Historically, Latin or Romance languages have been the official languages in this region. However, Basque was explicitly recognized in some areas. For instance, the fuero or charter of the Basque-colonized Ojacastro (now in La Rioja) allowed the inhabitants to use Basque in legal processes in the 13th and 14th centuries.
The Spanish Constitution of 1978 states in Article 2 that the Spanish language is the official language, but allows autonomous communities to provide a co-official language status for the other languages of Spain. Consequently, the Statute of Autonomy of the Basque Autonomous Community establishes Basque as the co-official language of the autonomous community. The Statute of Navarre establishes Spanish as the official language of Navarre, but grants co-official status to the Basque language in the Basque-speaking areas of northern Navarre. Basque has no official status in the French Basque Country and French citizens are barred from officially using Basque in a French court of law. However, the use of Basque by Spanish nationals in French courts is permitted (with translation), as Basque is officially recognized on the other side of the border.
The positions of the various existing governments differ with regard to the promotion of Basque in areas where Basque is commonly spoken. The language has official status in those territories that are within the Basque Autonomous Community, where it is spoken and promoted heavily, but only partially in Navarre. The Ley del Vascuence ("Law of Basque"), seen as contentious by many Basques, but considered fitting Navarra's linguistic and cultural diversity by the main political parties of Navarre, divides Navarre into three language areas: Basque-speaking, non-Basque-speaking, and mixed. Support for the language and the linguistic rights of citizens vary, depending on the area.
Basque has a distinction between laminal and apical articulation for the alveolar fricatives and affricates. With the laminal alveolar fricative [s], the friction occurs across the blade of the tongue, the tongue tip pointing toward the lower teeth. This is the usual /s/ in most European languages. It is written with an orthographic z. By contrast, the voiceless apicoalveolar fricative [s] is written s; the tip of the tongue points toward the upper teeth and friction occurs at the tip (apex). For example, zu "you" (singular, respectful) is distinguished from su "fire". The affricate counterparts are written tz and ts. So, etzi "the day after tomorrow" is distinguished from etsi "to give up"; atzo "yesterday" is distinguished from atso "old woman".
In the westernmost parts of the Basque country, only the apical s and the alveolar affricate tz are used.
Basque also features postalveolar sibilants (//, written x, and /t/, written tx), sounding like English sh and ch.
There are two palatal stops, voiced and unvoiced, as well as a palatal nasal and a palatal lateral (the palatal stops are not present in all dialects). These and the postalveolar sounds are typical of diminutives, which are used frequently in child language and motherese (mainly to show affection rather than size). For example, tanta "drop" vs. ttantta /canca/ "droplet". A few common words, such as txakur /takur/ "dog", use palatal sounds even though in current usage they have lost the diminutive sense; the corresponding non-palatal forms now acquiring an augmentative or pejorative sense: zakur"big dog". Many Basque dialects exhibit a derived palatalization effect, in which coronal onset consonants change into the palatal counterpart after the high front vowel /i/. For example, the /n/ in egin "to act" becomes palatal in southern and western dialects when a suffix beginning with a vowel is added: /eina/ = [eia] "the action", /eines/ = [eies] "doing".
The letter j has a variety of realizations according to the regional dialect: [j, d, x, , , ], as pronounced from west to east in south Bizkaia and coastal Lapurdi, central Bizkaia, east Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa, south Navarre, inland Lapurdi and Low Navarre, and Zuberoa, respectively.
The letter h is silent in the Southern dialects, but pronounced (although vanishing) in the Northern ones. Unified Basque spells it except when it is predictable, in a position following a consonant.
Unless they are recent loanwords (e.g. Ruanda (Rwanda), radar...), words may not have initial r. In older loans, initial r- took a prosthetic e-, resulting in err- (Erroma "Rome", Errusia "Russia"), more rarely irr- (for example irratia "radio", irrisa "rice").