Sounding out ideas on language, vivid sensory words, and iconicity


The Basque word for their language is Euskara or Euskera, earlier Heuskara. The first part of this word is the Togo R. word for “Akpafu”, Likpe be-fu “Akpafu”, Bowili o-vu-ne “Akpafumann”, Santrokofi o-fu “Akpafumann”, Akpafu ka-wu, ka-‘u “Akpafu”. The early initial Basque h is from k, as can be seen from ka-wu, ka’u. The a has changed to e in this lexeme. The consonant between e and u has been lost. Basque lacks the semivowel w, which drops out here in Akpafu ka’u. See Lafon (1960 : 92) for confirmation from placenames etc.: Ausci, Aoiz, Auch.

The second part of the word, ka or ke is a word for “speak”, Niger-Congo gue “voice, language”, Ewe, Ga gbe “voice”, Agni guere “language, speech”, Yoruba i-gbe “loud cry”, Gbari e-gwe, e-gbe “mouth”. The e is for original a in this word. Niger-Congo e is secondary. Compare Niger-Congo ka, ke, k’e “to speak”, which is related. The final sylable -ra is the Niger-Congo article. No clearer proof could be found that the Basques were originally the Akpafu!

Thus says mr. GJK Campbell-Dunn “M.A. (NZ), M.A. (Camb.) Ph.D.” in a most interesting document titled “Basque as Niger-Congo“. (Just to remind you, Akpafu is another name for Siwu, the language I’ve been doing fieldwork on over the last three years.) I mentioned this story over a year ago in the comments of an excellent post over at Glossographia titled Debunking and de-Basque-ing, but I never got around to posting about it here. In his post, Stephen Chrisomalis notes that “There is probably no culture or language that has attracted more pseudoscientific attention than Basque.”

I’m not intent on debunking Campbell-Dunn’s story here; I think the quotation above speaks for itself just fine.1 But I do want to draw attention to the irony of this particular case. There you are, author of such groundbreaking works as The African Origins of Classical Civilisation, Maori: The African Evidence, and Who were the Minoans?: an African answer. The natural next step in your illustrious career is to solve the Basque enigma once and for all. Since the general thrust of your work is to link everything to Africa one way or another, you set out to discover that Basque is in fact a Niger-Congo language. A look at the rich lexical material in Westermann (1927) provides ample inspiration. Let’s pick one of the Togo Remnant Languages, you think — after all, Basque is sort of remnant too. Akpafu. Euskara. Hey, why not. Let’s just see what we can do… no-one’s going to notice, right?

Well, I noticed. And I just want to say it loud and clear: Graham Campbell-Dunn’s work is crackpot science. Don’t believe it; don’t even read it. Siwu and Euskara are fascinating languages that deserve of serious research. But they are most certainly not related. Although… come closer, I have to tell you a secret…
[spoiler show=”show secret” hide=”hide secret”]Both Basque and Siwu have lots of ideophones! (See Ibarretxe-Antuñano 2006.) Sssshhhh, don’t tell mister GJK Campbell-Dunn!



  1. Ibarretxe-Antuñano, Iraide. 2006. Sound Symbolism and Motion in Basque. Lincom Europa.
  2. Westermann, Diedrich. 1927. Die Westlichen Sudansprachen Und Ihre Beziehungen Zum Bantu. Berlin: In kommission bei W. de Gruyter & co.
  1. See the comments below for some of the problems in the reasoning. []
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5 responses to “Basquekpafu”

  1. You may also have heard of the guy who claims that Basque is the root of all languages, as evidenced by the following ironclad correspondence between the name ‘Bethlehem’ and… well, read for yourself:
    .be – et. – .h. – .le _ he – em.
    abe – eto – oha – ale _ he – emo
    abelaska – etorberri – ohartzaile – alegera _ heben – emoi
    manger – newborn – observer/wise man – rejoicing/glorifying _ here – gift
    “The newborn is in the manger. The wise men are here glorifying with gifts.”
    All languages but Basque are in fact fake, constructed by evil linguists for political reasons about two thousand years ago.
    I’m quite happy I found your blog, by the way, as it’s wildly interesting. The only problem with that is that I should actually be writing papers right now…

  2. This is an interesting analysis. But characterizing a work without engaging the text, methods or evidences is psuedo science and crackpockish as well. I’m interested in a more detailed critique to see if your critique stands up to critique and is a fair analysis on the data as expressed by GJK Campbell-Dunn.

  3. I appreciate your comment and I agree in general with your sentiment. As I say in my posting, however, I am not intent on debunking this work, I think the quotation says enough.

    To be clear, I have not quoted out of context. What there is in this particular work, in terms of methods, is well exemplified in the quote: (1) taking some surface forms from various languages (sometimes even from hypothetic constructed states of protolanguages), (2) ‘linking’ these forms together by making some unqualified and unargued claims about various changes that are needed to link these surface forms visually, (3) considering it done.

    Just two scraps to exemplify the various problems: “The early initial Basque h is from k, as can be seen from ka-wu, ka’u.” Here CD is guilty of a petitio principii: instead of carefully considering what evidence there might be for linking Basque and Akpafu, he takes forms from Akpafu to argue for a change in Basque! The change (from h > k), moreover, is not argued — it is just stipulated.

    Then the next claim: “The a has changed to e in this lexeme.” Here again, the change is not argued, it is simply stipulated. What one needs for positing a sound change is evidence from a large number of roots. Only after assembling large lists of potential cognates (a step wholly overlooked by CD — there is only one list of 10 items on page 113) can one start to establish regular correspondence sets (another step skipped by CD). Only if one can show that X in language A regularly corresponds to Y in language B, a proposed change has some plausibility.

    Since ‘Akpafu’ and ‘Euskara’ are not in any way shown to be part of a potential cognate list, and since there are no correspondence sets presented anywhere in the book to justify any of the proposed changes, I cannot but conclude that the author simply has stipulated some outrageous claims without even beginning to prove them. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. This is no evidence at all.

    In fairness to Mr. Campbell-Dunn, I must mention that in e-mail correspondence some years ago he noted that “I intend to expand it [the book] soon. […] I think the prefixes are crucial. My views about these have changed since I wrote the Basque book. So you will eventually get an update.” So perhaps something better awaits us. But in the meantime, I wish to make clear that his claims contain no empirical substance whatever.

  4. Absolutely impactful, and easy to process, in reading this, it’s as if I were in class in real-time observing a critique of Dunn’s theories.

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