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Understanding Etymology in Felanitx

This photo blog cannot aspire to educate about linguistics or the dogmas thereof. Instead, the blog intends to portray Mallorca in a comprehensive, all-embracing, perhaps encyclopedic manner. I am constantly amused and equally, slightly annoyed about people talking about the language issue, here in Mallorca. People form their opinion about Catalan-Castilian-Mallorquín debate without the slightest knowledge or understanding, paired with a complete lack of information or historical appreciation.

Let’s talk about toponymy and the etymology of place names, for instance. People like to think that Inca, a pueblo in the centre of the island, would have taken its name originally from the people in the Cuzco valley in Peru. The South American Inca empire was invaded by the Spanish in around 1530. Inca in Mallorca dates back to the Moorish period and existed under the name of Inkan, Incha or Inqua long before the reconquista in 1229, when no-one in Europe had any knowledge of the existence of South America, the Aztecs, the Mayas, the Incas or anybody else over there.

Andratx was known between 1236 and 1601 under 35 different variants of its place-name: Andrag, Andraitx, Andragio, Andratix, Andraxg, Andrayg, Andraitx, Andrays, and so forth. Not one of the many variant spellings bears any relation to the Castilian language. Or take Felanitx, as another example. Historic documents call the town where I live either Felinich, Falanig, Felinicho, Felanichi, Felinitx, Falinich, Felenix, Fanalig, Felinig, Falanis, Felenig, Filinix, Felenitx, Filenitx, Felaynix, Fenalicius and Filenix. Not a single Spanish etymological root here, either.

You may find that the place which you call home here in Mallorca has similar and equally interesting roots. Should you be interested you could always pop down to your local municipal library and browse through a number of books on the subject, probably all of them written in Catalan. Sorry about that.

The photo was taken in Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: October 30th, 2010. The time was 12:26:23.

2 replies »

  1. Hello – I subscribed to this blog last week and love receiving my daily emails. I lived in Mallorca from 1996 until 2002 and have been reminising about my days there now that I live in Perth Western Australia. Keep up the good work.

  2. These etymologies are interesting because they point to the existence of a Romance language that is neither Catalan nor Castilian (and which was almost certainly the language spoken by Romans who settled on the island up until the Catalan conquest, when they would have been absorbed into the Catalan-speaking settler population). For example, Felanitx (or Andratx, Fornalutx, etc.) all share this -tx ending, which isn’t typical of Castillian or Catalan (but probably of Latin origin). This also is attested in names of ports like “Portocristo”, “Portocolom” or “Portopí”. None of those is actually Catalan or Castillian, but again, are traces of this other language, usually referred to as Mozarabic.
    It’s interesting too that this Mozarabic is usually claimed as the ancestor of “Majorcan” by those who claim that Catalan is not. Unfortunately all the evidence seems to go the other direction, but I believe Carlos Delgado once wrote “Qué es la ciencia sin el sentido común?” So I guess it’s not really about facts! Anyways, not to get too into politics.
    Love this blog! Lived in Majorca for a while until a couple years ago, and I like getting a little trip back everyday!

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