a nucleated village that was recorded as Narb in 1376 <*narbi.

Cabanes de Narbios, Ruisseau de Narbios (Hautes-Pyrenées) (the stream is an affluent of the Adour) <*narbi-os.

Narbusca, a lost village of Catalonia listed on the 17th century Ortelius Map.

Narbonne, Aude, recorded in classical sources as NARBO and NARBONA.

Narberth, a place in Dyfed, Wales, recorded as Narberd in 1244 <*narbi-arte.

The following persons were recorded as being resident and liable to taxation in Getaria, Gipuzkoa in 1500:

Juan de Narbasca

Martin de Narbasca

Narbasca is presumably a toponym carrying the primaeval Vasconic toponymic suffix, -aska, but where is this place?

What reasons are there to posit that *narbi, *narba referred to mint of some similar plant? There are two:

Firstly, Greek narkissos “daffodil”, a probable substrate loanword from Pelasgian. The presence of /k/ rather than /b/ may be attributed to the occasional switch between internal /k/ and /p/ in Vasconic. For instance, Basque zakalatz and zapalatz, both “falcon”, and Basque kolko and Greek kolpos (from Pelasgian), both “bosom”.

Secondly, one of the dozen or so identified Turkic/Vasconic isoglosses actually does mean “mint” on the Turkic side. The nomads who brought Vasconic to Europe evidently had cousins who travelled east into Central Asia and Siberia. The same pattern is true of Indo-European, which brought Tocharian to those latter regions thousands of years later.

Consider the following, all of which mean “mint”:

Kazakh zhalbız

Kyrgyz jalbız

Turkmen narpyz

Uighur yalpiz

Uzbek yalpiz

In Turkic, initial /j/ sometimes reflects a Proto-Turkic /n/ (preserved in the Turkmen reflex), and final /z/ almost always reflects a Proto-Turkic /r/. The above words can therefore plausibly be reconstructed as a Proto-Turkic *narbir or *narpir.

Greek narkissos and the Vasconic/Turkic isoglosses listed above seem to suggest a Proto-Vasconic *narpa, *narpi rather than *narba, *narbi.

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• Monday, August 22nd, 2022

Basque lehen, etc, “first, before”

Azkue lists the following:

(L, BN, Z, Salaberry) lehen “first, before”

(R) lein “first”

(B-Lekeitio) leiñ “before”

(B, G, AN, R) len “before”

(B-Markina) leen “before”

(B, G, AN, R) len- “first” (prefix)

It should be pointed out that in the modern language len does mean “first” as well as “before”. In the unified language lehen is used in preference to len (as in the neologism lehendakari “prime minister”).

lehen, etc is the only irregular ordinal number in the modern language. An irregular word for “first” is something that Basque shares with many other languages, including English and Spanish.

Is lehen, etc present in Iberian? One would expect it to be so. Consider the following:

SENILENNIS, an anthroponym recorded in a Roman era inscription written in the Roman Script found at St Gaudens, Haute-Garonne (CIL XIII 125 [555]). If reliable, this would appear to be comprised of Iberian seni “family member” (usually sani further south) and len “first”. The name would indicate a first-born child. The perplexing feature of SENILENNIS is the loss of the medial consonant, which we would expect to be /h/ or the unvoiced velar fricative, /x/. Other Iberian texts recorded in the Central Pyrenean region preserve this phoneme.

The Third Bronze Plate of Botorrita (Zaragoza) is a probable roll of persons assessed as liable to taxation written in a version of the East Iberian Script adapted to Hispano-Celtic use1. It contains the lexeme, likinos, which might also be liginos or lixinos. In some positions, this word appears to be an anthroponym, in other positions it is rather clearly something different.

Instances of Likinos as an anthroponym are as follows2:

Likinos Wiski kum – “Likinos of Wiski” (< Iberian bis-ki “foaming or frothing”)

Likinos Wersaiso kum – “Likinos of Wersais” (< Iberian ber-sa-is “place of the abundance of scrub”, as in the Basque surname, Berzaiz)

Likinos Ataio kum – “Likinos of Atai” (< Iberian atai “mountain pass”, probably Atea, Zaragoza)

Instances of likinos as something other than an anthroponym are as follows:

Or(din)bilos likinos kwe

likinos kwe Sondi kum

It is easy to assume that the Likinos of this text is the Roman gensLicinius, but that would be a mistake. The Third Bronze Plate of Botorrita is a pre-Roman text. The anthroponyms recorded on it are overwhelmingly Hispano-Celtic and Iberian and a mixture of the two. Is Likinos Hispano-Celtic? Is it identical to Welsh llychyn “particle of dust”? If likinos were used solely as an anthroponym in the text then that would be a plausible explanation, but it also has a non-anthroponymic use (as per the above two examples).

