For example, say I have a list Basque/Euskera words, is there a way I can reconstruct these modern Basque words into a Pre-Proto-Basque version?

beo (hot)
lur (earth)
izotz (ice)
izuga (fear)
bai (yes)
ze (no)
ao (mouth)
draga (spear)
il (death)
dan (drink)
jarai (follow)
laster (fast)

I have read the wikipedia page that somewhat elucidates this potential.

I have not went to the library and searched for "Reconstructing the Pre-Proto-Basque Root" by Joseba A. Lakarra yet so I wondered if anyone has andor can explain his methodology.

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    @jlawler Alas, this Basque scholar Joseba A. Lakarra mentioned above indeed uses this term "pre-Proto-Basque" in his writings. Apr 23, 2012 at 0:44
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    Alas, indeed. Even more reason to read Larry Trask.
    – jlawler
    Apr 23, 2012 at 2:31
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    I personally have never heard of pre-proto-languages before but it turns out that, indeed, this term is sometimes used in historical linguistics. For example, Lyle Campbell wrote the following in his textbook: "Often, reconstruction by the comparative method reveals alternations which the proto-language underwent, and it is perfectly legitimate to apply internal reconstruction to these proto-alternations in order to reach even further back in time, to a pre-proto-language" (Campbell 2004: 240).
    – Alex B.
    Apr 23, 2012 at 2:32
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    I suspect that pre-proto-X is another way of saying "early proto-X."
    – Alex B.
    Apr 23, 2012 at 3:12
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    @jlawler, I have just purchased Historical Linguistics as a reference. Apr 23, 2012 at 21:40

2 Answers 2


You can read the article in question online :) It's in the book Lakarra collaborated on with Trask and Hualde, "Towards a History of the Basque Language.", and it's on googlebooks - you can view the entire article.

But the short answer is that the methods of approaching the prehistory of an isolate are generally by (1) examining prehistoric loan words from other languages; (2) examining prehistoric loan words into other languages; (3) internal reconstruction from morphological and lexical patterns. With (1) you can see what sound changes have taken place (beyond simple loan adaptation) since the borrowing; (2) gives you an indication of the phonological form of a native word at a prehistoric point, and thus an idea of what scs have occurred since; (3) allows you to use the comparative method--just with rather limited data.

  • What does "scs" mean where you have written "and thus an idea of what scs have occurred since"? Aug 5, 2012 at 12:09

To reconstruct a proto-language you need to compare several languages, descended on the proto-language. It is generally impossible to reconstruct a proto-language using only one of its descendants.

That said, since Basque belongs to Dene-Caucasian language macrofamily, it is possible to reconstruct some proto-forms.

The ancient forms are as follows (V=unknown vowel).

Basque   |  Proto-Sino-Caucasian
lur      |  lhĭ́mŁwɨ̆
edan     |  dVnV (this is related to Proto-Indo-European *dhenw "to flow" 
         |  which resulted in Latin "fontis" and English "fountain"
izu      |  ħVmć̣V
aho      |  ɦŏ́mxGVwV
draga    |  twVŋV (not sure if it related)
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    Although it's worthy of note that Bengtson and Starostin believe in a Dené-Caucasian, the forms proposed for the individual words have a shaky phonological foundation, bound to change drastically for each word if we are ever able to prove more concretely that these languages are related. (That Yeniseian and Na-Dené were by Vajda essentially shown to be nuclear to each other among any grouping of modern languages, whereas Starostin placed Na-Dené in opposition to all of Sino-Caucasian, should be an indication.) I believe Lakarra's idea of "Pre-Proto-Basque" is much more recent. May 1, 2012 at 5:00
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    "To reconstruct a proto-language you need to compare several languages, descended on the proto-language. It is generally impossible to reconstruct a proto-language using only one of its descendants." I am afraid you didn't understand the question, Anixx. The OP is interested in internal reconstruction (hence pre-).
    – Alex B.
    May 1, 2012 at 21:27
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    ‘Dene-Caucasian’ is rejected by every historical linguist that I’ve ever met aside from Bengston and Starostin themselves. Several review articles have demonstrated that their methodologies are flawed and that they work from unreliable, unverified, and often incorrect data. I don’t think it’s advisable to take their hypotheses very seriously, and they may in fact be unfalsifiable and hence unscientific.
    – James C.
    May 4, 2012 at 20:29
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    @Anixx, the current uncertainties of the said work of Bengtson and Starostin make me very cautious about running with their work regarding Basque. As Alex B.said, I am interested in an internal reconstruction. That said, the text for your Proto-Sino-Caucasian text looks very strange in my web browser. "ħVmć̣V" -- I am not sure how to read this. May 16, 2012 at 10:16

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