Nowadays, we may distinguish five main dialects of the Basque language: The Western dialect, which has also been called “Bizkaian”, the Central dialect, also called “Gipuzkoan”, the (High) Navarrese dialect, the (Low) Navarrese-Lapurdian dialect and the Zuberoan dialect.

In this section, the main characteristics of these dialects will be discussed. I have gathered the bibliography and websites on Basque dialects at the end.

Western Basque


The Western dialect encompasses the Basque spoken in all of the province of Bizkaia, most of the Deba Valley of Gipuzkoa and the Aramaio Valley in Araba. Some features of this dialect have a broader geographical scope, as they reach the Urola river, the Goierri area of Gipuzkoa and the Burunda Valley in Navarre. These features are all quite old, probably reflecting changes that arose in Araba, or at least, spread from there. The geographical domain of other Western features is smaller: They are found within the limits of Bizkaia and developed there.

Subdialects and varieties

Western Basque is not a homogeneous dialect: It includes two subdialects and seven varieties. The differences between the two subdialects are fairly clear, although the transition from one to the other is gradual. I will name these two subdialects westerly and easterly subdialects of Western Basque. To avoid confusion, we will use names like Western and Central for the main dialects, and other terms like westerly, middle and easterly for subdialects within each of the main dialects.

The speech of Busturia, in the north, and of Otxandio-Oleta-Ubide, in the south, define a transitional area that creates a bridge between both subdialects of Western Basque. Within the westerly subdialect, there are two main groups: northeastern and southeastern. We may distinguish three varieties within the northeast group: Uribe-Kosta, Mungia and Txorierri. There are not as many differences in the southeast: The Arratia Valley, Zeberio, Orozko, Arrankudiaga, Arakaldo and Galdakao are located within this area. Between these two main groups, we find the speech of the Nerbioi Valley, including the traditional Basque spoken in Bilbao, Etxebarri, Zaratamo, Basauri, Arrigorriaga and Ugao, which is currently severely weakened.

Within the easterly subdialect of Western Basque, we find the following varieties: Lea-Artibai, Durango area, Debagoiena (or Upper Deba Valley), and the variety of the central part of the Deba Valley. The speech of Lea-Artibai and of the Durango area are very similar, in spite of the distinctive personality of the coastal speech of Ondarroa and Lekeitio. As for Debagoiena, it includes the Leintz Valley (Arrasate, Aretxabaleta, Eskoriatza and Gatzaga), Oñati and Aramaio. In the central part of the Deba Valley, we find the towns of Antzuola, Bergara, Elgeta, Soraluze, Ermua and Eibar.

In the towns in the northern part of the Deba Valley (Elgoibar, Mendaro and Mutriku) we find a unique form of speech, which constitutes a bridge between the Western and Central dialects. The speech of the town of Deba itself, and Itziar, on the other hand, are to be included within the Central dialect.

Main characteristics

Most of the distinctive features of this dialect pertain to the field of morphology. The lexicon of this dialect also includes a large number of non-standard words. Let us analyze each linguistic area separately:


Regarding vowels, there are two distinctive phenomena:

  • 1. When words ending in -a are combined with the article, we find -a + a > -ea. Examples of this are /neska +a/ neskea ‘the girl’ (standard neska), /burruka+a/ burrukea ‘the fight’ (standard borroka). Depending on the variety, the sequence -ea has had further evolutions: -ea > -e (neske), -ia (neskia), -ie (neskie) or -i (neski).

  • 2. In most of Bizkaia, -e- occurs in the root of the present tense forms of the verb eduki ‘to have’: dekot ‘I have (it)’ (standard daukat), dekozu ‘you-sg have (it)’ (standard daukazu), dekogu ‘we have (it)’ (standard daukagu), dekozue ‘you-pl have (it)’ (standard daukazue), dekie ‘they have (it)’ (standard daukate).

Regarding consonants, we may mention four phenomena:

  • 1. The four sibilants of common Basque have been reduced to two: s and z have neutralized as s and ts and tz have become tz. Due to this neutralization, the pairs hasi ‘to begin’ / hazi ‘to grow’, su ‘fire’ / zu ‘you-sg’, atzo ‘yesterday’ / atso ‘old woman’ and hotz ‘cold’ / hots ‘sound’ are not distinguished. They are pronounced asi, su, atzo and otz, respectively.
  • 2. In a wide area in the west, z and tz are palatalized as x and tx after the semivowel [j]. The following examples illustrate this evolution: aizkora > axkora/askora ‘axe’, eleiza > elexa/elixa ‘church’, goiz > gox ‘early, morning’, haize > axe ‘wind’, kereiza > keixa ‘cherry’, leizar > lexar ‘willow’, ereitzi > eretxi ‘opinion’, gaitz > gatx ‘bad’, haitz > atx ‘rock’, etc.

  • 3. A diachronically more recent phenomenon, found in most of Bizkaia, is a tendency to palatalize z when preceded by the vowel i, as in bizi > bixi ‘to live’, izan > ixen ‘to be’, gizon > gixon ‘man’, dakizu > dakixu ‘you know’, etc.
  • 4. The borrowed suffix -(c)ión has become -(z)iño, as in erlijiño ‘religion’ (standard erlijio), espropiaziño ‘expropriation’, globalizaziño ‘globalization’, inseminaziño ‘insemination’, etc. Likewise, -n- has developed in verbs containing the stem *-io ‘say’: diño ‘s/he says’ (standard dio), diñot ‘I say’ (standard diot), diñozu ‘you-sg say’ (standard diozu), etc.

