Basque Language Survival in Rural Communities From the Pays Basque, France
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In comparison to the Basque country in Spain, the Pays Basque in France is very small; its three provinces cover an area of only approximately 2,500 square miles, somewhat more than half the total of the "Departement" of Atlantic Pyrenees. Furthermore, unlike its Spanish counterpart, the Pays Basque is almost completely devoid of substantial industry as well as of any major urban centers. The only exception is the city of Bayonne. It has been observed in that rural areas are more favorable to the preservation ofminority languages and cultures than urban ones. Thus it may be hypothesized that the chances of maintenance of the Basque language may be higher in France than in Spain. In order to attempt to evaluate the Basque language's chances of survival% on the French side of the border, the authors decided, in 1976, to carry out a survey on the use of Basque and French for communication, by Basque children enrolled in elementary schools and by their parents, in order to compare language use of the two groups. Furthermore, the children's language use was investigated as a function of several extralinguistic variables: age of children, locale of communication, socioeconomic status of the parents, etc. In all, four elementary French language public schools (écoles communales) were surveyed. They are located in four neighboring' mountain villages situated near Donibane Garazi (St. Jean Pied de Port) in the Pyrenees: Bussunaritz, Mendive, Lecumberry, and Ahaxe. Since the population of these villages is composed mainly of farmers and of people of Basque extraction, they may be looked upon as settings most favorable to Basque language and culture preservation. For this reason the results of our study will probably represent a conservative measure of Basque language retention. Because of this, we intend to carry out later a similar survey in the neighboring town of St. Jean Pied de Port; a community which is much more open to the outside world. Such a survey should enable us to see whether, with respect to language retention, the Basque children of a relatively me urbanized community differ from the children of typically rural communities. Given the geographical limitations of the present survey, it must be regarded as only exploratory. However, since to our knowledge this survey is the first of its kind, its results should be of interest to all those concerned with the maintenance of Basque culture and language.