24 July 2016

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.