Azkarate Colloquium

June 5
Wieboldt 408
University of the Basque Country
Derivational morphology issues in the standardization of the Basque language

Any language facing its standardization goes through a first phase of codification followed by another of elaboration, that is of modernization of its lexicon, of coining terms and neologisms to meet the requirements of modernization and development. Needless to say, Derivational Morphology comes to the fore then. As far as Basque is concerned, at the very beginning of the process of standardization, Mitxelena already pointed out that the Basque language lacks prefixes: “we don’t have any prefixes that are as powerful as Latin ab-, ad-, co(n)-, de-, dis-, ex- and others. That lack can have more than one remedy, but much thought must be given to how it plays out without delay” (Mitxelena, 1968). The strategies used “as a remedy for the lack of prefixes” will be analyzed in the first part of the lecture; strategies that, in turn, lead to question the statement that prefixes are not heads, but modifiers.

However, it is not only prefixes that Basque lacks compared to its neighboring languages: it doesn't have relational adjectives either. It is true that English has no such adjectives either:

1 (a) trabajo manual (Spanish: work manual)

   (b) hand work

   (c) esku-lan (Basque: hand-work)

While English quite easily borrows them, Basque does not:

2 (a) literatura oral (Spanish)

   (b) oral literature

   (c) ahozko literatura (Basque: oral literature)

More to the point, taking into account that ‘N+ relational adjective’ is a very frequent structure for terms, the Academy of the Basque language (Euskaltzaindia) recommended that “these Basque structures should be kept, whenever possible, if we do not want to become too dependent on foreign word-coining structures”. The analysis of Spanish terms containing adjectives such as nacional, económico, político, social, humano, hipotecario, mensual, anual, parlamentario … and their Basque equivalents in the terminology data base EUSKALTERM will allow us to discover up to what extent the Basque traditional structures have been preserved.