Voice Over Sydney: Euskera (Basque) is the oldest living language in Europe. Most linguists, experts and researchers say so. Euskera is a very old language whose origins remain unknown. Renowned linguists and historians believe that it can be the direct descendant of the language spoken by the dwellers of the caves of Altamira, Ekain or Lascaux.
Voice Over Sydney: The Basque language’s origins date back to the Neolithic, but there is evidence that it could be even older. In fact, it could be at the seeds of articulate language.
Voice Over Sydney: The unknown ancestors of Euskera
Currently, Euskera is spoken by 37% of the Basque people, so there are about a million euskaldunak, a Basque word meaning ‘Euskera speakers’, who live in the Basque territories on both sides of the Pyrenees. It is precisely in this area where the most relevant Palaeolithic sites sit and most cave art in Europe has been found. In addition, this area had the highest concentration of men in Western Europe during the ice age, an important fact for the identification of European linguistic roots.
Voice Over Sydney: “Last Surviving Language”
The renowned German linguist Theo Vennemann, a professor at the Ludwig-Maximilian University of Munich, claims that ‘all languages have their origin somewhere, sometimes we do not know where. But in the period we are referring to here, Euskera came from nowhere else; it was already there at the time other languages arrived. So considered, Euskera is the oldest language in Europe. The rest are foreign languages coming from the East along with powerful peoples that imposed their ways of speaking on native peoples. Euskera is the only survivor of a European language family.’
According to this theory, there never was a single language in Europe but rather a multiplicity of related dialects of which Euskera could be the only survivor. This makes it the only linguistic link with the peoples living in Old Europe.
In spite of the efforts made by many a researcher to cast light on the origins of Euskera, the mystery remains unsolved. For this reason, linguists say Euskera is a language isolate, meaning it bears no relation to any other known language or that its connections with other languages are still to be found.
Voice over Sydney: Six out of ten Basque citizens will speak Basque in 2036
Although Euskera is such an old language, it is still used today, being part and parcel of the Basque society. Institutions, businesses, schools, homes and the Basque population use Euskera in everyday life. According to a study presented at the beginning of 2017, it is expected that half the population (59.5%) will speak Basque in the Basque Country that year, compared to the current 36.4%, according to the data of 2011.
Moreover, it says that the number of Basque speaking people under 25 is expected to increase from 73.2% to 83.4%, whereas it will be 59.5% for the 25-49 age group. Thus, in 20 years Basque will be the first language for three out of ten Basque citizens – nowadays it is 23.5%- especially for the youngest, since nearly half the Basques under 24 will have Basque as their first language, which represents a growth of 16.7 percentage points. As for adult education, it is expected that 4,500 people will become Basque speakers every year, which means that the current rate will continue.
Voice Over Sydney: Daily use of Basque
Many Basque men and women choose to speak Euskera, but they are bilingual, proficient users of Spanish (or French, if they live to the north of the Pyrenees). So visitors coming to the Basque Country have the chance to listen to two different languages, one with a unique ancestral origin and another spoken in many different countries around the world.