Biscayan dialect

Not to be confused with Biscayne (disambiguation).
Western Dialect
Pronunciation /biskɑːiɑːn/
Native to Spain
Region Biscay, into Álava and Gipuzkoa
Native speakers
247.000 (2001)
  • Biscayan
Dialects Western, Eastern, Alavese (extinct)
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Glottolog bisc1236  (Biscayan)[1]
aval1237  (Alavan)[2]


Biscayan, sometimes Bizkaian (Basque: Bizkaiera, Spanish: Vizcaino)[3] is a dialect of the Basque language spoken mainly in Biscay, one of the provinces of the Basque Country of Spain.

It is named as Western in the Basque dialects' classification drawn up by linguist Koldo Zuazo,[4] since it is not only spoken in Biscay but also extends slightly into the Northern fringes of Alava and deeper in the Western part of Gipuzkoa. The dialect's territory bears great similarity to that of the Caristii tribe, as described by Roman authors.

While it is treated as stylish to write in Biscayan and the dialect is still spoken generally in about half of Biscay and some other municipalities, it suffers from the double pressure of Unified Basque and Spanish.

Relief from 1603 in Plentzia old town, with an epigraph in the topolect of the time. "Muxica areriocaz agica Butroe celangoa da Oroc daquie garaianago eria gordeago."

Biscayan was used by Sabino Arana and its early Basque nationalist followers as one of the signs of Basqueness.

Sociolinguistic Features

In the words of Georges Lacombe, because of the special features of this dialect, Euskera could well be divided into two groups of dialects: Biscayan and the rest. He argued that this dialect was so different from the rest, that the isoglosses separating it from the adjacent dialects (Gipuzkoan or central) are so close to each other that form a clear line; that is, the phonetic-phonological, morphosyntactic and lexical features of Biscayan coincide geographically to the point of creating a distinctively clear and defined dialectical border.

Because of these differences both with the rest of the Basque dialects and also with Standard Basque, and respecting their corresponding uses, the Euskaltzaindia has produced a Model for Written Biscayan (in Basque: Bizkaieraren idatzizko ereduaren finkapenak), a set of rules mainly focused on morphosyntax. The official use of the dialects of Euskera is regulated through Regulation 137 of the Euskaltzaindia, according to which the use of Batua should be limited to the fields of communication, administration and teaching.

Since 1997 and according to the new dialectical classification realized by Koldo Zuazo, author of "Euskalkiak. Herriaren lekukoak" (Elkar, 2004), the name given to Biscayan is the Western Dialect, due to its use not being limited to the province of Biscay, but with users in some Gipuzkoan regions such as Debagoiena (mainly) and Debabarrena, and also some Alavan municipalities such as Aramaio (Aramayona) and Legutio (Villarreal).

According to study by Yrizar, this dialect was spoken in the seventies by around 200,000 people,[5] with the number of estimated speakers approaching 300,000 by the eighties. In 1991 16% of the population if this province could speak Basque, and data gathered in 2001 data 22% of the total 1.122.710 Biscayans (i.e. 247,000) could speak and write in Basque. However, this data is only illustrative, as there is no record of how many of the Basque speakers spoke Biscayan specifically and it does not take into account Biscayan speakers in Gipuzkoan territory (Bergara, Leintz Gatzaga, Mondragon, Oñati, etc.)

Subdialects and Variations

Current map of Biscayan dialects and subdialects (Koldo Zuazo, 2015).

Biscayan is not a homogeneous dialect, it has two subdialects and eight main variations.[6]

Western Subdialect


Eastern Subdialect

Geography and History

The borders of Biscayan match those of the pre-roman tribe of the Caristii, which is probably not a coincidence. Biscay was formerly included, along with Alava and the Valley of Amezcoa, within the ecclesiastical circumscription of Calahorra, which explains the wide influence of Biscayan (or Western Dialect) in the language of these regions. This does not mean Alavan dialect (nowadays extinct) would have had the same features as the Biscayan, but rather some common characteristics with a personality of its own.


Some features of Biscayan as perceived by other dialect speakers may be summed up as follows:


Biscayan dialect has a very rich lexicon, with vocabulary varying from region to region, and from town to town. For example while gura (to want) and txarto (bad) are two words widely used in Biscayan, some Biscayan speaker might use nahi (for to want) and gaizki (for bad), which are generally used in other dialects.[7] One of the current main experts in local vocabulary is Iñaki Gaminde, who in the last years has extensively researched and published on this subject.

