Catalan etymology of paper? Probably not

Xavi Caballé mentions an oft-cited Catalan etymology of paper:

1249; del ll. papyrus, i aquest, del gr. pápyros ‘papir’, adaptat per via semiculta a una terminació catalana, d’on passà a les altres llengües europees

AFAIK the Enciclopèdia Catalana has never substantiated this. The Dictionnaire de l’Académie francaise says:

PAPIER n. m. XIIIe siècle. Issu, par l’intermédiaire du latin médiéval papirus, du grec papyros, « papyrus ».

The OED goes into more detail (my bold):

< Anglo-Norman papir, paper, papere, papire and Middle French, French papier paper, written document (13th cent. in Old French in a Picard source in an app. isolated attestation; subsequently from 14th cent.; also 15th cent. in Middle French as paupier), ult. < classical Latin papȳrus the papyrus or paper-reed of the Nile, also writing-material made of it (< Hellenistic Greek ...), probably via a northern Italian form, itself after post-classical Latin paperium (13th cent. in an Italian source), alteration of classical Latin papȳrus with remodelling of the ending after words in –erium, although transmission via Catalan paper (1240) is also possible.

If the EC’s version is to triumph amongst non-believers, some scholarship might come in handy. I wonder whether the originators of this meme haven’t confused the early European diffusion of paper, in which the Moorish mill at Játiva, Valencia may or may not have been important, with the later diffusion of northern Italian milling techniques presumably accompanied by the Latinate word.

It might be worth claiming to have invented the pizza. Everyone else has.

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Comments

  1. I’m prepared to believe that, but I think the Catalan word probably came from Italy, and I don’t think that EC has a hope in hell of convincing anyone that the Catalan word formed the basis for use in “les altres llengües europees”.

  2. Then it would surely be related to ورقة/waraqa. I suspect that the factory was not run by someone called Jordi.

  3. You just don’t get it Trevor.

    Catalonia’s southern national border was fixed (just north of Lorca) some time in the 5th century BC.

    Since that time, every individual who was born in Catalonia has been fully conscious of their catalanity, has recognised Catalan as their only “own language” (and been absolutely sure that it is not a form of Occitan), and has expressed their national identity through a range of symbols which remain unchanged to this day (San Jordi, The Virgin of Montserrat, roses and books, smurf hats, spring onions, manga and the TV series Polonia).

    To suggest that a person living in 12th century Xativa might have spoken a language unrelated to Catalan is almost as ridiculous as claiming Catalanists fought for Franco in the 5th Catalan War of Independence (1936-1939).

  4. The word “paper” comes from Xativa and Alcoy, which were within the Kingdom of Valencia. Here were the first paper mills in Europe. The British were the first who bought this paper and likened to the “paper” that is what at the time called Valencian.

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