Noun morphology

In the domain of noun morphology, the Western dialect is characterized by the following features:

  • 1. Proximal articles (bearing the vowel -o-) have been preserved, although they appear to be on their way out: hor berton jausi da ‘s/he fell right here’ (in other dialects, hor bertan erori da).
  • 2. There is a special Western comitative morpheme: -gaz in the singular form, -kaz in the plural. Thus we find, for instance, alabeagaz ‘with the daughter’ (standard alabarekin), alabakaz ‘with the daughters’ (standard alabekin). However, the geographical scope of plural -kaz is smaller than that of singular -gaz: Whereas singular -gaz is found in all of Bizkaia, plural -kaz is used only in the western and central parts of this province. In the eastern area of Bizkaia we find forms like singular alabeagaz ‘with the daughter’ but plural alabekin ‘with the daughters’. In the Deba Valley, -kin is used both in the singular and in the plural. That is, this feature does not extend over the whole area of the Western dialect.
  • 3. In the directional allative (‘towards’), there is a special suffix, which has a different shape in each of the two subdialects: -rantza in the west and -rutz in the east: eguerdirantza/eguerdirutz ‘towards midday’.
  • 4. The suffix -rik is used in idiomatic expressions such as etxerik etxe ‘from house to house’, kalerik kale ‘from street to street’, mendirik mendi ‘from mountain to mountain; through the mountains’, etc. The instrumental suffix can also be used in this construction and is has become more frequent in recent times (kaminoz kamino ‘from road to road’).
  • 5. The demonstratives have the same stem in the singular and plural forms. In many local varieties, it is the accent that differentiates them: sing. honek ‘this, erg.’ (standard honek) / pl. hónek ‘these’ (standard hauek); sing. horrétan ‘in that’ (standard horretan) / pl. hórretan ‘in those’ (standard horietan). In other varieties, -i- occurs in the plural: sing. honetan ‘in this’ / pl. honeitan ‘in these’.
  • 6. The personal pronouns have strengthened forms like neu ‘I myself’: neu ‘myself’, heu ‘yourself, familiar’, geu ‘ourselves’, zeu ‘yourself’, zeuek ‘yourselves’.
  • 7. There is a full range of indefinite pronouns with the structrure “edo ‘or’+ interrogative pronoun”: edonor ‘anyone’, edonori ‘to anyone’, edonora ‘(to) anywhere’, edonondik ‘from anywhere’, edonogaz ‘with anyone’, edozelan ‘anyhow’, edozergatik ‘for any reason’.
  • 8. There is also a full set of indefinite pronouns with the structure “interrogative pronoun + edo + interrogative pronoun” pronouns in Bizkaia: nonor ‘someone’, nonori ‘to someone’, nonora ‘(to) somewhere’, nonondik ‘from somewhere’, nonogaz ‘with someone’, zeozelan ‘somehow’, zeozergatik ‘for some reason’.
  • 9. In most of the Western region, there is -i- in first person singular pronouns: nire ‘my’, niri ‘to me’, nigaz/nikin ‘with me’, nitzat/nitzako/nitako ‘for me’, nigana ‘to(wards) me’, nigandi(k) ‘from me’, etc.

Verb morphology

  • 1. The root of the trivalent transitive auxiliary forms (which include agreement with subject, direct object and indirect object) is eutsi: deustezu (> dostezu) ‘you V it to me’ (standard didazu), deutsu (> dotsu) ‘s/he Vs it to you’ (standard dizu), etc.
  • 2. The root of egin is used in auxiliary verbs in the potential, imperative and subjunctive moods: hartu leiket ‘I can take it’ (standard har dezaket), hartixu ‘take it!’ (standard har ezazu), hartu daigun ‘let’s take it’ (standard har dezagun), etc.
  • 3. The progressive construction with ari izan is not used in Western Basque. Instead, constructions with egon ‘to be, stay’ and ibili ‘to walk’ are used for this purpose: alemana ikesten dago / alemana ikesten dabil ‘s/he is learning German’ (standard alemana ikasten ari da). In the easterly subdialect, jardun ‘to be engaged in’ is also used in constructions with this meaning: alemana ikasten dihardu ‘s/he is learning German’.
  • 4. A distinctive phonological development has occurred in the present tense form of the transitive auxiliary edun: -o- is used as the root vowel, except that the third person has the diphthong -au-: dot ‘I have (it)’, dok ‘you have, masc. fam.’, don ‘you have, fem. fam.’, dau ‘s/he has’, dogu ‘we have’, dozu ‘you-sg have’, dozue ‘you-pl have’, daue (> dabe/daudie) ‘they have’. In the past and related tenses, on the other hand, we find -eu- in some forms of this auxiliary: neuan (> neban) ‘I had’ (standard nuen), euan (> eban) ‘s/he had’ (standard zuen), euen (> eben/eudien) ‘they had’ (standard zuten), neuke ‘I would have’ (standard nuke), leuke ‘s/he would have’ (standard luke), etc.
  • 5. In the bivalent intransitive auxiliary forms (showing agreement with subject and indirect object) there has been a special development: These forms start with j-/y-/dx-/d-, depending on the local variety, instead of the general prefix z. The most common initial consonant is y-: yat ‘it is to me’ (standard zait), yak/yan ‘it is to you fam. masc/fem’, (standard zaik/zain), yako ‘it is to him/her’ (standard zaio), yaku ‘it is to us’ (standard zaigu), yatzu ‘it is to you-sg’ (standard zaizu), yatzue ‘it is to you-pl’ (standard zaizue), yake ‘it is to them’ (standard zaie).
  • 6. In the past tense of the bivalent intransitive auxiliary forms, -(e)n is added to the present root and the prefix zit- is not used: yatan ‘it was to me’ (standard zitzaidan), yakon ‘it is to him/her’ (standard zitzaion), yakun ‘it is to us’ (standard zitzaigun), etc.
  • 7. In the past forms of most verbs, a 3rd person subject is marked with ø-, instead of the prefix z-: eban ‘s/he had (aux.)’ (standard zuen), euken ‘s/he/they had’ (standard zeukan ‘s/he had’, zeukaten ‘they had’), ekien ‘s/he/they knew’ (standard zekien ‘s/he knew’, zekiten ‘they knew’), etorren ‘s/he came’ (standard zetorren), etozen ‘they came’ (standard zetozen), etc.
  • 8. The pluralizer -z has been generalized to almost all verbs: dostez ‘s/he has V-ed them to me (aux.)’ (standard dizkit), jakoz ‘they are to me’ (standard zaizkio), doguz ‘we have them’ (standard ditugu), dagoz ‘they are, stay’ (standard daude), dekoz ‘s/he has them’ (standard dauzka), leikez ‘they could’ (standard daitezke), etc.
  • 9. Borrowed perfective participles with the  Spanish endings -ado and -ido  are adopted as ending in -au (> -a) and -idu respectively, instead of -atu, -itu: aluzinau/aluzina ‘to hallucinate’ (standard aluzinatu), entretenidu ‘to entertain’ (standard entretenitu), etc
  • 10. As a participial ending, the suffix -gi is used instead of general -ki in many verbs: ebagi ‘to cut’ (standard ebaki), erabagi ‘to decide’ (standard erabaki), eralgi ‘to spend’, esegi/ eskegi ‘to hang’, iregi ‘to open’ (standard ireki), jagi ‘to rise’ (standard jaiki). The participial suffix -gi is also used in other areas outside of the Western dialect, for example, in Sakana, Navarre.
  • 11. There are several morphological procedures to form imperfective participles and verbal nouns. On the one hand, the morpheme -ten has a wider distribution than in other areas. This suffix is used (instead of standard -tzen) with verbs whose perfective participle ends in -a, -e, -o, -gi, -ki and -{l, n, r}i: bota ‘throw, perf. part.’ > botaten ‘throwing’ (standard botatzen), bete > beteten ‘filling’ (standard betetzen), jo > joten ‘hitting’ (standard jotzen), jagi > jagiten ‘rising’ (standard jaikitzen), euki > eukiten ‘having’ (standard edukitzen), ibili > ibilten ‘walking’ (standard ibiltzen), imini ~ ipini > iminten ~ ipinten ‘putting’ (standard ipintzen), ekarri > ekarten ‘bringing’ (standard ekartzen), hil > hilten ‘dying; killing’ (standard hiltzen).
    Other options have also emerged in the west. Among those, -etan is the most common. This variant is used mainly with verbs whose perfective participle ends in -au, that is, with loanwords: kantau ‘sing, perf. part.’ > kantetan ‘singing’ (standard kantatzen), pentsau > pentsetan ‘thinking’ (standard pentsatzen). Another common variant, used in most of Bizkaia is -tuten, which is employed with verbs whose perfective participle ends in -tu, -atu, -idu and -itu: apurtu > apurtuten ‘breaking’ (standard apurtzen), konturatu > konturatuten (standard konturatzen), garbitu > garbituten (standard garbitzen), entendidu > entendiduten (standard entenditzen).
  • 12. In complement clauses of verbs of movement indicating purpose, the verb noun takes the inessive case in most of the Western dialectal area, instead of the allative case: ogie erosten urten dau ‘s/he has gone out to buy bread’ (standard ogia erostera irten da).

