I am always amazed by how similar both languages sound despite being very different in almost every other aspect.

I suspect that this is a classical example of a Sprachbund, but I am interested in knowing more about which language affected which.

What aspects of Spanish pronunciation can be attributed to influence from Basque?

4 Answers 4


There are a number of things that are often cited (and at times disputed) as influences that Basque has had on Castilian.

  • Aspiration of initial f
    General consensus, although the later of loss of aspiration may be more due to Castilian speakers than Basque speakers.
  • 5-vowel system
    Basque also has 5 vowels that match Castilian's but some many dialects of Basque have additional vowels/distinctions such that it's also equally possible to explain Castilian's without a Basque influence.
  • Confusion of /b/ /v/, later merging to /b/
    Competing theories state that the merger happened away from Basque-speaking regions first or that Castilian simply never had a labiodental pronunciation to begin with.
  • Reduction of voiced and unvoiced fricatives to unvoiced.
    Generally accepted, but with noted dissenting opinions.
  • Apical pronunciation of /s/
    Others argue that this was a well-extended pronunciation across the Romance-speaking world.
  • Voicing and weaking of intervocalic /c/ /p/ /k/
    Frequently attributed to Celtic influence as well. Interestingly, Basque is said to have helped preserve the unvoiced intervocalics in Aragonese and Béarnese.
  • a- in front of words starting with r-
    Basque doesn't allow words to start with r, so like the addition of es- for words starting with /sk/ /st/ /sp/ in Castilian, they added in a- and it stuck for some words, but not for others.

The above is summarized from “La influencia del sustrato euskera en hispano-romance” (Mary C. Irtbarren-Argaiz). She goes into great detail evaluating the claims and sourcing them, some of which she doesn't necessarily agree with, but I've included some of the alternate views she mentions.


The most obvious reason why two languages sound similar would be if a large number of speakers were bilingual, which would result in a tendency to use the same phonetics in both. I know nothing about whether or why basque and spanish sound the same but would expect that if the majority of Basque speakers are bilingual with Spanish, then Basque and the Spanish spoken in the Basque country would sound similar to a non-speaker of these tongues. A good example of this is the English spoken across teh Indian subcontinent, even by native English speakers, in the use of dental consonants phonetically closer to those found in tongues such as Hindhi rather than those used in English English.


I suggest comparing (monolingual) Spanish in the region, Basque in the same region, Basque in France, and (monolingual) French in that region. If there is an influence on pronunciation (either way), it may be most evident in phonetic details rather than phonemic shifts. I don't speak Spanish (or Basque), and I found, listening to the news in Vitoria-Gasteiz that I had to struggle to tell when they were speaking Spanish vs. Basque, so at the phonetic level they are fairly similar.


Basque and Spanish have very similar phonetics. This is due to Spanish having its origin in the vulgar latin spoken in a Basque-speaking or previous Basque-speaking population in northeartesn Castile (few kilometers from the border of modern Basque Country). The first documents in old Spanish come in fact from a small village called Valpuesta which lies in the border of modern Basque Country and was undoubtely bilingual Basque-Romance at the time they were written.

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