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Alan King, linguist, Basque, pioneer author of methods to learn Euskera passes away at the age of 64


Alan King (1954-2019), Euskal Herria and El Salvador,always in his heart. GB
Alan King (1954-2019), Euskal Herria and El Salvador,always in his heart. GB


K. C. / Reno, NV, USA. It is with a heavy heart that we share the news of Alan King’s death.  Alan Roy King (1954-2019) was born in England, but became one of the most respected references of the Basque language.  He authored The Basque Language: A Practical Introduction published by the University of Nevada Press, at the time, one of the only texts available for English speakers to learn Basque.   

His second Basque grammar, Colloquial Basque, coauthored with Begotxu Olaizola, provided a much more practical approach to the language, again for English speakers, as his first grammar often proved to be too complicated for the beginning Basque student due to its heavy linguistic content. This was because Alan was a linguist, and a renowned one at that. 

Besides Basque, he also knew Galician, Hawaiian, Hebrew, Lenca, Nawat, Welsh, and Yiddish among others.  Alan didn’t just learn a language to get to know more about the culture, but he did so inside and out allowing him to become a staunch defender of the rights of each.  Alan’s CV in regard to the Basque language is extensive; however, his CV in regard to other languages is just as impressive. 

I believe his friend Jose Miguel said it best, “The world today has lost not only a colossal linguist but a beautiful human being. Tireless fighter for the minority languages of the world and for the rights of its speakers. He was a consummate polyglot, author, pedagogue and lecturer model. Anglo-Jewish of origin, but as Basque and as Salvadoran of heart as most. Social activist and indigenist, but above all friend of his friends and devoted relative. The greatest linguist I have had the honor of meeting in person up to now. It will be very difficult to fill the gap that you leave us. Wales, Euskal Herria, Catalunya, Salvador, Honduras, Hawaii, a little bit of Colombia, along with the whole polyglot world community we cry.”

From the United States, on behalf of the American Basque community and of NABO, and of Euskal Herria and its diaspora we extend our condolences to his daughter Maier, mother Celia, and brother Selwyn and family. Goian Bego.

His website:


  • Alan King

    He was a remarkable teacher; I attended his HABE course at Hondaribia in 1984 andlearn more Basque in a month than I thought possible in a year. LAter I was his supervisor when he took a doctorate in London: his only problem was to try to conceal from his examiners that he knew far more than they did. I am very sorry he died so young: he had passion as well as a genius for linguistics.

    Donald Rayfield (Sevenoaks, England), 03/07/2019 12:12

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