Aprenent català

Studying Catalan


with 2 comments

A dig into Jewish history brought up an interesting, but confusing Catalan connection.

Nahmanides is one of the best known medieval rabbis. In Hebrew he is usually called Ramban (רמב”ן), an acronym for Rabbi Moshe ben Nahman – Moses, son of Nahman. Apparently he was born in Girona, hence “Gerondi” is sometimes added to the name above. So far, so good.

Apparently he has another name and that’s where it becomes confusing. I am not sure whether to call this name Latin, Spanish or Catalan, so i’ll just say “foreign”. This name has two parts. The first is easy – it’s something like Bonastruc, which i also saw spelled as Bonastrug, but that’s understandable. The second part is the toughest. It is given in various sources as one of those:

  1. Bonastruc ça Porta – Catalan Wikipedia and some Google results
  2. Bonastruc de Porta – Gran Enciclopèdia Catalana online. It doesn’t mention the “ça” spelling in the article about Ramban himself, but it does have an article about Centre Bonastruc Ça Porta, an institution in Girona dedicated to Jewish history, which means that the Catalan Wikipedia spelling is more than just a typo or a random whimsy of someone who likes weird medieval spellings.
  3. da Porta – JewishEncyclopedia.com article about Ramban doesn’t mention the Bonastruc name, but it does say that he was a brother of Benveniste da Porta.

Another proof that “ça” may have real meaning is the big Diccionari Català-Valencià-Balear, which says that it’s a variant of the feminine article “sa” (nowadays sometimes used as the Balearic version of “la”) and gives a couple of examples which look like personal names.

But the plot thickens even further. Ariel, my Catalan “mentor” on Twitter, says – if i understood him correctly – that it should actually be spelled Saporta, and that it is related to the last name Sasportas, which some people in Israel have today. JewishEncyclopedia.com has an article about the Sasportas family, which says that it comes from the Spanish “seis portas” – “six gates”, but it also says that “Aaron Sasportas, the earliest known member of this family, was a descendant in the tenth generation of Nahmanides”.

So – can anyone point me to reliable sources that may help me solve this mistery? Or are those just two versions which are equally possible?


Written by aharoni

April 2, 2008 at 14:08

2 Responses

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  1. benastruc -uga

    adj. [LC] Feliç, afortunat

    you can find thids definition in the Diccionari de la Llengua Catalana of the Institut d’Estudis Catalans (found at URL http://dlc.iec.cat/), a very good online resource.

    About Ça Porta / Sasportas I do not have any source to provide but to me it sounds more like the definite article “the” which is written in modern Balearic català sa (sing.) or ses (plur.). In català Sesportes or Sasportas would be pronounced exactly in the same way. Once I finish moving and can retrieve Francesc de Borja Moll’s books from their box I will have a look at the section on the “article salat” (es, sa, ses) as I wouldn’t be surprised that the -es word ending mark of the plural for words that end in -a when singular, should just be a modern way of clarifying things and that therefore sasportas or sesportes could just be the same thing. Sisportas becoming Sasportas would surprise me more and strikes me as a bit of a stretch in regard to evolution.

    I am not a linguist or morphologist, so these are just impressions.

    Matías Pizarro

    August 10, 2010 at 16:13

  2. The author of this blog like many ethnocentric Spaniards does not know that “seis portas” is Portuguese just like the name Sasportas. Porta in Spanish is Puerta. The only language using Pota is Portuguese


    August 7, 2014 at 05:59

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