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The History of Basque Hardcover – 5 Dec 1996

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"[An] outstanding and particularly well-informed analysis. . . . [A] remarkable study to which any Indo-Europeanist should give his best attention."-"Book Chronicles

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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
A Bible 9 Jan. 2002
By Remy Viredaz - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This book is a Bible, a remarkably exhaustive and balanced survey of the history and the present of the Basque language and Basque linguistics. All those interested in the possible external connections of Basque (a popular though unrewarding subject among non-specialists) should read and remember the basic chapters on Phonology (3) and the Lexicon (5) as well as the sobering one on Connections with Other Languages (6). The style of presentation makes it very easy to read.
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Thie Final Word on the Subject 24 Dec. 2003
By Thomas F. Ogara - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This book wholeheartedly deserves five stars. It is a complete, prolix history of everything having to do with the Basque language, including a history of the people who speak it, the development of the lexicon and grammar, and a review of the subject of relations with other languages.
Having said that, it is not a book that everybody who is interested in things Basque may want to pick up and rummage through. Professor Trask is a linguist, i.e. a specialist in linguistics. Like all academic disciplines, linguistics has its own special technical terminology; at times, however, it can seem to the uninitiated that linguistics has more of its own jargon than any other academic field of endeavor except perhaps medicine. After the lengthy introduction of the book, which is actually an extremely interesting history of the language and the people who speak it, the book is very largely involved in the minutiae of linguistic analysis, and although Professor Trask does his best to keep the style lively, the fact is that unless you feel comfortable discussing phonotactic neutralization, the typical structure of iterative languages, the eccentricities of allocutivity or a host of other terms that are not apt to turn up in Webster's Collegiate, you may find the bulk of the book rather heavy sledding.
However, just about every reader will get something out of the last chapter of the book, which deals at considerable length with the ever-popular issue of whether Basque is related to any other language or group of languages. Professor Trask gets almost vitriolic in this section; to quote: "this vast body of work (i.e., trying to find connections with other languages) ranges from the sober and well informed through the increasingly fanciful and incompetent to the downright preposterous, with a rather strong bias towards the preposterous end of the scale." In its own way, the entire section transcends the issue of the Basque language alone and is a cautionary tale to the amateur enthusiast about the many potential pitfalls in the field of comparative linguistics, and it is worth a read on that basis alone. Professor Trask proceeds to demolish every major theory about the relation of Basque to any other language except the one that is generally accepted by the academic world, viz., the relation to ancient Aquitanian (he even demolishes my personal pet theory about how Basque phonology has had an influence on Castilian pronunciation; I didn't know that anybody else had ever investigated the matter). What becomes obvious is the truism that comparative linguistics can be a dangerous area, unless you're intimately familiar with both of the languages you're comparing. And how many people out there will be familiar enough with both Basque and, say, Chechen or Arapaho, to cite two examples that some academics have actually taken seriously, to make an intelligent assessment about their similarity at a deep level?
This book will tell you everything you ever wanted to know about the history of Basque, and a whole lot more. Admittedly, the cost of this book makes it unmistakably a specialist work, but if you're a Basque enthusiast let me assure you that you will want to at least read it, and if you're serious about the subject you will want it on your bookshelf.
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