Basque is the oldest known spoken language of Western Europe that is not descended from Indo-European. Despite efforts to stop its use from external influences, the Basque people have shown resiliency throughout their history to keep the language alive. However, as is the case with all other languages, Basque has not been immune to influence from neighboring languages; indeed all Basque speakers are bilingual. The question explored here is whether a word’s concreteness using machine translation from Basque to English and English concreteness scores determines if an original Basque word is spoken today. We find that there is a significant difference of concreteness scores between old and contemporary Basque. We also compared old Basque words with common contemporary Basque words in a semantic vector space and found the old words to cluster more tightly than contemporary words suggesting that words with similar semantic vectors are able to retain usage through time.

About the Author

Casey Kennington, Ph.D.

Though not Basque himself, Casey Kennington grew up on a dairy farm in rural Ontario, Oregon, U.S.A., where he first heard the word "Basque" and and met many Basques, including a high school teacher who helped him foster a love for computers. During his university studies, he spent extended amounts of time in Japan, France, and Germany, learning the languages of each country. Since 2016, Casey has been a faculty member of the Department of Computer Science at Boise State University, focusing his research on dialogue systems and natural language processing. His love of languages led him to learn about the Basque language, and, despite being a busy professor, take two semesters of Basque in 2021-2022 at Boise State University. While attending a conference in the Basque Country in 2023, he more deeply understood how unique the Basque people are and why their language is worth learning and preserving.


  • Ph.D. - Linguistics - Bielefeld University, Germany, 2016
  • MS - Cognitive Science - Nancy, France, 2011
  • MS - Computational Linguistics - Saarbrücken, Germany, 2011
  • BS - Computer Science - Brigham Young University, 2007

ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6654-8966