  • 13. The syntactically intranstitive verbs urten ‘to leave, go out’ and igon ‘to go up’ are conjugated as transitive, with an ergative subject: (nik) urten dot ‘I have left’ (standard (ni) irten ~ atera naiz), (guk) igon dogu ‘we have gone up’ (standard (gu) igo gara).


There are two special variants among the derivational suffixes used in the west:

  • 1. -lan is used as an adverbial suffix in most of the west, instead of common -la: honan ‘like this’ (standard honela), holan ‘like that’ (standard horrela), halan ‘like that’ (standard hala), zelan ‘how’ (standard nola), edozelan ‘anyhow’ (standard edonola), zeozelan ‘somehow’ (standard nola edo hala), etc.
  • 2. The diminutive suffix is -txu in most of Bizkaia: apurtxu bet ‘a little’ (standard apurtxo bat), zeozertxu ‘a little something’ (standard zeozertxo).


  • 1. At the end of yes/no questions, ala ‘or’ is used, with an unexpressed second component: ez zatoz, ala? ‘you are not coming or (what)?’.
  • 2. In concessive clauses, arren ‘although, even though’ was formerly used in other dialects as well, but now it is used only in the Western dialect: eguraldi txarra egin arren, joan egingo gara ‘even if the weather is bad, we will go’.
  • 3. In causative and purpose clauses, a new suffix -t(z)earren has developed: lagunek ikustearren urten dot kalera ‘I have gone out to the street to see my friend’ (standard lagunak ikusteagatik atera naiz kalera).
  • 4. In some complement clauses, the morpheme -(e)na is used instead of -(e)la. This suffix is attached to the auxiliary or conjugated verb when the speaker is completely certain regarding the content of the proposition and there is no narrow focus on any constituent: danok dakigu zeu izan zaiena ‘we all know that it has been you’ (standard denok dakigu zu izan zarela).
  • 5. In time clauses, -(k)eran is widely used in most of Bizkaia: autopistie ordaindukeran izorrau yat txartela ‘when I was paying on the toll road my card got ruined’ (standard autopista ordaintzerakoan izorratu zait txartela).
  • 6. There is a tendency to place demonstratives before the noun in most of the Western area: honek txakurronek eztau ezetarako be balio ‘this dog is not good for anything’ (standard txakur honek ez du ezertarako ere balio).
  • 7. The quantifier bi tends to appear at the end of the noun phrase: urte bi egon da Londresen ‘s/he has been in London for two years (standard bi urte…).

Lexically restricted rules and sporadic changes

The following are some sporadic changes in the Western dialect:

  • 1. At the beginning of certain words, u- is used where the rest of dialects have i- : ule ‘hair’ (ile), untza ‘nail’ (iltze), huri ‘town’ (hiri), urten ‘leave, go out’ (irten), urun ‘flour’ (irin), etc.

  • 2. e > a before the rhotic trill in some words: berdin > bardin ‘same’, berri > barri ‘new’, txerri> txarri ‘pig’, etc

  • 3. At the end of certain words -ain > -an: errain > erran/erren ‘daughter-in-law’, ezpain > ezpan ‘lip’, gain > gan ‘top’, labain > laban ‘knife’, zain > zan ‘guard’.

  • 4. The suffix -to occurs in some adverbs, instead of common -ki: ederto ‘fine’ (standard ederki), polito ‘slowly’ (standard poliki), txarto ‘badly’ (gaizki). The adverbs ondo ‘well’ and hobeto ‘better’ are used in a wider geographical area, including much of the Central dialect zone.


There are many words in Western Basque that are not known in other dialects. A remarkable set is the names of the days of the week: ilen ‘Monday’ (used nowadays only in a very reduced area, standard astelehen), martitzen ‘Tuesday’ (standard astearte), eguazten ‘Wednesday’ (standard asteazken), eguen ‘Thursday’ (standard ostegun), bariku ‘Friday’ (standard ostiral), zapatu ‘Saturday’ (standard larunbat), and domeka ‘Sunday’ (standard igande).