What is this non-anthroponymic use?

The Third Bronze Plate includes a number of anthroponyms that are followed by kentis kwe “who is the first”: compare Welsh cyntaf “first” and Welsh pwy “who” (Latin qui):

Rusku Wirias kum kentis kwe – “Rusku of Wirias, who is the first-born”

Tritanos kentis kwe – “Tritanos, who is the first-born” (Hispano-Celtic tritu “third” + pleonastic extension)

Kinbria kentis kwe Turi kum – “Kinbria, who is the first-born, of Turi” (Iberian turi “spring”)

Bolora kentis kwe – “Bolora, who is the first-born”

Durenta kentis kwe Ataio kum – “Durenta, who is the first-born, of Atai” (compare Scottish Gaelic duranta “stiff, obstinate”)

Babos kentis kwe Wirias kum – “Babos, who is the first-born, of Wirias

So, what looks to have happened is that in two cases listed above Iberian lixin “first” has had added to it the Hispano-Celtic masculine nominative singular suffix, -os, and is being used to mean “first-born”. The person who wrote this text was very clearly a native Iberian speaker. That is evidenced by the postposition of Hispano-Celtic kwe “who” and the elision of the verb “to be” (ist). In Latin, qui is prepositioned, and the verb “to be” (est) is spelled out. By contrast, Iberian ne “who” is postpositioned and is used without a substantive verb (at least in the written form). For instance, junstir atu ne “who is about to provide the grave goods” and ari ne junstir “who is about to provide the funerary stele”3(junstir is a verbal noun, not a substantive verb). Hispano-Celtic mimics the Iberian word order. We therefore have an explanation for the two examples listed above:

Ordinbilos lixinos kwe – “Ordinbilos, who is the first-born” (Iberian ordin “person” + bilos “round or curved” + a bipartite Iberian anthroponym of the familiar type)

lixinos kwe Sondi kum – “who is the first-born, from Sondi” (not Sondika, Bizkaia, surely?)

Note also the placing of Hispano-Celtic kum “with” after toponyms. This, again, is the Iberian, not a typical Indo-European, word order. Hispano-Celtic kum bears a superficial resemblance to the Basque commitative suffix, -(r)ekin, which perhaps explains its use here.

Is Hispano-Celtic kwe “who” juxtaposed with any other Iberian words in a similar way? It would seem so. Consider the following:

Abaliu berika4 kwe Suaigino kum – “Abaliu, who is a newcomer, of Suaigin” (Iberian abaliabeli “beast”, adapted to Hispano-Celtic use, Iberian berika “newly arrived”; Suaigin, possibly Iberian agin “yew” prefixed with the fossilised dendronymic class prefix, su-)

launi kwe Wirias kum – “who is the fourth-born, from Wirias” (?) (compare Basque (B-Lekeitio-Markina) laun “quarter”)

Turtunas kwe Kasaro kum – “who is Turtunas, of Kasar” (Iberian turtun “plant stalk” (Basque zurtenzurtoin) + Iberian nas “stream”)

niske kwe Bapo kum – “who is the girl from Bapo” (Iberian niske “girl” could be an anthroponym in this context)

Derkinos Ato kum launi kwe – “Derkinos, from Ato, who is the fourth born” (Hispano-Celtic Derkinos: compare possibly Old Irish derc “berry” + typical Hispano-Celtic pleonastic extension)

Ultinos ama kwe Wirias kum – “Ultinos, who is the mother, from Wirias” (Ultinos < Iberian ulti, corresponding to Basque olde “free will, spontaneity” + typical Hispano-Celtic pleonastic extension; it is hard to see how a mother can have a name with a masculine suffix, but in German there is das Mädchen and das Weib; perhaps we are witnessing the influence of standard Iberian practice, which is for men and women to have the same anthroponyms)

Does Basque lehen, etc have cognates in other non-Vasconic Dene-Caucasian languages? The only likely candidates that I can find are from the Na Dene languages of North America. Consider the following:

Tlingit tlex’tlek, Eyak tlekiłĩhGtikhi; Athabaskan: Kutchin ĩ-łage, Tsetsaut ĩ-łege, Hupa la’, Kiowa Apache ła’ “one”

1I have filled in the “gaps” left by the imperfections of the East Iberian Script by reference to the same words being recorded in the Roman Script and by comparison with extant languages where all else fails. The East Iberian Script cannot record the /br/ and /tr/ clusters. The Hispano-Celtic texts deal with the latter by placing the /r/ sign after the /ti/ sign but with no /i/ sign after the /r/ sign. However, they deal with the former by placing the /r/ sign after the /bi/ sign and placing a further /i/ sign after that. The Hispano-Celtic texts have only one /r/ sign, which is most unhelpful when representing Iberian words. The texts have two /s/ signs, but it is unclear how the No 2 /s/ sign differs from the No 1 /s/ sign.

