Conferences

ICOS's INTERANTIONAL CONGRESS ON ONOMASTIC SCINECES | A portrait of Ramon Amigó i Anglčs.


Inside the days organized in Barcelona for the international congress of onomastic sciences he us proposed of contributing with a conference on the work realized by Ramon Amigó i Anglčs. Jordi Fumadó Llambrich and me, Marcel Martí Amigó, elaborate a brief statement to offer an honoring to the maximum exponent in onomastic science of the Catalan language. One week later Ramon Amigó died.




A PORTRAIT OF RAMON AMIGÓ I ANGLČS


Our purpose here is to focus on Ramon Amigó i Anglčs, a preeminent figure in onomastic research in Catalonia who has been required for students in the field for the last several deacades and a staunch defender and promoter of the Catalan language and culture.

Ramon Amigó i Anglčs was born in Reus in 1925. Due to obvius circumstances given the historical context, at the age of 12 he was forced to leave school and the city and was taken with his family to La Selva del Camp for a brief time. Despite entering the labour force at such a young age, in a time when working so young was the norm and intellectual growth took a back seat and was only within the reach of the privileged few, Ramon Amigó continued his studies on his own with tha assistance of one of his great teachers, Teresa Miquel, who guied him in learning French, English and Latin.

Amigó always spoke of his university, that is, the three great teachers that made up his university: the aforementioned Teresa Miquel, Joaquim Santasusagna and Josep Iglésies. In a basic way and without any specific preparation, with leisure and recreation his only guiding principles, he began trejjing with a group of enthusiasts like himself. It was thus in the Prades Mountains where he became friends with Joaquim Santasusagna. He was an avowed Catalan nationalist who organized clandestine meetings in different places in the mountains to promote various cultural activities in Catalan. At one of these meetings he met Josep Iglésies.

Santasusagna and Iglésies worked together on the first edition of the Prades guide, whose full title was Les Muntanyes de Prades, el Montsant i Serra la Llena, but wich was populary known by the rather telegraphic name "the red book" (after the colour of its cover). Later on, when the book was expanded and reprinted, Santasusagna and Iglésies requested the collaboration of Ramon Amigó, who described that moment as "marvellous". We can consider this task the beginning of his lifetime work in onomastics, which can be described as uniquely broad and prolific, while at the same time rigorous and solid.

Other writers have dedicated their life's work to onomastics, such as Miquel Salvador Jassans, Albert Manent and Enric Moreu-Rey, the last of whom worked a bit earlier and with whom Amigó had a close friendship, but none has even come close to making so great a contribution to this science as the man whom we discuss today. Quantitative considerations aside, it is not because of Ramon Amigó i Anglčs's enormous contribution to Catalan onomastics that we find ourselves here today, but because of the discipline, care, patience, methodology and effort that readers can discern in his work. We've come here today to talk about these values, which to some extent have fallen by the wayside in today's culture and society. But today we seek to reclaim and convey these values through different examples that can give us a real picture of the man.

Amigó focused from a young age, starting with his work on Reus in 1957, on comprehensive, municipality-based onomastic research (toponymy and anthroponymy, historic names and living names, archives research and oral surveys), applied primarily and sistematically to the municipalities of Camp de Tarragona (through not limited to them; he explored hi research questions in several directions). We would like to take a moment, however, to define or clarify, if that were possible, the concept of onomastics. In a text published in the form of an interview in 1997, Amigó himself defines onomastics as follows:

"It is the compilation and study of proper names with the aim of discovering their sense, meaning and origin. Onomastics is a term that encompasses all proper names, including places (toponymy) and people (anthroponymy). Anthroponymy is the branch of onomastics that studies the names of people, that is, any of the kinds of proper names that designate individuals: given names, surnames, nicknames, etc. Toponymy, on the other hand, refers to proper names that do not belong to the area of anthroponymy, that is, place names. I recognize, however, that sometimes it is difficult to determine whether we are dealing with the name of a person or the name of a place. Leaving aside this difficulty, which pertains to methodology, I would like to say that I never like to use the word "toponymy", which I find to be too intellectual and, at times, difficult for some people to understand. I find it simpler to talk about place names, a term that is more universally accessible".

