10 June 2015

Basque etxe 'house' (updated)

Basque etxe /etʃe/ 'house' is a native word without Romance cognates. The most conservative variant, attested in old texts, is etse /etśe/, with etxe, itxe (G, HN) resulting from palatalization and etze /etse/ (B) from the merging of sibilants /tś, ts/ into /ts/ in Western dialects. There's also the combinatory form etxa-, well attested in toponymy (even outside today's Basque-speaking areas), as in Javierre1 < Etxaberri 'new house'.

Rather interestingly, etxe means 'floor' in the Western compound burtetxe (B), gurtetxe (G, HN) 'floor of a cart', (L) 'framework of a cart', whose first member is burdi, gurdi 'cart, carriage'. 

This kind of semantic drift across long periods of time (e.g. several millenia) is very usual, so one must take it into account in long-range comparisons2This is why I'd link the Basque word to Caucasian *=asA ‘to sit, to stay’ and Uralic *aśe- ‘to put, to place, to lay; to put up a tent’3.
1 From which derives the personal name Xavier/Javier.
2 Unfortunately, paleolinguists (including Nostraticists) very often neglect to do so, as in the comparison with Caucasian *tsˀ[i:]ju 'house' proposed by Bengtson.
In fact, the amateur linguist Eduard Selleslagh-Suykens had a similar idea to mine, although he chose the wrong cognate.


  1. What do you think about a possible connection between 'etxe' and the Iberian word 'ars' or the Iberian city name 'Arse'?

    Also the the word basque 'ertzi' seems to be related to etxe, do you think these words are related?

    1. Hi, Victor.

      As pointed out by Villar (2000): Indoeuropeos y no indoeuropeos en la Hispania prerromana, the toponym Arse is an Iberian adaptation of Arza, attested in the mint inscriptions arza-koz/arza-kozon, arza-oz, located in Vasconc territory. He regards this lexeme as Italoid (aka "ibero-pirenaico-meridional"), but Jordán Cólera (2004): Celtibérico adds new data (the gentilic ARSITANVS in a Latin inscription) and considers it to be Celtiberian, although he doesn't give an etymology. In my opinion, this would be a Celtic adjective *ardwā, the feminine form of *ardwo- 'high', linked in turn to Latin arduus.

      On the other hand, it was Rodríguez Ramos who proposed a relationship between Arse and Basque ertsi 'to close' (not **ertzi), but unfortunately he ignored the Celtic connection. Neither the Basque word is related to etxe.

    2. Very interesting. I hadn't thought about that.

  2. Would these Afroasiatic forms be related...Western Rift (South Cushitic) *haĉ “to stick, fasten, pin”; East Cushitic *haš- “to hold, keep”, but this form is not well-attested enough for this reconstruction to be secure; and, maybe, Arabic ḥašša I “8. traquer, cerner, entourer de tous côtés et ne pas laisser d’issue (augibier, à la bête)”. All from Gábor Takács.

    Oooh, I hate Disqus, hahaha. I will have some comments about your "Tartessian" update soon.

  3. Hi, Adyghe.

    I think you propose these Afrasian words could be related to Basque ertsi, not etxe. Am I right?

  4. Hola, Octavia!

    No, hahaha, to this word you discussed here. Sorry for the delay.

  5. Ok then. I see no plausible connection.

    On the other hand, I wonder why you keep bringing Afrasian words every now and then, but at the same time you remain silent when I post about Afrasian stuff (not very often, I'm afraid).

  6. I have not seen any of your Afrasian posts...if you made some recently.

  7. You only have to lool immediately under this post and follow the Afrasian tag. :-)