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buber.net > Basque > Astro > On Basque Astronymy: The Names of the Sun
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On Basque Astronymy: The Names of the Sun

by M. G. Ramos

Tr: Blas Pedro Uberuaga

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The Names of the Sun

3. Guillermo de Humboldt, referring to the Bizkaians, that is, to the Basques, said that this people make use of, in general, complex signs for ideas that the other languages express with simple signs, such as moon, sun, etc.

But, do we know exactly the etymology of the names of the sun in the Indo-Germanic languages? Comparing the English sun with the Icelandic sol, the Sanskrit sura, surya, the Vedic súvar, etc., is not equivalent to giving the etymology. Sun is, as an etymologic dictionary says (Chambers'), ``an old word of unknown etymology.'' As to the complexity, the Basque eki `sun' does not appear much more complex than, e.g., the Latin sol. If it is argued that eki is probably the result of a contraction, we have the same in the case of Latin and Icelandic. (Walde, Pictet).

What do the names of the sun mean? To discover their primitive meaning and the semantic evolution, we must reach to the Vedic súvar, svàr `sun, light, sky'. In the other languages of the large Indo- European family the names of the sun usually are meros signs that don't define the expressed object [+].

4. What are the names of the sun in Basque? There does not exist, far from it, the variety of Sanskrit, but on the other hand the phonetic variants abound. There are two groups that can be formed: eguzki and eki. Variants of the first are: euzki, eguski, eguzku, iguzki, iuzki, iruzki, iruski, iluzki, iluski, iduzki, and eguzgi. All of these forms are distributed throughout the various Basque dialects of Spain and France [+]. Dechepare employs the form ydusqui(a) next to iguzqui(a). Eguzquia is one of the Basque words cited by Lucius Marineus Siculus. (Vinson). The group eki is also composed of ekhi and iki. In the Lapurdian of Bardos the sun is also called ekheerri. The form ekherri, which is encountered in Duvoisin, properly means `heat of the sun'.

As much as from the phonetic point of view as the etymological, the priority probably corresponds to eguzki. Gavel, even recognizing that at first glance this form seems the more primitive, admits equally the possibility that the g comes from r or d, and that the change would have happened under the influence of a false analogy with egun `day'. Uhlenbeck asks if we must partir of r or else of g. And adds: ``For the moment it cannot be determined what relation remains between the diverse forms.'' But studying the Basque vowels, he cites as a probable alternate case e: i, eguzki: iguzki, iruzki. Later, when treating the alternation of i and e, he says: ``Dans la plupart des cas la priorité semble appartenir à l' e, mais à cet égard il nous reste beaucoup de doutes. Parfois l'étymologie nous donne la certitude souhaitée, p. ex... eguzki: iguzki 'soleil', mot duquel le synonyme eki peut à peine être séparé.''

The forms euzki, iuzki are explained perfectly by the relaxation of articulation since the consonants b, g, d, r are subject in Basque. This is the reason that they permute between themselves with such frequency and that they are confused in rapid and relaxed pronunciation, leading in many cases to complete suppression. (Gavel). Something similar occurs in Spanish with the fricative g in intervocalic positions ( agua, aguardar) and the d of participles terminating in -ado, which in familiar conversation is greatly reduced or lost. (Navarro Tomas).

In regards to the group eki, there exists a rare unanimity in considering their form as the result of a contraction. Even Novia de Salcedo is inclined to believe that it is the same eguzki, syncopated. Vinson also has it originating from eguzki, while Schuchardt presents us with the hypothetical form *egu-ki, from which eku derives. Apriaz says that it could also proceed from *egu-gi, *egu-ki, tomando a egu in its primitive sense; ekhi would be before eguzki.

5. The priority between eguzki and eki could be discussed. But it also could be that none of them was the primitive name of the son. As Schuchardt said: ``in the course of time many Basque words have been lost, for which reason its current vocabulary does not lend a sufficient cooperation.'' Lacombe, in the conclusion of his study of the names of `tree', says that it is not possible to establish conclusions over the Basque mentality in ancient times, because Basque is only known from a very recent epic and has lost a great number of words. For his part, Eleizalde recognizes that in Basque ``the lexicon does not correspond to the importance of the conjugation, since it is natural that during the decline of a language the most accidental part, which is the lexicon, is lost the most.''

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