We would like to cite to you the complete bibliography of Ramon Amigó, but it would be practically impossible to do so in the short time we have. The bulk of his onomastic studies began in 1957 with the compilation on Reus, which was re-edited 30 years later, and continues with Mussara, Almoster, Castellvell del Camp, Constantí, Vila-seca i Salou, Vilallonga de Ter, Prades, Cornudella del Montsant, Ulldemolins, l'Albi and Pratdip. More contemporary works that are still in print are those on Vandellňs, Tamarit and Porrera. In addition to written works, Amigó has also given numerous short courses and talks on onomastics throughout Catalonia.

It is interesting to discover that all this rich research of the territory was based on an "oath", an unwritten pact between Ramon Amigó and Albert Manent in which they proposed to research all the names from the sea to the Prades Mountains. Manent took on the research work in the valley of l'Aleixar, Vilaplana, Maspujols, Capafonts and Febró, up to Prades. Later they would include in the pact Ferran Jové, who contributed research from Borges del Camp, Moreu-Rey, who contributed research from l'Albiol and Miquel Jassans, who contributed research from Alforja and Poboleda.

Beyond his strictly onomastic work, Amigó's bibliography includes some historical works, including Les places del mercat a la ciutat de Reus, L'ensenyança de la llengua catalana, des de Reus, sota el franquisme and El trŕfic amb el fred al Camp de Tarragona. This last book reflects the social sensibility of a time in which the relationship beteween man and nature was surely not as "segregated" as it is today.

Although it may seem easy to categorize Ramon Amigó's works, the lines between the different genres eventually fade away. Just as Edward O. Wilson, the controversial biologist born in 1929, speaks of consilience, or the convergence between the humanities and the sciences, Ramon Amigó makes a similar declaration of intent with regard to onomastics:

"Onomastics is concerned with all branches of science and the humanities, such as history and archaeology, physical and human geography, economics, sociology, anthropology, and linguistics, and serves as an incredibly solid and necessary foundation for culture. Furthermore, it is an area of knowledge that is deeply ingrained in society: everyone uses proper names.".

Through this cross-disciplinary lens, it is no surprise that we also find among his works book translations, prologues and poems. Today, over fifty years after the publication of his first study, we can consider the lifetime work of Ramon Amigó as a foremost model from the perspective of both current and future generations.

To introduce the following section, we would like to quote a comment by Dr. Jordi Ginebra, a professor of linguistics at Universitat Rovira i Virgili, on Mr. Amigó and his Catalan nationalist spirit:

"Behind so much apparently aseptic analysis and erudition, there is a strong commitment to the country. There is a passionate love for Catalonia and the Catalan language. There is the underlying idea that work in the field of onomastics is also a way to claim our rights, to demand what belongs to us and to contribute to restoring a just state of affairs".

We are well aware that the congress we have come to, and wich we feel very honoured to be participating in, is about onomastics; however, we wish to highlight a project that has perhaps gone largely unnoticed in Ramon Amigó's career, but which deserves to be recognized and appreciated.

During the difficult and tumultuous years of the Franco regime, Ramon Amigó, along with Ms. Teresa Miquel and other friends like Mercč Totosaus and Robert Miralles, carried out a project from the city of Reus that, due to its nature, could have involved complications and was therefore carried out under conditions of such secrecy that these days, personally, is very difficult for us to imagine.

For over 30 years, they taught Catalan to thousands of students. This teaching activity was done in an altruistic manner and for a time was supervised by the Ňmnium Cultural, which was shut down by the regime shortly thereafter due to the Catalan nature of its work. Despite the circumstances at the time, the teaching of Catalan in Reus and from Reus was never interrupted, which was quite unusual compared to the majority of municipalities throughout Catalonia, and it went on until the regime ended and Catalan could be freely taught in schools..

