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Vowel interaction in Bizcayan Basque

Anuario del Seminario de Filología Vasca "Julio de Urquijo"
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  • Linguistics
  • Political Science


VOWEL INTERACTION IN BIZCAYAN BASQUE*1 Many vanetles of Basque have rules affecting vowel sequences. The central importance of these rules for the functioning of the language is clear from the fact that the definite article is a, used as a postclitic to nominal stems, many of which end in a vowel. These rules, therefore, determine to a large extent the physiognomy of the different varieties of Basque. A thorough study of them will have to await the appearance of a linguistic atlas, so urgently needed for practically all aspects of Basque studies. Sad to say, the political conditions are,at present, hardly favorable to its preparation. Yet, thanks to the pioneering work of Prince Louis Lucien Bonaparte more than a century ago and taking into account the data provided by the efforts of more recent scholars,2 an outline of the main facts can be given. Such an outline will be presented below with the aim of encouraging further studies in the field, and showing at the same time the importance of Generative Phonology with its concept of ordered rules (developed by Noam Chomsky and Morris Halle) for Basque dialectology. The Bizcayan dialect area, the area west of the Deva river, is particularly interesting for our purposes, and will thus claim most of our attention. Basque has a five vowel system:3 i, e, a, 0, u, with, apparently, no distinctions of tenseness or length. The Suletin dialect and some neighbouring varieties of Low- Navarrese have acquired a sixth vowel u, but this has happened nowhere near the area we are considering here.4 * FLVII-5 (1970), 149-167. 1 As on so may occasions, I have greatly benefitted from the helpful comments of Prof. Dr. Luis Michelena, who kindly read a first version of this article and provided a great deal of pertinent information and expert advice. I am very grateful to Dr. Ambrosio Zatarain for his most generous assistance in contacting reliable informants. I want to thank also Prof. E. Wayles Browne, whose insightful suggestions le

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