  • abade: priest (batua and other dialects: "apaiz").
  • agorril: August.
  • aitite/aittitte/aitxitxe: grandfather (batua: "aitona").
  • amaitu/ama(i)txu: to finish (batua and other dialects: "amaitu" or "bukatu").
  • amama: grandmother (batua: "amona").
  • amata(t)u: to shut down/turn off (other dialects: "itzali").
  • artazi(a)k: scissors
  • bagil: June (batua: "ekain").
  • baltz: black (batua and other dialects: "beltz").
  • bari(xa)ku: Friday (batua: "ostiral").
  • baso: hill/mountain (Note: in other dialects "baso" means "forest").
  • batzar: meeting (other dialects: "biltzar").
  • beilegi: yellow (batua and other dialects: "hori").
  • berba: word (other dialects: "hitz" or "ele").
  • berakatz: garlic (other dialects: "baratxuri").
  • domeka: Sunday (batua and other dialects: "igande" or "jai eguna" = "holiday").
  • ederto: good, well, satisfied, expression showing agreement... literally means "beautifully" (other dialects: "ederki").
  • edur: snow (batua and other dialects: "elur").
  • eguazten: Wednesday (batua: "asteazken").
  • eguen: Thursday (batua: "ostegun").
  • garagarril: July (en euskara batua es "uztail").
  • gatzatua: curd (other dialects: "mamia").
  • gitxi: little, not much (batua and other dialects: "gutxi").
  • gura/gure: to want, to desire (other dialects: "nahi").
  • izara: sheet (other dialects:"maindire").
  • izeko: aunt (batua and other dialects: "izeba").
  • lorail: May (batua: "maiatz").
  • ilbaltz: January (batua: "urtarril").
  • ilen: Monday (batua and other dialects: "astelehen" or astelen).
  • indaba: Bean (other dialects: "babarrun").
  • jaramon: to pay attention (batua and other dialects: "arreta", "kasu"...).
  • jezarri: to sit (other dialects: "eseri").
  • jausi: to fall (other dialects: "erori" or "amildu").
  • jorrail: April (batua: "apiril").
  • kirikino: hedgehog (batua and other dialects: "triku" or "sagarroi").
  • karu: expensive (batua and other dialects: "garesti").
  • korta: stable (batua and other dialects: "ukuilu", "tegi", "abeltegi", "barruki", "saltai"...).
  • labandu: to slip (other dialects: "labain").
  • lantzean behin: sometimes, every now and then (batua and other dialects: "noizean behin" or "noizbehinka").
  • lapiko: pot, pan (batua and other dialects: "lapiko" or "eltze").
  • lar, larregi: too much (other dialects: "gehiegi", "aski", "sobera").
  • le(ge)z: like, such as... (other dialects: "bezala").
  • lei: ice (batua and other dialects: "izotz", "jela", "horma").
  • lepo: back (body part) (batua and other dialects: "bizkar". Note: "lepo" in batua and other dialects means "neck").
  • lotu: to stop (en euskara batua y otros dialecto es "gelditu").
  • madari: pear (batua and other dialects: "udare" or "txermen".
  • mailuki: strawberry (batua and other dialects: "marrubi").
  • mihin: tongue (body part) (batua and other dialects: "mihi").
  • martitzen: martes (en euskara batua es "astearte").
  • mosu: face (batua and other dialects: "aurpegi").
  • motz: ugly (batua and other dialects: "itsusi". Note: "motz" in batua and other dialects means short).
  • odoloste: black pudding/blood sausage (batua and other dialects: "odolki").
  • okela: meat (batua "okela" or "haragi").
  • olgeta: game, fun, joke (batua and other dialects: "olgeta" or "jolas"
  • oratu: to arrive, to take/grab, to hold (other dialects: "heldu").
  • ortu: fruit/vegetable garden (batua "ortu" or "baratz", other dialects: "baratz").
  • osatu: to heal (batua "osatu" or "sendatu").
  • oste: behind (other dialects: "atze").
  • ostarku: rainbow (other dialects: "ostadar").
  • otu: occur/come to mind (other dialects: "bururatu").
  • papar: breast (batua: "bular" or "papar")
  • pernil: ham (batua and other dialects: "urdaiazpiko" or "xingarra").
  • sama: neck (other dialects: "lepo").
  • txarto: bad (batua and other dialects: "gaizki" or "txarto"
  • txiker: small (batua and other dialects: "txiki" or "tipi").
  • txilio: shout/scream (other dialects: "garrasi").
  • udagoien: fall/autumn (batua: "udazken").
  • uger egin: to swim (batua and other dialects: "igeri egin").
  • urre: near (other dialects: "hurbil", "gertu").
  • urrin: far (other dialects: "urrun").
  • uzki: anus (other dialects: "ipurtzulo" o "ipurdi").
  • zapatu: Saturday (batua: "larunbata").
  • zarama: trash (other dialects: "zabor" or "zakar").
  • zelan: how (other dialects: "nola" or "zer moduz").
  • zemendi: November (batua "azaro").
  • zezeil: February (batua: "otsail").






See also


  1. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Biscayan". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Alavan". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. Or in the unified form of this same dialect, Bizkaiko euskerea; other used names are euskera, euzkera, euskala, euskiera, uskera, according to the General Basque Dictionary.
  4. Zuazo, Koldo. "Clasificación actual de los dialectos". Retrieved 10 June 2016.
  5. "El Dialecto Bizkaino". Retrieved 10 June 2016. En el estudio llevado a cabo por Yrizar en 1970, el bizkaino era hablado por unos 200.000 hablantes.
  6. Zuazo, Koldo (2015). "Euskalkiak - Ezaugarriak". University of the Basque Country. Retrieved 10 June 2016.
  7. Amuriza, Xabier. "Bizkaierazko gitxieneko hiztegia - "Vocabulario básico del vizcaíno" (PDF). Bizkaiko Foru Aldundia. Retrieved 10 June 2016.

External links

This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 11/12/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.