Euskaltzaindia (literally, "group of keepers of the Basque language"; often translated Royal Academy of the Basque language) is the official academic language regulatory institution which watches over the Basque language. It carries out research on the language, seeks to protect it, and establishes standards of use. It is known in Spanish as La Real Academia de la Lengua Vasca (being under the royal patronage of the Spanish monarchy, like the Real Academia Española) and in French as Académie de la Langue Basque.
The Euskaltzaindia was established within the context of the Basque Renaissance (Eusko Pizkundea, 1876-1936) in the framework provided by the Congress of Basque Studies held in Oñati in 1918, at a time when the Basque language was being proclaimed as a central cultural value to be protected and promoted. Important figures from the 19th century had already demanded the setting-up of an academy in defence of the language (Ulibarri, 1832; Aizkibel, 1856; d'Abbadie and Duvoisin, 1862; Jose Manterola, 1880 and Artiñano, 1886), and it was during the first two decades of the 20th century when various entities - some scientific and others more popular ones - also emphasized the need for its immediate creation. The scientific contributions of major foreign figures (Louis Lucien Bonaparte, Van Eys, Hugo Schuchardt, Dodgson, Gavel etc.) and from within the country (Arturo Campión, Azkue, Urquijo etc.), as well as the express demand on the part of Basque language loyalist organisations (for example, Eusko Esnalea) created a favourable climate for the public authorities to take on the task of setting up the academy.
The first initiative in this direction came from the provincial government of Biscay, which the other three provincial governments in the peninsular part of the Basque Country subsequently joined (1918), with articles of association being approved and Euskaltzaindia being legally constituted in October 1919. One year later its journal "Euskera" was launched, the official organ for the publication of its rules and research work, which has survived to the present day.
The current internal structure and organisation can be summarised as follows: the academy is governed by a ruling body composed of the Chairman, Deputy Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer. The heads of the Research and Watchdog Sections are also members. Plenary sessions must be held at least once a month. Under current rules the Academy has 24 full members and an unlimited number of associate members. The Academy is present throughout the area where Basque is used, with a head office in Bilbao and regional offices in Bayonne (Baiona), Donostia-San Sebastián, Iruñea-Pamplona and Vitoria-Gasteiz.
The Academy's articles of association set out the institution's objectives, first published in 1920. Those articles have been repeatedly reformed (and standing orders added) with the aim of adapting the institution to the linguistic and cultural circumstances of the day. However, the initial articles defining Euskaltzaindia's ultimate goals have simply been ratified over the years, with new details being added where necessary (e.g. article 1 in 1976). The aims of the Academy were set out as follows in the original articles:
Art. 1 - The aim of this institution is to watch over the Basque language, paying close attention to its promotion, both philologically and socially. Art. 2 - Accordingly, the Academy deals with both these areas in their respective sections: the Research Section and the Tutelary Section, with members belonging to both.
It is thus clear that the work of Euskaltzaindia is concerned with both the corpus and the status of the language. Since then the Academy has maintained these two sections in order to carry out its mission.
In the decade and a half prior to the Spanish Civil War (1919–1936), the Academy managed to consolidate itself as an institution and set about its project of promoting the birth of a standard literary language, although it was unable to provide a precise, solid academic formulation for that aim. On the other hand, its work in that period contributed decisively to a better understanding of the language through Resurrección María de Azkue's studies (Morfología Vasca, 1923-1934) and far reaching surveys among speakers of the language (Erizkundi Irukoitza, from 1922 onwards). The journal "Euskera" is a faithful witness to the work carried out at the time.
In 1936 and the years which followed, under the language politics of Francoist Spain the Academy's previous activities were reduced to silence until Azkue, with the collaboration of Federico Krutwig, was able to timidly reinitiate academic life at the beginning of the 1950s. The articles of association were reformed in 1954, new full members were elected and from 1956 on the Academy started to enjoy a more settled existence both in its internal affairs and in its public conferences and open meetings (first postwar congress: Arantzazu, 1956).
The following decade (1956–1968) coincided with a new generation of collaborators[clarification needed], the increasing introduction of Basque in bilingual non-state schools (ikastolak), the revival of the Basque language press and the first attempts at teaching basic literacy in Basque, among other initiatives.
Euskara batua, unified Basque
The Euskaltzaindia has been a vocal and active advocate of the introduction of a unified dialect of the Basque language, known as "Euskara Batua", or Unified Basque. Basque has been usually divided into 8 different dialects, varying in their level of mutual intelligibility. The first detailed dialectical analysis was by Louis Lucien Bonaparte. However, many people have seen this as a weakness in the language's fight for survival in a world in which minority languages spoken in states are wiped out by the states' official language. Having been for centuries pressured on both sides by Spanish and French, and under the rule of Franco coming close to extinction, the Academy felt the need to create a unified dialect of Basque, in order that the language have a greater chance of survival. The new dialect of Basque was heavily based on the Gipuzkoan dialect of Donostia-San Sebastián - the dialect with the richest literary heritage.
The 1968 Arantzazu Congress laid down the basic guidelines for achieving that objective in a systematic way (lexicon, morphology, declension and spelling). A further step was taken in 1973 with a proposal to establish a standard conjugation.
The debate arising from this new set of standard language rules (1968–1976) did not prevent it from becoming increasingly accepted in teaching, the media, and administration (1976–1983), within the context of burgeoning regional government (Statute of Autonomy in Euskadi, 1979; Improvement of the Charter of Navarre, 1982). Many people, however, continue to oppose the imposition of a single created dialect of Basque.
The current president is Andres Urrutia.