Reviewed by Peter Freeouf, Chiang Mai University
This book is one of a growing number of textbooks for instruction in the basics of the Basque language, a non-Indo-European language isolate spoken in northern Spain and southwestern France. It is the only indigenous non-Indo-European language spoken in Western Europe. The Basque language has gained a relatively privileged position in the Basque country of Spain since the collapse of the Franco dictatorship. It is recognized as the co-official language, along with Spanish, in the autonomous Basque region. The standardized or unified (e.g. Batua form of the language is increasingly used as the language of instruction in schools and is also widely used in the press, broadcast media (radio and TV), and on the internet. The number of books published in Basque is growing. Einführung in das Baskische deals with the modern standardized Basque language, now well established in the autonomous Basque region of northern Spain rather than any of the numerous spoken dialects. Since the textbook is written in German, it will probably be of limited usefulness in the English-speaking world. The book is divided into twenty-four Lektionen, followed by a glossary (Basque-German) of twenty pages and an answer key for all the exercises in the lessons (231–97).
There are connected reading passages beginning in Lektion 4. Short discussions of cultural topics and the texts of songs are also included in various sections. A CD-ROM containing various reading passages and songs from the lessons, as read by native speakers, is included as a resource. Information about the speakers and text is indicated on the back cover (298).
The sounds and writing system are covered very briefly in the first three pages of the first lesson. This is followed in the same lesson by discussions of the article, the present tense of the basic verbs izan ‘to have’ or ‘to be’ and egon ‘to be’, basic word order, questions, and demonstratives. The complex verb system, with its numerous synthetic and periphrastic forms, subject/object marking on the verb, and the agglutinative-type of nominal case morphology is covered in several chapters. Lektion 6 (73–83) is devoted to the ergative case, a characteristic feature of Basque, and its relationship to the syntax of the language.
The exercises placed at the end of each lesson are of various types: substitution, fill-in-the-blank type questions, syntactic transformations, and German to Basque translations of sentences.
Interspersed throughout the text are paradigm tables of sample sentences, with German translation, illustrating a specific grammatical point under discussion in the lesson. These tables are easily identifiable since they are presented against a gray background. There are numerous illustrations and some photographs as well.
The textbook was originally designed for use in a beginning Basque class at a German university. It can be used by anyone who has reading knowledge of German and wants to acquire a grasp of the basics of modern standardized Basque. Not every word used in the exercises is shown with the German translation. Therefore, it is necessary to have access to a German-Basque dictionary.