Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Basques (Eskualdun), a people of the Western Pyrenees, still distinguished from their Spanish and French neighbours by their speech, which is the only non-Aryan language surviving in Western Europe. They are the Vasconcs of Latin writers; whence the terms Gascony, Biscay, and their present Spanish name, Vascongados. The Basques are supposed to be the direct descendants of the ancient Iberians, and the geographical nomenclature shows that their language was formerly current throughout the Iberian Peninsula and Aquitania. They still number about 120,000 in French, and 500,000 in Spanish territory (Labonrd, La Soule, and Lower Navarra in France, Upper Navarra, Alava, Guipuzcoa, and Biscaya in Spain); but the type has been so completely assimilated to that of the surrounding Aryans that they would not be ethnically distinguished from ordinary South Europeans but for their language, which differs entirely from all other known forms of speech. This language is highly agglutinating, and even incorporating - that is, approaches in its structure both to the Georgian, Lesghian, and other Caucasian tongues, and to the polysynthetic languages of America, while differing totally from them in its vocabulary and phonetics. It is spoken in six marked dialects, that of Guipuzcoa being considered the softest and purest; but it is slowly yielding to the encroachments of French, and especially of Spanish, its use being officially prohibited in the schools, churches, and courts of justice throughout the Basque-speaking Spanish provinces. Hence, most of the rising generation are bilingual, speaking both Basque and Spanish in the south and Basque and French in the north. As a race the Basques are distinguished by a fine physique, well-proportioned figures, considerable intelligence, great energy and activity, with a singular aptitude for the most varied pursuits - navigation, agriculture, the civil and military professions.