Basque linguist J.M. Elexpuru discusses today at Noticias de Álava[es]
the possibility that the lost pre-Romance language of Sardinia
could be related to Basque, following the steps of Catalan linguist Eduardo Blasco Ferrer, who just published a book titled Paleosardo, le radici linguistiche de la Sardegna neolítica
(Paleo-Sardinian, the linguistic roots of Neolithic Sardinia
|Ruins of a Sardinian nuraghe
Sardinia belonged to the Carthaginian Empire since the 6th century BCE and then passed to the Roman one in the 3rd century, remaining since then in the Romance linguistic area. However little is known of the history of the island before, except the famous nuraghe
forts (similar to SE Spanish motillas
) and that it was colonized (after some ill-known Epipaleolithic episode) within the Cardium Pottery culture in the Neolithic, probably from Central Italy.
However Dr. Elexpuru synthesizes this way the position of Blasco Ferrer:
… there was a migration from the Basque area in the Mesolithic (8000-5000 b.C.) which settled the island. There were surely other flows later on. Genetic research on mitochondrial DNA have revealed that haplogroup V, originary from the Basque-Cantabrian area, is very high in the central region. The language carried by the settlers, named Paleo-Sardinian by linguists, was the one spoken through all the Neolithic and Bronze Age in the island and still survived for some centuries to Roman domination in the central region, which was known as Barbaria. In some parts of the island the density of pre-Roman toponyms is well above 40%.
He concludes mentioning some of the river and settlement names that are quite obviously Vasconic:
- River names: (h)aran, ardi, baso, berri, bide, ertz, goni (goi), gorri, iri, istil, iz, lats, lur, mando, on, orri, (h)osto, (h)otz, (h)obi, (i)turri, ur, zuri.
- Village names: Aritzo, Ardaule, Asuni, Goni, Loiri, Luras, Olzai, Orgósolo, Ortueri, Osini, Turri, Ulassai, Uras, Uri, Urzulei…
I must say that all this would make better sense if Iberian and Ligurian could be somehow integrated in the picture. One reason is that haplogroup V is now known to be much more frequent and probably original not from the modern Basque Country nor even Gascony but from farther East: Catalonia probably. However now and again there are other rare or somewhat common lineages that appear shared between Iberia and/or the Basque Country and Sardinia (and sometimes also North Africa).
One of the most common ones is Y-DNA I2a, a West Mediterranean and Pyrenean clade extremely common in Sardinia, which, if of Neolithic origin, would be the only such lineage quite frequent among Basques. But it could also be pre-Neolithic.
For the record, it was discussed earlier in this blog
) the striking similitude of Basque and Sardinian (and some other European) carnival performances, all this in relation to the apparent paleo-European veneration of the bear and the continentally widespread shared root for this animal (hartz
in Basque, almost the same in proto-Indoeuropean).
Also for the record I must mention that, in my not so humble opinion, the very word Sardinia seems to have a Basque etymology. Obviously it is derived from the pan-European word sardine but this term only makes etymological sense in Basque: sarda (fish school) + -gin (suffix of doing/making < egin) + -e/-a (nominative declension, like the article “the”). It needs of a loss of a syllabe (would make sardagina) but I still think it’s plausible that sardine (and hence Sardinia) means school-doer or school-maker in Basque or a related language from old.
Whatever the case it is extremely difficult to deny the Basqueness of the toponyms listed above, even if I am sure that soon someone will come and contest such obviousness, based not on common sense but on twisted and ill-explained elaborations.
But what I still do not have fully clear is in which direction the Vasconic language spread. Of course the default hypothesis of an expansion from the Franco-Cantabrian region makes good sense but it is difficult to completely discard a Neolithic spread of the language family in the context of Cardium Pottery culture (and loosely related Atlantic ones, including Megalithism).
I also think that this Vasconic substrate is not something peculiar of Sardinia and that anyone who looks around with a keen eye and a half-decent knowledge of Basque language can’t but stumble once and again on Basque-like toponimy all around the western half of the continent.