The Basque alphabet is a Latin alphabet used to write the Basque language. It consists of 27 letters.

List of letters edit

The letters of the Basque alphabet are the 26 letters of the ISO basic Latin alphabet plus ñ. The letter ç is officially not considered a separate letter, but a variant of c.

This is the whole list,[1] plus their corresponding phonemes in IPA:[2]

Letter Basque name Pronunciation
A a /a/
B be /b/, [β̞]
C ze* /s̻/, /k/


(ze hautsia*) (/s/)
D de /d̪/, [ð̞]
E e /e/
F efe /f/
G ge /ɡ/, [ɣ̞]
H hatxe , /ɦ/
I i /i/, /i̭/
J jota /j/, /x/, /ʝ/, /ɟ/
K ka /k/
L ele /l/
M eme /m/
N ene /n/
Ñ eñe /ɲ/
O o /o/
P pe /p/
Q ku* /k/
R erre /r/, /ɾ/
S ese /s̺/
T te /t̪/
U u /u/, /u̯/
V uve* /b/, [β̞]
W uve bikoitza* /u̯/
X ixa /ʃ/
Y i grekoa* /i/, /i̭/, /j/
Z zeta /s̻/
* Although ⟨c, ç, q, v, w, y⟩ are not used in traditional Basque language words, they were included in the Basque alphabet for writing loanwords.[1]

All letters and digraphs represent unique phonemes. The main exception is if ⟨l, n(, t)⟩ are preceded by ⟨i⟩; most dialects palatalize the sound into /ʎ/, /ɲ/ and /c/ even if that is not written.

⟨h⟩ is silent in most regions but is pronounced in much of the Northeast, which is the main reason for its existence in the Basque alphabet. It doesn't even represent syllable breaks in the other dialects, although it can stop the aforementioned palatalization from taking place in some words, for example the ⟨n⟩ in Ainhoa.

Digraphs edit

There are several digraphs (successive letters used to represent a single sound):

⟨dd⟩ /ɟ/, ⟨ll⟩ /ʎ/, rr /r/, ⟨ts⟩ /t͡s̺/, ⟨tt⟩ /c/, ⟨tx⟩ /t͡ʃ/, ⟨tz⟩ /t͡s̻/

History edit

For most of its history, Basque writers used the conventions of Romance languages like Spanish or French. Thus Pedro Agerre's 1643 book was titled Guero corresponding to modern gero ("Later") and the 18th-century motto Irurac bat would be Hirurak bat ("The three as one"). In the late 19th century the nationalist politician Sabino Arana proposed several changes,[3] including new letters such as ĺ and ŕ that were not accepted in the standard orthography. Resurrección María de Azkue's Basque dictionary used also an idiosyncratic spelling with ã ĩ ñ õ ũ .[4]

The present-day Standard Basque was developed in the second half of the 20th century, and has been set by rules of Euskaltzaindia (the Basque Language Academy). Regarding the alphabet, the main criticism by Biscayan and Gipuzkoan traditionalists targeted the ⟨h⟩, as the orthography ruled by Euskaltzaindia used it in several words that those traditionalists wrote without this letter, which is silent both in Biscay and Gipuzkoa — whereas it was pronounced in all Basque dialects some centuries ago and still is pronounced in much of the Northeast. On the other hand, Basque speakers of the Northeast had to learn to write several words with fewer or no ⟨h⟩ letters, because usually a ⟨h⟩ used in their tradition was not taken into the Standard Basque orthography. These changes from the various traditions into the modern Standard Basque were proposed and accepted by the young generations of Basque writers, so the ⟨h⟩ controversy faded as the older generations died.[5][6]

Letter frequencies edit

In a sample of 135,878,500 characters, the most common letter in Basque is ⟨a⟩ and the least common is ⟨ç⟩.[7] Note that ⟨ü⟩ is treated as a variant of ⟨u⟩ and is not considered to be a separate letter of the Basque alphabet.

The letter ⟨ü⟩ is used:

1. In the Suletin (Zuberoan) dialect of Basque.

2. In standard Basque, it is used in geographical names from the Suletin dialect, e. g. Garrüze 'Garris, Pyrénées-Atlantiques', and their derivatives, e. g. garrüztar 'inhabitant of Garris'.

Basque Letter Frequencies
Letter Frequency
a 14.1%
b 2.57%
c 0.253%
ç 0.00137%
d 2.82%
e 12.5%
f 0.456%
g 1.95%
h 1.13%
i 8.40%
j 0.270%
k 5.13%
l 2.92%
m 1.41%
n 7.80%
ñ 0.0109%
o 4.96%
p 1.22%
q 0.0151%
r 7.45%
s 2.49%
t 7.12%
u 4.36%
ü 0.00251%
v 0.114%
w 0.0390%
x 0.499%
y 0.0870%
z 4.59%

References edit

  1. ^ a b Euskaltzaindia: Rule no. 17 for the Standard Basque, Names of the letters in the Basque alphabet, Rule passed on 25 November 1994. Retrieved 2010-10-22. (in Basque)
  2. ^ "Basque language, alphabet and pronunciation". Retrieved 3 January 2017.
  3. ^ Arana eta Goiri'tar Sabin (1896). Lecciones de ortografía del euskera bizkaino (in Spanish). Bilbao: Sebastián de Amorrurtu. pp. 32 – via Biblioteca Virtual del Patrimonio Bibliográfico.
  4. ^ "R. M. de Azkue: "Euskara-Gaztelania-Frantsesa Hiztegia" / "Diccionario Vasco-Español-Francés" online -Tutorial de uso" (PDF) (in Spanish). Aurten Bai Fundazioa. p. 6. Retrieved 12 February 2024. El autor usaba fuentes propias para representar fenómenos propios de algunos de los dialectos del euskera. Estos son los caracteres especiales utilizados en el diccionario: ã d̃ ẽ ĩ l̃ ñ õ s̃ t̃ ũ x̃.
  5. ^ Etxeberria, Josune (2003). Patxi Altuna. Uztarria. p. Arantzazuko Biltzarraren garrantzia (1968). ISBN 978-84-607-6723-7. Archived from the original on 31 January 2018.
  6. ^ Villasante, Luis (1980). La h en la ortografía vasca: razones y motivos, reglas: catálogo de voces con comentario [The h in Basque spelling: reasons and motives, rules: catalog of words with commentary] (PDF). «Luis de Eleizalde» sobre unificación del euskera escrito, fasciculo 7 (in Spanish). Oñati: Editorial Franciscana Aranzazu. ISBN 978-8472401198.
  7. ^ "How often is which letter?". Retrieved 19 February 2023.

External links edit