Other words and word meanings that are particular to the Western dialect are the following: amaitu ‘to finish’ (common bukatu), aratuste ‘carnival’ (inauteri), ardi ‘louse’ (arkakuso; in all dialects ardi is also ‘sheep’), arerio ‘enemy’ (etsai), artaziak ‘scissors’ (guraizeak), astiro ‘slowly’ (poliki), atzamar ‘finger’ (hatz), behar ‘work’ (lan; in other dialects behar is ‘need’), berakatz ‘garlic’ (baratxuri), ei ‘seemingly’ (omen), eragin/arazo ‘to cause, make do’ (arazi), gabon zahar ‘New Year’s eve’ (urtezahar), gatx ‘difficult’ (zail; in other dialects gaitz is ‘bad, big’), gatzatu ‘curdled milk’ (mami), isiotu ‘to light (a fire)’ (piztu), jaramon ‘attention’ (kasu), jausi ‘to fall’ (erori), lapiko ‘cooking pot’ (eltze), lar/larregi ‘too much’ (gehiegi), neba ‘brother of a woman’ vs anaia ‘brother of a man’ (in other dialects neba is not used and anaia is both ‘brother of a man’ and ‘brother of a woman’), odoloste ‘blood sausage’ (odolki), txarto ‘badly’ (gaizki), ugaraxo ‘frog’ (igel), ugazaba ‘boss, owner’ (jabe), zelan ‘how’ (nola), etc.

Some borrowed words are also exclusively used in the Western dialect, including the following: abade ‘priest’ (apaiz), amatau ‘to put out a fire’ (itzali), armozu ‘breakfast’ (gosari), berba ‘word’ (hitz), gura ‘to want’ (nahi), olgau ‘to play’ (jolas egin), ortu ‘vegetable garden’ (baratze), oste ‘behind, after’ (atze/ondoren), etc.

Some words that were formerly general or were used in a wider geographical are have been preserved only in the Western dialect: argal ‘thin’ (mehe), bekoki ‘forehead’ (kopeta), ha ‘that over there’ (hura), ipini ‘to put’ (jarri), jaurti ‘to throw’ (bota), orri ‘leaf’ (hosto), etc.

Lexical variants

Many words that are common to all dialects have distinct Western variants: ahizta ‘sister of a woman’ (standard ahizpa), ardao ‘wine’ (ardo), baltz ‘black’ (beltz), barik ‘without’ (gabe), bere (> be) ‘also’ (ere), emon ‘to give’ (eman), ete ‘perhaps’ (ote), gaztai ‘cheese’ (gazta), gitxi ‘little’ (gutxi), guzur ‘lie’ (gezur), hazur ‘bone’ (hezur), itxi ‘to leave, transitive’ (utzi), keixa ‘cherry’ (gerezia), kipula ‘onion’ (tipula), mailuki ‘strawberry’ (marrubi), narru ‘skin’ (larru), txixa ‘piss, urine’ (pixa), etc.


Central Basque


The Central dialect includes the greatest part of Gipuzkoa. The speech of most of the Deba Valley, within Gipuzkoa, belongs to the Western dialect, but the northern part of this valley (Elgoibar, Mendaro and Mutriku) is closer to the Central dialect. This area links the Western and Central dialects. The town of Deba itself belongs to the Central dialect area. The speech of the northeastern towns of the province of Gipuzkoa as well (Errenteria, Lezo, Oiartzun, Hondarribia and Irun) used to have a transitional character, but lately it has become more similar to other Gipuzkoan varieties. Gipuzkoan influence is also noticeable in the western part of Navarre, especially in Araitz-Betelu, but also in Larraun, Basaburua and Imotz. From the 18th century on, the strength and reputation of the Central dialect has increased, and since standard Basque is mostly based on this dialect, its influence is even greater nowadays.

Subdialects and varieties

We may distinguish two subdialects and seven varieties within this dialect. The two subdialects will be referred to as the westerly and easterly subdialects. There are two varieties within the westerly subdialect: Urola Valley and Goierri. Within the easterly subdialect there are also two varieties: Beterri and Tolosa area. There are two intermediate varieties between the Central and Navarrese dialects: The speech of Errenteria, Lezo, Oiartzun, Hondarribia, Irun and Arano, in the north, and the speech of the valleys of Araitz, Larraun, Basaburua and Imotz, in the south.

Main characteristics


  • 1. The pronunciation of j- at the beginning of native Basque words as velar or postvelar fricative [χ] is one of the main characteristics of this dialect: jakin ‘to know’, jan ‘to eat’, jo ‘to hit’, josi ‘to sew’, etc. This pronunciation, however, covers a wider territory, as it is also found in the Deba Valley, the eastern part of Bizkaia, and the region of Sakana in Navarre.

  • 2. The root vowel -e- is found in the present tense of the transitive auxiliary verb *edun: det ‘I have’, dek ‘you-sg have, fam. masc.’, den ‘you-sg have, fam. fem.’, degu ‘we have’, dezu ‘you-sg have’, dezue ‘you-pl have’ (standard dut, duk, dun, dugu, duzu, duzue).

  • 3. In morphologically plural forms of the present tense of the copula izan ‘to be’ (which also functions as intransitive auxiliary), the stem bears the vowel -e-: gera ‘we are’, zera ‘you-sg are’, zerate ‘you-pl are’ (standard gara, zara, zarete).

  • 4. There is a tendency to reduce the diphthong -au- > -a- in transitive auxiliary verb forms: nauk/naun > nak/nan ‘you-sg fam. masc/fem. have me’, nauzu > nazu ‘you-sg have me’, nauzue > nazue ‘you-pl have me’.
  • 5. The pronoun NOR ‘who’ has been lost and replaced by ZEIN ‘which’: Zein etorri da? ‘who came?’.
  • 6. A Gipuzkoan innovation is the use of the verbal forms nijoa ‘I go’, dijoa ‘s/he goes’, dijoaz ‘they go’, nijoan ‘I went’ (standard noa, doa, doaz, nindoan) of the verb joan ‘to go’.

  • 7. In a large area of Gipuzkoa, some allocutive forms add a consonant -tx-: nago ‘I am, stay’ > natxiok/natxion, nator ‘I come’ > natxetorrek/natxetorren, nion ‘I had it to him’ > nitxuan/nitxionan, etc.
  • 8. Another innovation in Gipuzkoan Basque is the use of the -zki- pluralizer instead of -it- in allocutive forms of *edun: ditut ‘I have them’ > dizkiat/dizkinat (standard ditiat/ditinat).
  • 9. In a large area of Gipuzkoa there is a potential construction with eduki ‘to have’ or egon ‘to be, stay’ and the verbal noun: badakat ekartzia/badago ekartzia ‘I can bring it’ (standard ekar dezaket). This construction is also used in Araitz-Betelu, in Navarre.
  • 10. There is a strong tendency to use the particle al in yes/no questions: etorriko al haiz? ‘will you come?’.

