13 November 2013

The ancient Basque homeland (updated)

According to most specialists, the area located between the Garonne river and the Pyrenees, ancient Aquitaine and modern Gascony, is the homeland of the ancient Basques. There we find a high density of Gascon toponyms in -òs, which extends to Basque -oz(e), -otz(e) and Navarro-Aragonese -ués on the other side of the Pyrenees1.

This toponymic element derives from Celtic *ouxsV- 'high' (Old Irish úais, Cornish a-ūch)2, whose superlative *uxsV-(s)amo- 'the highest' can be found in Middle Welsh uchaf, and the femenine *uxsV-(s)amā in Gaulish Uxisama (modern Oisème), Uxamaand Celtiberian Usama (modern Osma). On the other hand, the former proposal of the Spanish linguist Ramón Menéndez Pidal, who linked the toponymic element to Basque otz 'cold' (itself from Celtic *ouxtu-4), can be dismissed.

The same lexeme would also be part of the Aquitanian anthroponym element Andos(s)-, Andox- (Latinized as Andossus, Andoxus) 'lord'5, whose first member would be the Gaulish intensive prefix and- 'very'In my opinion, this evidence, together with loanwords such as gizon 'man' < Gaulish gdonio-, would indicate a Celtic substrate in Paleo-Basque whose existence hasn't been yet discovered by academic Vascologists.
1 G. Rohlfs (1970): Le Gascon. Études de phylologie pyrénénne. p. 29-33.
2 R. Matasović (2009): Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Celtic, p. 303.
3 X. Delamarre (2008): Dictionnaire de la langue gauloise, p. 329.
4 R. Matasović, op. cit., p. 304.
5 Replaced in modern Basque by jaun < *e-aun, presumably a fossilized participle 'elevated'. 

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