Basque (Basque: Euskara, pronounced [eus̺kaɾa]) is the ancestral language of the Basque people, who inhabit the Basque Country, a region spanning an area in northeastern Spain and southwestern France. It is spoken by 25.7% of Basques in all territories (665,800 out of 2,589,600). Of these, 614,000 live in the Spanish part of the Basque country and the remaining 51,800 live in the French part. In academic discussions of the distribution of Basque in Spain and France, it is customary to refer to three ancient provinces in France and four Spanish provinces. Native speakers are concentrated in a contiguous area including parts of the Spanish Autonomous Communities of the Basque Autonomous Community (Spanish: País Vasco; Euskara: Euskadi) and Navarre and in the western half of the French Département of Pyrénées-Atlantiques. The Autonomous Community of País Vasco/Euskadi is an administrative entity within the binational ethnographic Basque Country incorporating the traditional Spanish provinces of Biscay, Gipuzkoa, and Álava, which retain their existence as politico-administrative divisions. These provinces and many areas of Navarre are heavily populated by ethnic Basques, but the Euskara language had, at least until the 1990s, all but disappeared from most of Álava, western parts of Biscay and central and southern areas of Navarre. In southwestern France, the ancient Basque-populated provinces were Labourd, Lower Navarre, and Soule. They and other regions were consolidated into a single département in 1790 under the name Basses-Pyrénées, a name which persisted until 1970. A standardized form of the Basque language, called Euskara Batua, was developed by the Basque Language Academy in the late 1960s. Euskara Batua was created so that Basque language could be used—and easily understood by all Basque speakers. This standard Basque is taught and used as a teaching language (as an option, together with standard Spanish) at most educational levels in the Spanish part of the Basque Country, while the intensity, status and funding by state bodies to Basque language instruction varies depending on the area. In France, the Basque language school Seaska and the association for a bilingual (Basque and French) schooling Ikasbi meet a wide range of Basque language educational needs up to the Sixth Form. while often struggling to surmount financial and administrative constraints.
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The 2006 sociolinguistic survey of all Basque provinces showed that in 2006 of all people aged 16 and above: in the Basque Autonomous Community, 30.1% were fluent Basque speakers, 18.3% passive speakers and 51.5% did not speak Basque. The percentage was highest in Gipuzkoa (49.1% speakers) and lowest in Ă lava (14.2%). These results represent an increase on previous years (29.5% in 2001, 27.7% in 1996 and 24.1% in 1991). The highest percentage of speakers can now be found in the 16-24 age range (57.5%) vs 25.0% in the 65+ age range. In Iparralde, 22.5% were fluent Basque speakers, 8.6% passive speakers and 68.9% did not speak Basque. The percentage was highest in Labourd and Soule (55.5% speakers) and lowest. In the Bayonne-Anglet-Biarritz conurbation (8.8%). These results represent another decrease on previous years (24.8% in 2001 and 26.4 in 1996). The highest percentage of speakers is in the 65+ age range (32.4%). The lowest percentage is found in the 25-34 age range (11.6%) but there is a slight increase in the 16-24 age range (16.1%) In Navarre 11.1% were fluent Basque speakers, 7.6% passive speakers and 81.3% did not speak Basque. The percentage was highest in the so-called Basque Zone in the North (60.1% speakers) and lowest in the non-Basque Zone in the South (1.9%). These results represent a slight increase on previous years (10.3% in 2001, 9.6% in 1996 and 9.5% in 1991). The highest percentage of speakers can now be found in the 16-24 age range (19.1%) vs 9.1% in the 65+ age range. Taken together, in 2006 out of a total population of 2,589,600 (1,850,500 in the Autonomous Community, 230,200 in the Northern Provinces and 508,900 in Navarre), there were 665,800 who spoke Basque (aged 16 and above). This amounts to 25.7% Basque bilinguals overall, 15.4% passive speakers and 58.9% non-speakers. Compared to the 1991 figures this represents an overall increase from 528,500 (out of a population of 2,371,100 in 1991) to 665,800 (in 2006)
Currently, the predominant languages in the Spanish Basque Country and French Basque Country are, respectively, Spanish and French. In the historical process of forging themselves as nation-states, both Spanish and French governments have, at times, tried to suppress Basque linguistic identity. The language chosen for public education is the most obvious expression of this phenomenon, something which surely had an effect in the current status of Basque. Despite being spoken in a relatively small territory, the rugged features of the Basque countryside and the historically low population density resulted in Basque being a historically heavily dialectalised language, which increased the value of both Spanish and French, respectively, as lingua francas. In this regard, the current Batua standard of the Basque language was only introduced by the end of the 20th century, which helped Basque move away from being perceived – even by its own speakers – as a language unfit for educational purposes. While the French Republics –the epitome of the nation-state– have a long history of attempting the complete cultural absorption of ethnic minority groups —including the French Basques— Spain, in turn, has at most points in its history granted some degree of linguistic, cultural, and political autonomy to its Basques. Basques have been historically overrepresented both in the Spanish Marine and military ever since the time of the Spanish Empire until recently, same as Basque ports have been historically crucial to inland Spain. But under the regime of Francisco Franco, the government tried to suppress the newly born Basque nationalism, as it had fought on the Republican side of the Spanish Civil War in Gipuzkoa and Biscay. In general, during these years, cultural activity in Basque was limited to folkloric issues and the Roman Catholic Church, while a higher, yet still limited degree of tolerance was granted to Basque culture and language in Álava and Navarre, since both areas mostly supported Francoist troops during the war. Nowadays, the Basque Country within Spain enjoys an extensive cultural and political autonomy and Basque is an official language along with Spanish. In Spain, it is favoured by a set of language policies sponsored by the Basque regional government which aim at the generalization of its use. It is spoken by approximately a quarter of the total Basque Country, its stronghold being the contiguous area formed by Guipúzcoa, northern Navarre and the Pyrenean French valleys. It is not spoken natively in most of Álava, western Biscay and the southern half of Navarre. Of a total estimation of some 650,000 Basque speakers, approximately 550,000 live in the Spanish Basque country, the rest in the French. The Basque education system in Spain has three types of schools differentiated by their linguistic teaching models: A, B and D. Model D, with education entirely in Basque, and Spanish as a compulsory subject, is the most widely chosen model by parents. In Navarre there is an additional G model, with education entirely in Spanish. In Navarre the ruling conservative government of Unión del Pueblo Navarro opposes Basque nationalist attempts to provide education in Basque through all Navarre (which would include areas where it is not traditionally spoken). Basque language teaching in the public education network is therefore limited to the Basque speaking north and central regions. In the central region, Basque teaching in the public education network is fairly limited, and part of the existing demand is served via private schools or ikastolak. Spanish is spoken by the entire population, with few exceptions in remote rural areas. The situation of the Basque language in the French Basque Country is tenuous[vague], where monolingual public schooling in French exert great pressure on the Basque language. Basque teaching is mainly in private schools, or ikastolak.
The modern dialects of Basque according to 21st-century dialectology. Western (Biscayan) Central (Gipuzkoan) Upper Navarrese Lower Navarrese-Lapurdian Souletin (Zuberoan) other Basque areas ca 1850 (Bonaparte) The modern Basque dialects show a high degree of dialectal divergence, sometimes making cross-dialect communication difficult. This is especially true in the case of Bizkaian and Zuberoan, which are regarded as the most divergent Basque dialects. Modern Basque dialectology distinguishes five dialects: The Western dialect The Central dialect Upper Navarrese Lower Navarrese-Lapurdian Souletin (Zuberoan) These dialects are divided in 11 sub-dialects, their minor varieties being 24.
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