Front Page Titles (by Subject) 1.: Two Articles on the Basque Language - The Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat. Vol. 1: The Man and the Statesman: The Correspondence and Articles on Politics
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1.: Two Articles on the Basque Language - Frédéric Bastiat, The Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat. Vol. 1: The Man and the Statesman: The Correspondence and Articles on Politics 
The Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat. Vol. 1: The Man and the Statesman: The Correspondence and Articles on Politics, translated from the French by Jane and Michel Willems, with an introduction by Jacques de Guenin and Jean-Claude Paul-Dejean. Annotations and Glossaries by Jacques de Guenin, Jean-Claude Paul-Dejean, and David M. Hart. Translation editor Dennis O’Keeffe (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2011).
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Two Articles on the Basque Language
[Articles published in La Chalosse, 1 and 8 April 1838.
On the Basque Language1
A journal is addressed to all classes of readers, and because of this it should cover only subjects that are of interest to the majority. I therefore have some natural hesitation in sending you an article devoted to a grammatical dissertation that is as dull in its narrow limits as it is by nature; I hoped that the frequent contacts between the people of the Chalosse and the Basque people would provide me with a good excuse for this.
On our western boundary, there is a nation that is proud, gracious, and intrepid and whose origins are unknown. What distinguishes it above all is a language that in all its structures bears the stamp of extreme antiquity, a language that is so philosophical and rational that it appears to have arisen in perfect form from the brain of an expert grammarian, a language that shows no signs of the irregularities and successive modifications that are the effect and living proof of the mixing of races.
When I say that the Basque language has retained its primitive purity, I am talking only about its grammatical forms. Religion and civilization have enlarged its vocabulary, but its grammar has remained unchanged.
I therefore dare to hope that a few of my fellow citizens will take some interest in this essay on the structures of the Basque language. Although it is very short, it will be enough, I think, to establish its antiquity. This having been said, I will leave to those with reflective minds to explain how it happens that antiquity and perfection go hand in hand where language is concerned whereas it is totally the other way round where other human inventions are concerned.
Today, I will deal with declensions and conjugations in Basque. If this article is not too unsuitable for your journal, I will devote another to the roots and etymology of this language.
Basque has no genders. In effect there is nothing rational in the classification of nouns into masculine, feminine, and neuter genders; apart from the fact that it is not useful in principle, it is always arbitrary in its application. Words name things and do not classify them.
On the other hand, Basque distinguishes between a noun used generally and one used with a specific meaning. An article removes from the noun its indefinite meaning: seme, son; semec, the son. Old French had something similar; by the removal of the article, as in this sentence: “poverty is not vice,” words were given a very wide-ranging meaning.
Beings have relationships between each other of dependence, generation, situation, etc. These relationships are expressed in French by the prepositions de, à, pour, etc., in Latin sometimes by cases and sometimes by the prepositions in, ad, cum, etc.; in Basque they are always expressed by cases. For example,
You would be very wrong to think that this system increases the difficulties of the language.
Latin has only six cases but it has five declensions, which makes, including plurals, sixty characteristics. There are as many for adjectives and as many for the eternal family of pronouns, qui, his, ego, hic, etc. Basque has fourteen or fifteen invariable cases in which all nouns, pronouns, and indefinite adjectives, singulars and plurals, all the infinitives, participles, and adverbs are declined.
This system is not only much simpler but much more rational. In effect the terms of a relationship may vary even though the relationship is identical. Reason refuses to accept that, in this case, the sign of the relationship should vary. Let us compare a Latin sentence and its translation into Basque:
Here we have two relationships in Latin, one expressed by case and the other by the preposition in; one identical relationship of generation characterized by is, i, us; one preposition, sufficient in itself for marking a relationship which nevertheless regulates a case arbitrarily; and finally the need to make the adjective agree with the noun, four rules that are complicated and useless, and which do not encumber the simple and logical progress of the Basque version.
But if Basque declension is better than Latin declension for its simplicity, regularity, and logic, it is above all in scope that its superiority is remarkable.
The limits of a weekly journal are too narrow for me to show you here how all the adverbs, pronouns, participles, and infinitives in Basque come under the yoke of declension. I will limit myself to two remarks.
We have seen that the article a is used to determine a word and make it a true substantive. From this it follows that in Basque we can make a substantive out of a group of ideas represented by a word. Thus, semearen, “of the son,” semearena, “that of the son,” and this compound word can be totally declined. Thus, hintcen, “you were”; hintcena, “the one who was”; hintcenaren, “of the one who was,” etc.
This means that there is not one single case for substantives, and in verbs not one tense, number, mode, or inflection that cannot be used with an article, and consequently all the forms of the declension, which opens out a truly boundless horizon to it.
A dissertation on Basque verbs would doubtless weary the reader. However, I cannot prevent myself from saying a few words about them before stopping.
Any tense in a verb serves only to express that such and such an attribute agrees with such and such a subject, and to indicate the time at which this correlation existed. With the result, it is true to say, that we always have to find in a verb the entire proposition plus the relationship of time. “I shall fall,” if the language is properly constructed, should encompass five ideas: the idea of me, the idea of a fall, the idea of affirmation, the idea of the relation between falling and me, and lastly the idea of the future; there is none of this in French, and even less in Latin. Both of these languages use a formula that owes its value just to chance and conventions. Let us analyze the Basque formula erorico bainiz, which means “I shall fall.”
First of all, you need to know that erorico is a genuine noun in the destinative case. Erortea, “the fall,” erorico, “for the fall,” like mendico, “for the mountain.” Ni is also a noun or pronoun that means “me.” Niz is its mediative case and is the equivalent of “of me,” like mendiaz, “of the mountain.”
Thus in the formula erorico bainiz you will find: the subject ni, “me”; the attribute erortea, “fall”; the affirmation bai, which means “yes”; the expression that the affirmation is done to the subject by the meditative z and the future expressed by the destinative co. This is just as though you were saying, “Yes for me for the fall,” a manner of speaking that may sound strange to us but which is no less in accordance with the true principles of any language.
Indeed the verb to be, when used to link the attribute to the subject, does not appear to have to differentiate itself from a simple affirmation. Our patois appears to have retained something of this principle. We will precede our entire conjugation with the word que. For example, que marchi, que toumbes, qu’ets riches, etc., as though this was an elliptic formula in which the affirmation is implied. “I say that,” or “I affirm that.”
I will stop there. Other details will become wearisome. I hope that a few glimpses of Basque etymology will provide the reader with greater variety and increased interest.
[1 ]This article is the only one in Bastiat’s writings treating such a subject. It reflects the immense culture and curiosity of a man who had studied some Latin and Greek and was fluent in English, Spanish, and Italian. It is believed that, as a child in Bayonne, he had a chance to practice Basque, the local language spoken at home by some of his school friends.