Lexically restricted rules and sporadic changes

The following are some of the most important lexically restricted rules and sporadic changes in the Central dialect:

  • 1. The tendency to lower e > a before a trill is stronger in this dialect than elsewhere: baserri > basarri ‘farmhouse’, eder > edar ‘beautiful’, eguberri > eguarri ‘Christmas’, eguerdi > eguardi ‘midday’, izerdi > izardi ‘sweat’, izter > iztar ‘thigh’, musker > muskar ‘lizard’, piper > pipar ‘pepper’, puzker > puzkar ‘fart’, etc.
  • 2. In Gipuzkoan Basque, the suffix -(r)aka is used to indicate direction: honeaka ‘towards here’, horreaka ‘towards there’ and hareaka ‘towards over there’, goraka ‘upwards’ and beheraka ‘downwards’, aurreaka ‘foreward’ and atzeaka ‘backwards’, ezkerreaka ‘leftward’ and eskubiaka ‘rightward’, barruaka ‘inwards’ and kanpoaka ‘outwards’, etxeaka ‘homeward’, kaleaka ‘towards the street’. The use of this suffix is especially frequent among the younger generations.


These are some of the most characteristic words of the Central dialect: aitona ‘grandfather’, amona ‘grandmother’, apreta ‘espadrille’, aurrena ‘first’, babarrun ‘bean’, beta ‘free time’, egutera ‘sunny side’, eskumin ‘best regards’, esnatu ‘to wake up’, hots egin ‘to call’, iritsi ‘to arrive’, isats ‘tail’, iskanbila ‘uproar’, jator ‘authentic, trustworthy’, jela ‘ice’, jipoi ‘hit, blow’, kilker ‘cricket’, korrika ‘running’, labezomorro ‘cockroach’, legamia ‘yeast’, mami ‘curdled milk’, mikatz ‘bitter’, mizto ‘sting’, neskame ‘maid’, peto ‘authentic’, simaur ‘manure’, triku ‘hedgehog’, txukun ‘neat’, ukuilu ‘farm yard’, zilbor/txilbor ‘navel’. There are some unique month names too: ilbeltz ‘January’, garagarril ‘June’, agor ‘September’.


Among the Central variants of common words, these are the most widespread: apaiz ‘priest’ (instead of apez), bezela ‘like, as’ (bezala), bixki ‘twin’ (biki), ebi ‘rain’ (euri), elbi ‘fly’ (euli), eskubi ‘right hand’ (eskuin), gutxi ‘little’ (guti), iltze ‘nail’ (itze), ipui ‘tale’ (ipuin), irentsi ‘swallow’ (iretsi), labana ‘knife’ (nabala), osin ‘nettle’ (asun), pake ‘peace’ (bake), parra ‘laughter’ (barre), sapai ‘ceiling’ (sabai), txilar ‘pea’ (ilar, kiñar), tximu ‘monkey’ (tximino), etc.


Navarrese Basque


Pamplona, whose Basque name is Iruñea, was the most important city of the Basque Country in the Middle Ages and it appears that many innovations spread from there to the surrounding areas at this time. Many of those innovations spread to the entirety of the Basque Country. Some other innovations, on the other hand, were confined to Navarre, and these are the ones that will be mentioned here.

It is relevant to point out that some of the areas in the north of Navarre, which are far from Pamplona, historically have been more strongly connected to other towns in the Northern Basque Country. Due to this, many Navarrese innovations have not spread to these northern areas, where instead other innovations arising in the Northern Basque Country have taken a hold. The valleys of Roncal/Erronkari, Salazar/Zaraitzu, Aezkoa, Luzaide and Baztan are the main areas of Navarre whose speech has developed rather independently from the rest of the province.

The western regions of Navarre have also been closer to some Gipuzkoan towns than to Pamplona in terms of interaction and trade. Moreover, from the 18th century on, the influence of Gipuzkoan Basque has clearly increased in this area, as Pamplona became a Spanish-speaking city. Thus, in the regions of Araitz-Betelu, Larraun, Basaburua and Imotz the influence of Gipuzkoan Basque is evident. This is also the case in Bortziriak, Malerreka and the western part of Sakana.

Subdialects and varieties

There are four subdialects and three varieties within Navarrese Basque. The four subdialects are the following: a) the northwesterly subdialect, spoken in Bortziriak, Bertizarana, Malerreka and in some towns close to these valleys (Beintza-Labaien, Saldias and Goizueta), b) the southwesterly subdialect, spoken in the center of the Sakana valley, between Etxarri Aranatz and Arruazu, c) the middle subdialect, spoken in the valleys of Ultzama, Atetz, Odieta, Lantz and Anue and in the town of Muskitz in Imotz, and d) the easterly subdialect, spoken in the valleys of Esteribar and Erroibar.

There are also three distinctive varieties: a) The variety of Burunda, which links the Western, Central and Navarrese dialects, b) the variety of the region of Baztan-Urdazubi-Zugarramurdi, which links the Navarrese and Navarrese-Lapurdian dialects, and c) the variety of the Aezkoa Valley, which links the Navarrese and Navarrese-Lapurdian dialects.

