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Basque alphabet

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Title: Basque alphabet  
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Subject: Basque language, Voiceless alveolar affricate, Latin alphabets, Voiceless palatal stop, Voiced bilabial fricative
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Basque alphabet

The Basque alphabet is a Latin alphabet used to write the Basque language. It consists of 27 letters.


  • List of letters 1
  • Digraphs 2
  • History 3
  • Letter frequencies 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

List of letters

The letters of the Basque alphabet are the 26 letters of the ISO basic Latin alphabet plus the ñ (and the ç, as a variant of the c).

This is the whole list,[1] plus the IPA phonology:[2]

Letter Basque name Pronunciation
A a /a/
B be /b/
C ze* (and its variant Ç ze hautsia*) /s/, /k/
D de /d/, /d̪/, /ð/
E e /e/
F efe /f/
G ge /g/, /ɣ/
H hatxe ∅, /h/
I i /i/, /i̭/
J jota /j/, /x/, /ʝ/, /ɟ/
K ka /k/
L ele /l/
M eme /m/
N ene /n/
Ñ eñe /ɲ/
O o /o/
P pe /p/
Q ku* /k/
R erre /r/, /ɾ/
S ese /s̺/
T te /t/, /t̪/
U u /u/, /u̯/
V uve* /b/, /β/
W uve bikoitza* /u̯/
X ixa /ʃ/
Y i grekoa* /i/, /i̭/
Z zeta /s̻/
* Although letters C, Ç, Q, V, W, and Y are not used in writing traditional Basque language words, they were included in the Basque alphabet for writing words borrowed from other languages that do use them.[1]

All letters and digraphs represent unique phonemes. The main exception is when l or n are preceded by i, that in most dialects palatalizes their sound into /ʎ/ and /ɲ/, even if these are not written. Hence, Ikurriña can also be written Ikurrina without changing the sound, while the proper name Ainhoa requires the mute h to break the palatalization of the n.

H is mute in most regions, but is pronounced in many places in the Northeast, which is the main reason for its existence in the Basque alphabet. Its acceptance was a matter of contention during the standardization since the speakers of the most extended dialects had to learn where to place these h's, silent for them.


There are several digraphs (successive letters used to represent a single sound):

DD /ɟ/, LL /ʎ/, RR /r/, TS /t͡s̺/, TT /c/, TX /ʧ͡/, TZ /t͡s̻/


For most of its history, Basque writers used the conventions of Romance languages like Spanish or French. Thus Pedro Agerre's 1643 book was titled Guero corresponding to modern gero ("Later") and the 18th-century motto Irurac bat would be Hirurak bat ("The three as one"). The nationalist politician Sabino Arana proposed several changes,[3] including new letters such as ĺ and ŕ that were not accepted in the standard orthography.

Letter frequencies

In a sample of 6,692 letters the most common letter in Basque is a.[4]


  1. ^ a b (Basque) Euskaltzaindia: Names of the letters in the Basque alphabetRule no. 17 for the Standard Basque, , Rule passed on 25 November 1994. Retrieved 2010-10-22.
  2. ^ [1] Basque alphabet and phonology
  3. ^ Lecciones de ortografía del euskera bizkaino, page 32, Arana eta Goiri'tar Sabin, Bilbao, Bizkaya'ren Edestija ta Izkerea Pizkundia, 1896 (Sebastián de Amorrortu).
  4. ^ – Letter frequencies. Retrieved 7 November 2011.

External links

  • Basque language – English Pen
  • The Basque Alphabet

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