The trilingual blog Buscaraons (entries in English, French, and Catalan—separately, not as translations of each other) has a series of entries (in English) on onomatopoeia in Catalan (scroll down to 24.11.03 Onomatopedic sounds in Catalan, then up to 25.11.03 To bark and to quack in Catalan and 27.11.03 More Catalan onomatopedia: to meow and to mow).

To purr is very interesting. The verb, when it refers to a cat or engine, is roncar. This verb also means to snore. So Catalans hear purring and snoring as identical sounds.

Via Cinderella Bloggerfeller.


  1. C. Bloggerfeller says

    Xavier blogs in Spanish occasionally too. Unfortunately his blog has fallen victim to Blogspot’s “improvements” (now all foreign accents are rendered by question marks), but well worth persevering with nonetheless.

  2. I always said *ronronejar, analogizing from Sp. ronronear, and nobody ever corrected me.

  3. Hi all:
    Yup. I’m irked at how blogspot/Google could break such a simple feature and then not bother to fix it.
    In any case, when I remember, I want to comment about some words which are obslete in French but not Catalan and vice versa

  4. Mitch Mills says

    “So Catalans hear purring and snoring as identical sounds.”
    Um, I don’t hear the “roar” of an engine and the “roar” of a lion (or a crowd or the wind or cannons . . . ) as identical sounds.

  5. Mitch:
    perhaps not in English; but in Catalan, it appears that the Catalans don’t distinguish as empahtically as the English. Consider this as a limitation of words to express sounds.

  6. Mitch Mills says

    It seems to me there’s a big difference between noting that there’s a limitation of words to express sounds (i.e. Catalan uses the same word to describe two different sounds), and claiming that “Catalans hear purring and snoring as identical sounds” (i.e. Catalans can’t tell the difference between purring and snoring because they use the same word to describe both). Lack of vocabulary doesn’t equal lack of ability to perceive. But perhaps I’ve misunderstood what you intended to say?

  7. I suspect he didn’t literally mean that they couldn’t tell the difference, but was simply emphasizing the similarity Catalan-speakers find in the sounds. After all, even though I don’t hear the “roar” of a lion and an engine as the same sound, I do file them in the same mental drawer (as it were), and think of them as more alike than they probably “really” are.

  8. Mitch Mills says

    True. I was getting hung up on “identical”. I really shouldn’t post before I’ve had my coffee.
    I was thinking a little more about sound words and mental drawers. In English (or at least the variant I speak), we can also use “purr” to describe an engine, but only if it’s well-tuned and running smoothly.
    While in part it’s a description of the sound the engine makes, there’s also a notion there of contentment, coming from the satisfied mood a cat needs to be in before she’ll purr. I wonder if this is the case in Catalan, or if “roncar” refers generally to the sound any engine makes, whether running smoothly or not.

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