Main characteristics


  • 1. There is a strong stress-accent in most of the dialect’s area. In the central and eastern subdialects, the stress falls on the penultimate syllable: launbéta ‘Saturday’, launeindéko ‘for the friend’, for example, in Baztan. The stress is also strong in the northwestern variety, but in this area it falls on the second syllable counting from the beginning of the word: larúnta ‘Saturday’. The stress is not as strong in the southwestern subdialect.
  • 2. There is a strong tendency to delete unstressed vowels; aphaeresis and syncope are frequent. This has resulted in variants like ekarri > kárri ‘to bring’, ikusi > kúsi ‘to see’, through the deletion of word-initial vowels, and also in variants like aberats > ábrats ‘rich, wealthy’, atera > átra ‘to take out’, batere > bátre ‘at all’ where the post-tonic vowel has been lost. These phenomena are not found in the southwestern subdialect.
  • 3. In loanwords from Spanish, the endings -on and -ion are kept unaltered: balkona ‘the balcony’ (standard balkoia), limona ‘the lemon’, abiona ‘the airplane’, kamiona ‘the truck, lorry’, etc.
  • 4. In the instrumental case, the suffix -s is employed instead of common -z: burus ‘lit. by head’ (standard buruz), eskus ‘by hand’, oines ‘by foot’, etc. This does not occur in the northwestern subdialect, the region of Baztan-Zugarramurdi-Urdazubi or Burunda.
  • 5. In 2nd person singular familiar verb forms, there is a tendency to attach initial y- in most of Navarre: yaiz ‘you are, fam.’ (standard haiz), yabil ‘you walk, fam.’ (standard habil), etc.
  • 6. In the central and eastern subdialects of Navarrese, the pluralizer -it- is employed in trivalent verb forms (instead of -zki-): ditit (> ttit) ‘s/he Vs them to me’ (standard dizkit), ditio (> ttio) ‘s/he Vs them to him/her’ (standard dizkio), nittion ‘I Vd them to him/her’ (standard nizkion), etc.
  • 7. In past tense bivalent instransitive auxiliary forms, the root -ki- is used in most of Navarre: zakidan ‘it was to me’ (standard zitzaidan), zakion ‘it was to him/her’ (standard zitzaion), etc. The northwestern subdialect and the region of Baztan-Zugarramurdi-Urdazubi are not included within the geographical area of these variants. In the center of Sakana, the root -ki- is used not only in the past, but also in present tense forms: dakit ‘it is to me’ (standard zait), dakik/dakin ‘it is to you fam., masc./fem.’ (standard zaik/zain), dakiyo ‘it is to him/her’ (standard zaio), etc.

Lexically restricted rules and sporadic changes

A noteworthy lexically-restricted change is the development of g- before the word-initial diphthong ua- (from oa-). Some examples are: gua/guaye ‘you go, fam.’ (standard hoa), guai ‘now’ (orain), guartu ‘to realize’ (ohartu), guatze ‘bed’ (ohe).


Here are some unique words used in the Navarrese dialect: arroitu/asots ‘noise’, at(r)ija ‘sneeze’, banabar ‘white bean’, barride ‘neighborhood’, beratz ‘soft’, dermio ‘terrain’, goatze ‘bed’, jainkoaren gerriko / jainkoaren paxa ‘rainbow’ (lit. ‘God’s belt’), listu ‘spit, saliva’, orantz ‘yeast’, ostots/ortots ‘thunder’, ugalde ‘river’.

The names of some months also have a special form in Navarrese: izotzil ‘January’ (standard urtarril), garagarzaro ‘June’ (ekain), garil ‘July’ (uztail), urri ‘September’ (irail), lastail ‘October’ (urri).

Lexical variants

The main Navarrese lexical variants of common words are the following: atzendu ‘to forget’ (ahaztu), aunitz/aunditz ‘many, much’ (anitz), bulkatu ‘to push’ (bultzatu). The following forms are used in a more limited area: altzin ‘front’ (aitzin), altzur/ailtzur ‘hoe’ (aitzur), eke ‘smoke’ (ke), ekendu ‘to take away, remove’ (kendu), erte ‘between’ (arte), ertsi ‘close’ (itxi), esene ‘milk’ (esne), esenatu ‘to wake up’ (esnatu), negel/legen ‘frog’ (igel).


Navarrese-Lapurdian Basque


The (Low) Navarrese-Lapurdian dialect is spoken in Lapurdi, Low Navarre, the Luzaide Valley in Navarre, and some towns in the northwestern part of Zuberoa (Domintxaine-Berroeta, Etxarri, Arüe-Ithorrotze-Olhaibi, Lohitzüne-Oihergi and Pagola).

Subdialects and varieties

There are two main subdialects within Navarrese-Lapurdian: a) The westerly subdialect, spoken in western Lapurdi, and b) the easterly subdialect, spoken in eastern Lapurdi and Low Navarre. There is an intermediate variety between these two: That of the center area of Lapurdi, where Uztaritze is located. There is also one variety, that of Amikuze, spoken in that region, as well as in the town of Bardoze in Lapurdi, and the northwestern area of Zuberoa. This variety creates a bridge between the Navarrese-Lapurdian and the Zuberoan dialect.

Main characteristics


  • 1. In most of the area of this dialect, the palatalization of i is uncommon; the sequences il, in and it are pronounced as such, without undergoing palatalization: edozeini ‘to anyone’, gainetik ‘on top’, etxezaina ‘the house keeper’, etxeraino ‘up to the house’, etc. Furthermore, there has been a tendency to undo palatalization in Romance loanwords as well: bainu ‘bath’ (cf. Spanish baño), botoila ‘bottle’ (cf. Spanish botella). Depalatalization is no longer productive. The speech of both border areas within this dialect break its unity in this respect: There is a slight tendency to palatalize in areas close to Zuberoa, and this tendency is even stronger in the coastal area of Lapurdi.
  • 2. At the beginning of words, the prepalatal fricative x- is used instead of the affricate tx-: ximino ‘monkey’, xingarra ‘ham’, xirula ‘a type of flute’, xoko ‘corner’, xori ‘bird’. An exception is txar ‘bad’.
  • 3. Indefinite pronouns derived from question words show infixation instead of prefixation: nor ‘who’ > nehor ‘no one, anyone’ (standard inor); nork ‘who, ergative’ > nehork ‘anyone, ergative’, (standard inork); nori ‘to whom’ > nehori ‘to anyone’ (standard inori); non ‘where’ > nehun ‘anywhere’ (standard inon); nondik ‘from where, whence’ > nehundik ‘from anywhere’ (standard inondik); nora ‘(to) where, whither’ > nehorat ‘to anywhere’ (standard inora), etc. In past times, similar pronouns were used in some areas of Navarre, but they seem to have arisen in the Northern Basque Country, probably in Lapurdi.
  • 4. The most common diminutive suffix is -ño: baño ‘only one’, haurño ‘little kid’, poxiño ‘a little bit’, etc.
  • 5. In borrowings, the ending -on becomes -oin: arrazoina ‘the reason’ (standard arrazoia), botoina ‘the button’ (botoia), kantoina ‘the corner’ (kantoia), sasoina ‘the season’ (sasoia). More recent French loanwords tend to be adapted with -ona: balona ‘the ball’, marrona ‘the chestnut’, etc.
  • 6. In old loanwords, Romance -age > -aia: bisaia ‘face, visage’, lengoaia ‘language’, kuraia ‘courage’, salbaia ‘savage’, usaia ‘usage’, etc. This adaptation rule is no longer productive and more recent loanwords take -adxa instead (in Basque spelling dx is a voiced prepalatal fricative, like French j): depanadxa (< Fr. dépannage) ‘repair’, rezikladxa (< Fr. recyclage) ‘recycling’, etc.


