Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Non Dago Komuna?
Traveling along the Pyrenees gets tricky for those of us with marginal language skills. Flanking both sides of the western-most quarter of the French-Spanish border are about 600,000 Basque-speaking people, most in Spain and a smattering in France. Their language is far removed from either Spanish or French, as is easily evidenced by the signs in the photos. In fact, it is so far removed from any other language that it is called a "language isolate". From Wikipedia, "Little is known of its origins but it is likely that an early form of the Basque language was present in Western Europe before the arrival of the Indo-European languages to the area."
In more modern times, the Basque language has had to compete with Castillian Spanish and French. After the Spanish Civil War, speaking Basque was forbidden for decades. In Basque Country (Euskara), schools are now resuming teaching the language. Had I known that "Non dago komunu" = Where are the toilets? or "Ezdakit eukarazhitz egiten" = I don't speak Basque or at least "Garagardo" = Beer, we might have made better progress.
As we were sitting at the restaurant in Eaux-Bonnes, we asked our multi-languaged server how many others she spoke (besides French, Spanish, Basque and English). She commented that she also spoke the local dialect or patois---Bearn. BEARN??? Was she pulling my leg? When I later looked it up on my good friend the Internet, I discovered Bearn to be a regional dialect of Occitan. Now it makes me wonder if there is a name for the dialect of French spoken in our Ariege region---i.e., the twangy sound of "pang" for "pain".
In my best Basque, "Ikusi arte. Agur." (See you and goodbye.)