Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Baskische woorden in IJsland en Canada | vrijmivi 20w21

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It's been a while that we can't travel much.

But exactly a year ago, I was in Bratislava, Slovakia.

And there I heard the story of a very special language.

Today, that story will take us to Finland, Iceland, France, Spain and Canada.

Cape Week's End by language writer Gaston Dorren

While in Bratislava I met the translator Siru Laine.

Siru is Finnish, but she lives in Spain.

She likes to travel generally, and her tattoo is evidence.

It says, in Old Norse runes:

Healthy you may go, healthy you may come back, healthy you may be on your way.

Siru speaks a dozen languages or so, among them Icelandic.

She spent several years studying it in Reykjavík.

Later, after settling in Spain, she studied yet another somewhat special language:


And after learning both Icelandic and Basque, she plunged into a very special language

that used to be spoken in a far-flung corner of Europe. And that is...

the Basque-Icelandic pidgin.

Okay. And what's the Basque-Icelandic pidgin?

It's a language that was used between Basque whalers and Icelanders

400 years ago in Northern Iceland.

If Iceland is this duck, that is the head of the duck, right?

Yes, exactly.

The Basques have a centuries-old whaling tradition

as you can tell from the coat of arms of this coastal town.

They gradually ventured farther and farther out on the sea.

Early on, they hunted near England and Ireland

in the 16th century they reached Canada's East coast

and early in the 17th century they got to Iceland and Svalbard.

Whalers are not much given to writing (nor writers to whaling)

but it so happens that a few documents have come down to us

that show how the Icelanders and the Basques communicated back then.

They used this pidgin, that is to say a simple trade lingo

with a limited vocabulary. That was sufficient, because they didn't discuss art or philosophy.

The words are mostly related to trading and fish products and clothing.

And the grammar is very simple.

So because both Basque and Icelandic are quite, mm,

not complicated but they have a very interesting grammar.

But the pidgin was just very simplified.

What language did they take the words from?

It's mostly from Basque. - From Basque?!

Yes, but there are also quite a few words from Germanic languages and Romance languages.

So there's no Icelandic.

After all, the Basques lived in France and Spain and they'd been sailing off the English coast

so they must have been picking up words left, right and centre.

Could you give some examples of phrases or words in the Basque-Icelandic pidgin?

For example 'bocata for mi attora' is 'wash me a shirt'.

Very useful.

And 'suas camporat' is 'go away from here'.

The pronouns 'I' and 'you' or 'me' and 'you', is 'for mi' and 'for ju'.

That sonds very Germanic. - Yes.

And then for example 'mala' comes from the Romance languages, which means 'bad'.

So even though its name is 'Basque-Icelandic pidgin', there's not a word of Icelandic in it.

Indeed, in other places where the Basques arrived, they used a similar pidgin.

But unfortunately, very few of it has come down to us.

One of those places is Newfoundland in Canada.

The Basques got there in the mid-16th century.

And when in the 17h century the French came into contact with the indigenous people of the region,

the Indians spoke to the French in a tongue

that they thought of as 'the language of the Europeans'.

And while the French traders learned to speak it all right, they assumed it was an indigenous language!

When French scholars looked into it, they soon realised

that this was a European-based pidgin with a lot of Basque words

which, as I said, the Indians had learned from the Basques a century earlier.

Indigenous Canadians and French people, managing to communicate - laboriously, one imagines -

by drawing on Basque words: it sounds unlikely

but it actually happened.

Of course, these pidgins are no longer needed so they've gone extinct.

They're dead languages now.

But not quite stone dead.

They're breathing extremely faintly - online.

Well, I found this Facebook page for example that makes all these funny memes

with the Basque-Icelandic language, uh, the pidgin.

And it's mostly...

I find it really funny but most of my friends don't

because they don't understand the whole thing.

So... I find it hilarious.

And now...

... the Peak of the Working Week.

This will be the cover of my next book.

The design is by Huub Blekkenhorst and I like it a lot.

There are a dozen or so expressions with 'Dutch' concealed in it

one of which is widely known and a few are fairly well known.

That was all. See you again in two weeks.

I'll keep the cover on the screen for a bit longer.

The Description of Baskische woorden in IJsland en Canada | vrijmivi 20w21