Standard Basque

Standard Basque: A progressive grammar. By Rudolf P. G. de Rijk. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008. Pp. xxvi, 1344. ISBN 9780262042420. $100 (Hb).

Reviewed by Iván Ortega-Santos, University of Memphis

In the late 1960’s the Royal Academy of the Basque Language, Euskaltzaindia, created a unified literary variety of Basque, a pre-Indo-European typologically isolate language spoken in the Basque area of Spain and France. This variety, commonly referred to as standard Basque or Euskara Batua, plays a central role in the survival of the language and is currently used in teaching, the media, and literature. This book is remarkable in that it is the first modern pedagogically oriented reference grammar for standard Basque written in English. Rudolf P. G. de Rijk, a highly respected expert on this language, focuses on a variety of topics ranging from orthography and pronunciation to the grammar of case and agreement, personal pronouns, information structure and constituent order, adverbs, ergativity, transitivity, causatives, conditionals, relative clauses, the subjunctive, imperatives, comparatives, coordination, compounds, and reduplication.

In addition to presenting standard Basque, the author enriches the volume by sharing his extensive knowledge in modern linguistics, Basque dialectology, and the history of Basque, without distracting the reader. Apart from the customary references to other sources included in the course of the presentation, he added a number of bibliographical notes commenting on previous works on specific grammar points. The volume assumes a certain degree of familiarity with linguistic terminology (e.g. terms like plosive, apico-alveolar, and sandhi-rules are used without explanation), but the presentation stands out for its clarity and depth nonetheless.

Chapters include translation exercises whose answer key is provided. In addition to the vocabulary sections included throughout the book, there is a small Basque-English and English-Basque dictionary that includes the vocabulary relevant to the translation exercises. As a result, this book bridges the gap between a reference grammar and a language textbook, although clearly the emphasis is on the former. The linguistic examples used to illustrate the presentation are taken from literary works in many cases. A subject index, an index of personal names, and a selected index of Basque formatives and words are also included.

As a whole, this book is a great resource for students of Basque and researchers alike. Given that the book is the first of its kind to become available in English, it is bound to have great importance in the field of linguistics.