On the autochthony of the Basques

Via the always-worth-reading Language Log, an article entitled “A genome-wide survey does not show the genetic distinctiveness of Basques,” and a link to a more-readable discussion entitled “The Basques may not be who we think they are.”  The short summary is:

Our analysis showed that, when a genome-wide perspective is applied, Basques are not particularly differentiated from other Iberian populations.

That is, using modern genetic analysis techniques, the Basques turn out not to be the ancestral people of Europe, a widely held theory based on language and blood type evidence.  Now, with better tools, we know that the blood type argument doesn’t hold true.

The language is a language isolate, related to no others, and it seems on the basis of a variety of evidence (archeological, linguistic, textual) that the Basques have been in northwestern Spain and southern France for a long time.   But not without movement; it seems they’ve been moving steadily southward from Gascony, where their one known ancestor-language, Aquitanian, was found.

Much more, and much more sophisticated analysis and explication is in R.L. Trask’s History of Basque, which I recently finished reading and which I can highly recommend.  It’s a real labor of love and ought to be the last word on Basque historical linguistics for a while.  The chapter on unproven relationships to other languages is in of itself an absolute gem, as close to a rollicking gutbuster as historical linguistics gets.