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THE FIRST BASQUE-ENGLISH DICTIONARY Gorka Aulestia Despite the fact that the first published Basque dictionary, Manual Larramendi 's Diccionario trilingüe del castellano, bascuence y latin appeared in 1743, to date no one has ever published a full-fledged Basque-English dictionary. The only approximation was Joe Eiguren's work1 which was a direct translation of P. Zamarripa's Vocabulario Vasco-Castellano.2 As is often the case with pioneering efforts in any field, the value of this translation is due to its uniqueness . However, its limited scope made it of minor usefulness as either a reference work or a pedagogical aid for the serious student of Basque. The need for a more comprehensive work has increased in recent years, particularly as a few American universities and Basque-American organizations have begun teaching courses in the language. Basque has been taught at the University of Nevada, Reno for the past twelve years. Until the current year the courses employed grammars written in Spanish and Basque supplemented by explanatory notes and by vocabularies translated into English by staff members and affiliated consultants of UNR's Basque Studies Program. In 1975 the Basque Studies Program, recognizing the need, obtained a grant for the elaboration of a Basque-English dictionary based on R. M. Azkue's classic work4 and Professor K. Mitxelena, then of the University of Salamanca, was chosen to direct the project. Funding in the amount of $55,000 was obtained from the Hilliard Committee (a local humanities endowment ) and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Unfortunately, the project was cancelled when Professor Mitxelena was unable to free himself from other obligations. In 1976 I began teaching Basque at UNR and struggled with the lack of proper pedagogical materials for the English-speaking student. The problem was exacerbated in 1977 when I offered a course in "Second Year Basque." In 1979 the Basque Studies Program renewed its approach to the Hilliard Foundation and received a commitment for support of a dictionary project during the academic year 1980-1981. I am a native Basque speaker and I was asked to direct the effort and began preparing materials for it on my own time. Since September of 1980 I have been engaged full-time in the preparation of a 50,000 entry Basque-English, English-Basque Dictionary. The work is intended as a reference guide, a source book for students taking Basque language and literature courses at the University level and as a tool for the Basque-American population of the American West. It is anticipated that it will be published in the Basque Book Series by the University of Nevada Press. There are several spoken dialects of Basque, of which initially we decided to include Biscayan, Guipuzcoan and Labourdin, in addition to Unified Basque or "Euskera Batua." Biscayan and Labourdin were selected due to the large communities from Biscay and Labourd centered in southern Idaho and in northern and southern California respectively. Most Basque literature has been written in Guipuzcoan, hence the need to include this dialect. For the last 13 years, following the recommendations of the Academy of the Basque Lan116 Gorka Aulestia117 guage, "Euskaltzaindia," the majority of contemporary literature is being published in Unified Basque, thus calling for its inclusion in the dictionary. Some time later, Dr. W. H. Jacobsen, Jr. and D. Amnions, advisors to the project, suggested the addition of Basse-Navarrese and Souletin. The task was phenomenal and the difficulties numerous but surmountable. I began the work by analyzing eight Basque dictionaries, old and modern, and three English ones. Combining the diversity of the dialects into the unity of the language presented the greatest difficulty. This may be illustrated by considering some aspects of the language's recent history and dialectology. The diversity of the dialects, while enriching the language, gives rise to difficult problems. The Basques from both sides of the Pyrenees have not had much mutual contact for centuries, the Basque Country being divided between France and Spain. Thus, in spite of sharing a common language, it is often difficult for northern and southern Basques to understand one another across dialectical barriers. Recent political events have affected the language profoundly , particularly in the southern...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2160-5076
Print ISSN
0197-6745
Pages
pp. 116-121
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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