These are some of the words that are unique to this dialect: altxagarri ‘yeast’, auzapez ‘mayor’, azantz/harrabots ‘noise’, babazuza ‘hail’, biziki ‘very’, buruil ‘September’, elkor ‘deaf’, fitsik ‘nothing’, gako ‘key’, guri ‘soft’, kalapita ‘commotion’, ortzantz ‘thunder’, otto ‘uncle’, pairatu ‘to suffer’, parada ‘opportunity’, pittika ‘kid (goat)’, sehi ‘servant’, urririk ‘free of charge’, urtzintz ‘sneeze’, xingar ‘ham’.

Lexical variants

These are some of the most remarkable word variants in this dialect: ahantzi ‘to forget’ (ahaztu), arno ‘wine’ (ardo), biper ‘pepper’ (piper), botoila ‘bottle’ (botila), buraso ‘parent’ (guraso), elgar ‘each other’ (elkar), ereman ‘to take, carry’ (eraman), eskuara ‘Basque language’ (euskara), fruitu ‘fruit’ (fruta), giristino ‘Christian’ (kristau), hogoi ‘twenty’ (hogei), irrisku ‘risk, danger’ (arrisku), jakintsun ‘wise, learned’ (jakintsu), kondatu ‘to tell a story’ (kontatu), saindu ‘holy, saint’ (santu).


Zuberoan Basque


The Zuberoan dialect is spoken in most of Zuberoa (in French, Pays de Soule), except for some small northwestern towns and villages: The towns whose speech deviates from Zuberoan are Domintxaine-Berroeta, Arüe-Ithorrotze-Olhaibi, Lohitzüne-Oihergi, Etxarri and Pagola. These towns are not far from Donapaleu (in French Saint-Palais) in Low Navarre, and this proximity is also evident in the language spoken there. On the other hand, Zuberoan Basque is also spoken in the village of Eskiula, in Béarn.

Main characteristics

For centuries, Zuberoans have lived quite apart from other Basques, and the consequences of this separation are also noticeable in the language: There is a sharp linguistic boundary between Low Navarre and Zuberoa. In the past, Zuberoans have been in close contact with people in the Gascon-speaking region of Béarn, and this contact with Bearnese Gascon is at the origin of many distinctive characteristics of the Zuberoan dialect.

Nevertheless this separation from the rest of the Basque Country has not been complete. As mentioned before, the northwestern area of Zuberoa has had much contact with the Low Navarrese town of Donapaleu. On the other hand, the southern towns of the province, close to the Pyrenees, had much communication with Roncal/Erronkari, on the other side of the mountain chain and across the political border. Roncalese Basque (which is no longer spoken) was profoundly influenced by Zuberoan. Thus, many features of Zuberoan can also be found in the speech of neighboring regions of Low Navarre and in Roncal.

Another fact that needs to be highlighted in this connection is the remarkable unity of the Zuberoan dialect. It seems that some time ago the speech of the region of Basabürü, in the southern mountainous area, was different from the rest. Arnaud Oihenart was the first to point this out, in his collection of poetry and proverbs published in 1657. More recently, however, the Basque of all of Zuberoa has tended to level, and, in spite of some small differences, there are no clearly distinct subdialects or varieties.

Most of the distinctive features of Zuberoan are found in the realm of phonology and in the lexicon. As mentioned before, some of these features reflect historical influence from Gascon.


Vowels, consonants and word-stress will be discussed in this section.


  • 1. The vowel u becomes ü (front round high vowel, like French u): ezagun > ezágün ‘know’. This is a regular sound change, but it failed to operate in certain phonological contexts: before r, rd, rth and sometimes, s, the vowel u remains unchanged, as in gúe ‘our’ (gure), úrdin ‘blue’ (urdin), úrthe ‘year’ (urte), ikhúsi ‘to see’ (ikusi).
  • 2. As a strong tendency we also find the change o > u. This occurs also in other areas of the Northern Basque Country, but mostly before nasal consonants: honetan > hunetan/huntan ‘in this’. In Zuberoa, this change also takes place in other environments: nola > núla ‘how’, zoin > zuñ ‘which’, laborari > labuái ‘farmer’.
  • 3. There is long distance assimilation of high vowels: i – u > u – u > ü – ü: inguru > üngürü > üngü ‘around, surrounding area’, zintzur > züntzür ‘throat’. The opposite assimilation also occurs: u – i > u – u > ü – ü, as in burdina > bürdüña ‘iron’, hurritz > ürrütz ‘hazelnut’.
  • 4. The diphthong -au- becomes -ai-: gauza > gáiza ‘thing’. There are exceptions too: before r, s and ts, -au- is kept unchanged, as in lau (< laur) ‘four’, gaur ‘today’, ausártü ‘to dare’, háutse ‘to break’. We also find -au- after j-: jaun ‘lord’.
  • 5. Until recently, nasal vowels, as in ardũ ‘wine’, had been preserved in Zuberoa, but these are no longer used by the younger generations.


