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Poem written in ancient Basque is earliest known example of Spain's 'mystery' language
04 December 2020 @ 11:23

LINGUISTIC historians cannot wait to get their hands on a new 'treasure' unearthed in the Guipúzcoa provincial archives – a poem in ancient Basque, which may shed some light on the origins of this apparently 'rootless' language.

Said to be a love poem and probably dating to between the years 1503 and 1522, the document was discovered tucked away in an old notary file in Oñati, near San Sebastián.

To date, practically no texts in euskera, the Basque regional tongue, from earlier than around the year 1660 have been found, making this latest manuscript an invaluable piece of cultural history.

Additionally, nearly all texts from hundreds of years ago in euskera that are known to exist are very limited example – 'micro-texts', as the regional ministry of culture says, or just 'the odd disembodied sentence or small couplet'.

Researcher Rosa Ayerbe found it and, with the help of archive personnel and regular user Iago Irioja, an expert in 16th-century Guipúzcoa, drew up a transcript.

They all agreed it is 'a very difficult read', an opinion shared by linguistic expert Ander Ros, also a faithful archive-user, who has extensive knowledge of notary documents from ancient eras.

Ros says the group transcript attempts have allowed those present to get an 'initial evaluation' of the text's 'significance', as well as some rudimentary attempts at interpreting 'certain fragments which are very hard to understand'.

“What we have here is one of the few written texts in the Guipúzcoa dialect of euskera, and one of the oldest of them – possibly the only one,” Professor Ros says.



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