Later, the Universitat de Barcelona recognized and awarded credit for all of the courses taught by Ramon Amigó and his collaborators; this fact alone testifies to the rigor with which they were conducted.

We are fascinated by Amigó's art of writing, which combines scientific knowledge, art and revelation; but what is perhaps most striking is that these three methods are combined in search of engagement with society and its citizens. In essence, we are talking about open research.

Speaking of knowledge, we should point out that the boundaries between the three methods mentioned are not clear: it is impossible to do pure science or pure art. You cannot do science without revelation. Science starts with them. People talk about the extraordinary example of Kekulé, the chemist born in 1829: "I had a dream about benzene and i think is a hexagon." Until that moment the knowledge of Kekulé was revealed; after this "revelation", scientific knowledge was applied.

The work of Ramon Amigó is not without its own "revelations". In an interview given by Amigó, he told an anecdote as follows:

"For example, down here in Tamarit, where we are currently working, there are some rocks along the coast that have a name, la Porrassa. I have spent many hours on this word, seeking its origins. Suddenly, one right, I woke up and it came to me: what if James I talked about it when he returned from Majorca in one of his chronicles? So I went to the Chronicle in question, the one that talks about the "Return of King James I to Catalonia". And I cam across this paragraph that I will transcribe for you:

"After that I departed, and they had to bear my departure, which was best for them and for me. There were two galleys in the port, one of En R. de Canet and the other of Tarragona. I left behind the horses and weapons, in case those who stayed needed them, and went to Palomera and board the galleys; I was in that of R. de Canet, one of the best in the world, and some of my companions went in the other. And on Saint Simon and Jude's day we set sail, and travelled all that day and night and another day, and at midnight on the third day we arrived at la Porrassa, between Tamarit and Tarragona, where the weather is very beautiful" (James I, Chronicle, Vol- II.).

"Given that Tarragona didn't have a port, perhaps it was around the Tamarit area where he returned from one of his trips to the Balearic Islands. Since I have the Chronicle of James I, I grabbed it and looked in the onomastic index, and there was la Porrassa!!! Between Tamarit and Tarragona, and it explained how James I passed through la Porrassa upon his return. This is an interesting piece of historical data, but it establishes a date, 1230, when someone identified those rocks as la Porrassa. Up until that point I had only seen documented use of this name in the 17th century!".

We will continue painting the portrait of Amigó with his own words: "Onomastic works are the kind of thing that cannot be done in a hurry. You have to keep elaborating, you have to keep meditating and reflecting." This quote brings to mind two basic qualities that run through Amigó's life and work, dialectical but interrelated: curiosity motivates us to learn, to discover, and doubt makes us question whether what we discover is correct.

After a lifetime dedicated to working, hunting down and collecting words, doing interviews, searching high and low among scattered manuscripts in different places, some more remote than others, and writing books and articles, which have brought a great many awards and honorary degrees, the values for which we admire Amigó the most are humility and discretion.

We think these two values define Amigó perfectly. Because many people do not know that Ramon Amigó, even though he has won such prestigious awards as the Creu de Sant Jordi and the Gold Medal from the City of Reus, among many others, has always accepted them with humility and awareness of the enormous responsibility that comes with these kinds of awards.

It is our hope that with this talk we might contribute in some way to awakening in the younger generations interest in and curiosity about the work of the onomast named Ramon Amigó i Anglčs, who has contributed so much to recovering, expanding, consolidating and spreading the names of the people and places of Catalonia - an incredibly important and irreplaceable part of its cultural and spiritual heritage.

On that note, we would like to close with a quote from Leonardo da Vinci that we think fits exceptionally well with Amigó's strategy and approach:

"Before proceeding any further I will do some experiments, because my intention is to cite experience first and then use reasoning to explain why this experience is bound to operate in precisely this way. And this is the rule by which those who speculate about natural phenomena must proceed." (Da Vinci, 1513)