  • 1. Besides the six usual voiceless sibilants of Basque (s, x, z, ts, tx, tz), Zuberoan Basque also possesses voiced fricatives. Fricatives are voiced between vowels and before voiced consonants; in words like deségin ‘to undo’, gazná ‘the cheese’.
  • 2. The pronunciation of j is special: It is pronounced like French j. In Basque dialectological studies this voiced prepalatal fricative consonant is often transcribed as <dx>: dxákin ‘to know’ (jakin), garádxe ‘garage’.
  • 3. The sporadic deletion of the intervocalic rhotic flap r is found on all dialects (e.g. etxera > etxea ‘to the house’). In Zuberoan this has had the status of a regular sound change: erori > eói ‘to fall’, haragi > ági ‘meat’. Very recent loanwords preserve the consonant, e.g. turísta ‘tourist’. Apart from this, trills become taps intervocalically: erran > éran ‘to say’.
  • 4. Aspiration has been better preserved in Zuberoa than in any other dialect. In addition to /h/, there are aspirated plosives and aspiration is found after another consonant in the clusters lh, nh, ñh and rh: aiphátü ‘to mention’, béthi ‘always’, ékhi ‘sun’, bélhar ‘grass’, sénhar ‘husband,’ eñhéik ‘tired’, ürhéntü ‘to finish’. Until recently, in intervocalic position there was a contrast between nasalized and oral aspiration. Words like uhue ‘honor’ were systematically pronounced with nasalized aspiration (and nasalization of the vowels).
  • 5. Many words have t and k after n and l, instead of d and g, respectively: álte ‘side’ (standard alde), igánte ‘Sunday’ (igande).
  • 6. Borrowings ending in -on and -ion in the source language used to be pronounced with a nasalized and stressed -ú: arrazú ‘reason’ (standard arrazoi), kamiú ‘truck, lorry’ (kamioi). Nowadays, however, the nasality of the vowel has been lost.

Word stress


There is a strong stress-accent in Souletin Basque, and it is most commonly placed in the penultimate syllable: lagünáen ‘of the friend’ (lagunaren). It some words it falls on the final syllable instead. Many words with final stress are loanwords. Final stress may also be the result of a contraction. Some loanwords with final stress are, for instance, bedezí ‘doctor, physician’ (< Fr. médecin), godalét ‘glass, goblet’ and errejént ‘teacher’. A well-known contraction occurs when the article -a is added to words ending in -a; resulting in -a + a > -áa > -á. Because of this contraction, the position of the stress distinguishes the definite singular form alhabá ‘the daughter’ from the indefinite form alhába ‘daughter’. The position of the word-stress also serves to differentiate singular and plural forms. In the plural, the stress falls on the last syllable (except in the absolutive case): sing. lagǘnak ‘the friend, erg.’ / pl. lagünék ‘the friends, erg.’, sing. lagünái ‘to the friend’ / pl. lagünér ‘to the friends’, sing. lagünáen ‘of the friend’ / pl. lagünén ‘of the friends’. In words ending in a vowel, vowel sequences may be reduced, resulting also on stress on the last syllable: itsasoak > itxasúak > itxasúk ‘the seas’, itsasoan > itxasúan > itxasún ‘on the sea’. The loss of intervocalic r has also given rise to many words with final stress: ogirik > ogíik > ogík ‘bread, part.’.

Noun Morphology

  • 1. The definite article is used less in Zuberoan than in other dialects. The omission of the article occurs mainly in three cases:
    • a. When the noun phrase is an attribute: gue aitá záhar da ‘our father is old’ (standard gure aita zaharra da).
    • b. When the noun has collective or mass interpretation: ógi badít ‘I have bread’ (ogia badut).
    • c. In questions: ógi badea? ‘is there bread?’ (ogia bada?).
  • 2. Proper names and common nouns take different suffixes in the ablative and allative cases. In the ablative case, proper names take the suffix -rik, while common nouns take -tik. Thus, Máule(r)ik jin da ‘s/he has come from Maule’ (standard Mauletik etorri da) vs mendítik jin da ‘s/he has come from the mountain’.

    In the allative case, proper nouns take the suffix -ra(t) and common nouns take either -ála or -alát: Máule(r)a jun da ‘s/he has gone to Maule’, bortilát jun da ‘s/he has gone to the mountains’.

    It is also remarkable that common nouns take the article before the allative suffix, even if it can be deleted on the surface by contraction: bortüalát > bortialát > bortilát.

Verb morphology

  • 1. The forms of the trivalent auxiliary appear to belong to the verb *eradun, but they have had a complex phonological development. The historical development may have been this: *-eradu- > *-erau- > *-erai- >- erei >- ei-. Compare: *deraut > deit ‘s/he has it to me’ (standard dit), deiót ‘I have it to him/her’ (diot), déikü ‘s/he has it to us’ (digu), etc.
  • 2. Both in trivalent and in intransitive bivalent forms, the plural is marked with -(t)z-, instead of the central and standard infix -zki-. Compare: deitzót ‘I have them to him’ (standard dizkiot), zaitzo ‘they are to him’ (zaizkio).
  • 3. Past tense intransitive bivalent forms are created by adding the ending -(e)n to the present tense verb forms, and the Central and standard prefix zit- is not employed. Compare: zéitan ‘it was to me’ (standard zitzaidan), zeión ‘it was to him’ (zitzaion).
  • 4. The older structure “participle + -rik” is employed in stative constructions, instead of making use of the suffixes -ta and -a. Compare, for instance, konektatü(r)ik nük ‘I am connected’.
  • 5. In addition to the general progressive construction with ari izan there is another construction with erauntsi (> iáuntsi): labuantzán iáuntsi dit eretrétala artíno ‘I have been engaged in farming until my retirement’.


Zuberoan Basque has many unique words, not used in other dialects. These include many old loanwords: baranthalla ‘February’, boronte ‘forehead’, godalet ‘drinking glass’, kota ‘skirt’, uñhu ‘onion’, etc.

Some other words used to have a wider geographical extension and have been preserved only in Zuberoa: ediren ‘to find’, oski ‘shoe’, zi ‘acorn’, etc.

The following words seem to have originated in Zuberoa: amiñi ‘a little’, arramaiatz ‘June’, bedatse ‘Spring (season)’, belhagile ‘witch’, düründa/ühülgu ‘thunder’, haboro ‘more’, heltübada ‘perhaps’, pikarrai ‘naked’, ürhentü ‘to finish’.

Lexical variants

There are many distinct lexical variants in Zuberoan as well. These are some of the most important ones: ardú ‘wine’ (standard ardo), bohor ‘mare’ (behor), ejer ‘beautiful’ (eder), ertzo ‘crazy’ (ero), -gerren ‘-nth’ (-garren), khirixti ‘Christian’ (kristau), lein (> leñ) ‘soft’ (leun), mithil ‘boy’ (mutil), -tarzün ‘-ness’ (-tasun), ükhen ‘to have’ (ukan), zelü ‘sky, heaven’ (zeru).




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Oneka Alvarez / Xabier Eizagirre / Arantza Flores / Nahia Grande / Eva Hidalgo / Iñaki Iñarra / June Lauzirika / Teresa Portugal