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buber.net > Basque > Euskara > Larry > Note 4: Edun, To Have
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Note 4: Edun, To Have

by Larry Trask

Larry Trask, a world expert on Basque linguistics and the history of the Basque language, passed away on March 28, 2004. Larry contributed extensively to several online communities, including Basque-L and the Indoeuropean list. This collection of his postings is dedicated in his memory.

To learn about Larry, see this article.

A few comments on the old verb *<edun> 'have'.

This verb is nowhere recorded as its participle (hence the asterisk), or indeed as any non-finite form at all, but its former existence is nonetheless certain.

(Interestingly, a gerund <edutea> is recorded in one 18th-century inscription; this might be the gerund of *<edun>, but equally it might be the gerund of that verb's derivative <eduki>.)

The non-finite forms of *<edun> are supplied suppletively by <ukan> in the east and by <izan> in the west. In the north, the finite forms of *<edun> are still the ordinary forms for expressing 'have'. In the south, the verb is now largely confined to elevated styles in this function, and 'have' is commonly expressed instead by the derivative <eduki>. But, in all varieties, the finite forms of *<edun> still provide the indicative forms of the transitive auxiliary, like <dut> and <du>.

We can easily reconstruct the original present-tense forms of *<edun>. Here they are:

        1 Sg    *<da-du-da>
        2 Sg M  *<da-du-ga>
        2 Sg F  *<da-du-na>, or possibly *<da-du-na-ga>
        3 Sg    *<da-du>
        1 Pl    *<da-du-gu>
        2 Pl    *<da-du-zu> (today a singular)
        3 Pl    *<da-du-te> (most varieties), but *<da-du-e> (Bizkaian)

Here *<da-> is the old present-tense marker, *<-du-> is the root of the verb *<edun>, and the suffixes mark agreement for person and number. Some (not all) of these suffixes are related to the corresponding pronouns, of course. The third-singular agreement suffix was zero, as is usual in Basque. In the third plural, we find *<-te> in most dialects but *<-e> in Bizkaian; there is reason to suppose that the Bizkaian form is older, but we lack the evidence to draw firm conclusions.

These forms developed as follows in all dialects:

        1 Sg    *<daut>
        2 Sg M  *<dauk>
        2 Sg F  *<daun>
        3 Sg    <dau>
        1 Pl    *<daugu>
        2 Pl    *<dauzu>
        3 Pl    *<daute>, but B *<daue>

These forms are the ancestors of all the modern ones.

In Bizkaian, <dau> has remained unchanged, and *<daue> has simply been strengthened to <dabe>. In all the other forms, the diphthong /au/ was leveled to /o/ in Bizkaian, producing the modern forms <dot>, <dok>, <don>, <dogu>, <dozu>.

In all the remaining dialects, the diphthong /au/ apparently changed to /eu/, producing the following forms:

        1 Sg    *<deut>
        2 Sg M  *<deuk>
        2 Sg F  *<deun>
        3 Sg    *<deu>
        1 Pl    *<deugu>
        2 Pl    *<deuzu>
        3 Pl    *<deute>

The next dialect to separate was Gipuzkoan, in which this /eu/ developed as follows: it was reduced to /u/ in the two third-person forms, but to /e/ in all other forms. This gave the modern Gipuzkoan forms: <det>, <dek>, <den>, <du>, <degu>, <dezu>, <dute>.

In all the remaining dialects, the diphthong /eu/ changed uniformly to /u/. The result was the forms we find in most other dialects today: <dut>, <duk>, <dun>, <du>, <dugu>, <duzu>, <dute>.

Zuberoan, of course, has undergone one further change: the regular Zuberoan change of /u/ to /Ł/ (that's u-umlaut), yielding Zuberoan <dŁt>, <dŁk>, and so on.

The original forms still show up to some extent when a suffix is added. For example, when we add the relative suffix <-n>, the form <dut> becomes <dudan>, <duk> becomes <duan> (from earlier *<dugan>, and <dun> becomes <dunan>.

A further point. The verb *<edun> has given rise to several derivatives.

The old suffix <-ki> (Old Bizkaian <-gi>), as I mentioned earlier, added a dative object to a verb. This is the source of <eduki>, which used to take a dative object but no longer does. The earlier sense of this verb was 'hold, hold on to, grasp', and this is still the sense the verb has in the north today. In the south, however, the sense of this verb has been generalized to 'have', and <eduki> has displaced *<edun> as the ordinary verb for 'have'.

It is in fact a very common development in languages generally for a verb meaning something like 'hold, grasp, seize' to develop into 'have'. A good example is English 'have', which has developed from a PIE verb that anciently meant 'seize' -- also the source of Latin <capere> 'seize'. Another example is Castilian <tener> 'have', which has developed from Latin <tenere> 'hold, keep, grasp', and which has displaced earlier <haber> as the ordinary verb for 'have'. This <haber> develops from Latin <habere> 'have', and, like *<edun> in the south, it is now confined to use as an auxiliary. (Incidentally. Latin <habere> itself originally meant 'hold', and it is cognate with verbs in several other IE languages meaning 'seize, grasp', and also, it appears, more surprisingly, with English 'give'.)

A second derivative is <ukan> 'have'. This began as roughly *<edukan>, probably to be analyzed as *<e-du-ka-n>, with a somewhat puzzling suffix. The development of this to *<eukan> and then to <ukan> would be perfectly regular.

A third derivative is <eutsi>. This clearly contains the suffix <-ts->, which, like <-ki>, conferred the ability to take a dative object. The structure is probably *<e-du-ts-i>. This chiefly western verb means 'seize, grab, grasp', and it still takes a dative object today. In Bizkaian, uniquely, this verb also provides the forms of the transitive auxiliary when a dative object is present, as in <emon deutsat> or <emon dotsat> 'I gave it to him'. All the other dialects use different verbs for this purpose.

I might close by adding that the history of the Basque auxiliaries, and above all of the dative-marked auxiliaries, is complicated, messy and obscure. Only a few centuries ago, it seems, speakers were able to choose from a wide range of verbs to serve as auxiliaries. Even by the beginning of the literary period, in the 16th century, the position was still rather complicated, with different dialects using a range of different auxiliaries. Only in the last couple of centuries has the position settled down somewhat, though considerable regional variation still exists.

Larry Trask COGS University of Sussex Brighton BN1 9QH UK


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