2The Third Bronze Plate lists persons in the following order: name + place of residence or origin + kum “with”.

3Lead foil of Orleyl (Untermann F.9.7).

4Iberian berika “newcomer” (an adverb) would appear to be equivalent to Hispano-Celtic nowantas (also an adverb), recorded on the First Bronze Plate of Botorrita.

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Author: Angus J. Huck
• Monday, April 11th, 2022

Did Proto-Vasconic have the unvoiced velar fricative, /x/, and if so, how is it reflected in the daughter languages?

The unvoiced velar fricative, /x/, is missing from Basque1, but it does appear to have been present in Iberian, though only in the medial position. In Basque, the Iberian medial /x/ is reflected in Northern Basque dialects as /h/, while in Southern dialects it is usually null, but occasionally is reflected as /g/. Consider the following:

Iberian bixi “grain”, Basque bihi “grain”2

Iberian laxer “pine tree”, Basque leher “pine tree”

Iberian oxanuxanuixan “forest”, Basque oihanoihen “forest”

Iberian saxar “old”, Basque zahar “old”

Comparisons with Pelasgian substrate loanwords in Greek suggest that some Basque and Iberian words proceed from Proto-Vasconic words that exhibited initial /x/ but exhibit no initial consonant in Basque and Iberian. Consider the following:

Greek xele “hoof, talon, claw”, Basque eri “finger”, Iberian eli “finger” (as in the anthroponym, Elibors “five fingers”) < Proto-Vasconic *xeli “finger, claw”; compare North Caucasian (Lezghian) χel “sleeve, branch” (unvoiced uvular fricative).

Greek xerse “mainland, continent, dry land”, Basque ertz “corner, edge, border, shore, bank” < Proto-Vasconic *xers “large bank of earth or stone”. British Vasconic *ers “riverbank”, like Basque ertz, exhibits no initial consonant (as in Erskine, the Scottish town on the south bank of the Clyde <*ers-kan “above the riverbank” or “upper riverbank”).

Greek xomaxomatos “mound, dam, tomb”, Basque oma “hill” < Proto-Vasconic *xoma “hill, mound”.

Greek xondros “grain, lump”, Basque ondarundar “sand, beach, remnant, residue”, Iberian under < Proto-Vasconic *xondV-ar “collection of sand or detritus”; compare North Caucasian (Kinalug) ant “earth, ground” (Starostin has reconstructed the proto form with an initial glottal stop).

In two of these four instances it is possible to identify possible cognates in other non-Vasconic Dene-Caucasian languages. One exhibits the initial unvoiced uvular fricative while the other exhibits an initial glottal stop in its proto form, according to Starostin.

The unvoiced velar fricative is very unstable when it occurs initially, so it is likely that most Vasconic languages either dropped it or hardened it to /k/ or /g/.

Words where Pelasgian retained the Proto-Vasconic initial /x/, but other Vasconic languages hardened it to /k/ or /g/ include the following:

Greek xaliksxalikos “small stone, pebble, gravel, mortar, cement”, Basque garagarai “high”, Iberian kalakalaikarai “high” < Proto-Vasconic *xala, *xalai “rocky cliff”; compare North Caucasian (Lezghian) q̇ʷal “rock, cliff” (the meaning has shifted in two directions, from “rocky cliff” to a small stone and from “rocky cliff” to “high”).

Greek xernipsxernibos “water for washing, holy water”, Basque (c) gernu, (B) garnu “urine”, German Vasconic *karnV “urine” (German Harn) < Proto-Vasconic *kernV “urine”.

There are a few words where a class prefix appears to have been added to an initial /x/ in extreme antiquity. The most problematic of these is Basque oihanoihen “forest”, which is probably cognate with Iberian oxanuxanuixan, British Vasconic *oxem, German Vasconic *oxen < Proto-Vasconic *o=xen, *o=xan (the initial vowel shifted from /o/ to /oi/ once /x/ started to weaken); compare Burushaski hun “wood”, North  Caucasian (Archi) χ:ʷan “north slope of a mountain”, (Chechen) ħun “forest”.

1Excepting the modern Spanish influenced pronunciation of orthographic /j/ in some dialects.

2Basque bihi “grain” appears to be cognate with the Italian Vasconic word that gave rise to Latin vicia “vetch”

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