This has been a mystery to me for some time. When should the Esperanto name of an island group receive the plural ending -j?

  • Sejŝeloj, Filipinoj, Ferooj, Ŝetlandoj, Orkadoj, Falklandoj are usually plural
  • Fiĝio is sometimes in the singular, sometimes in the plural, Fiĝioj
  • Lots of island groups are always in the singular: Mikronezio, Tuvalo, Malto (cf. the English expression the Maltese Islands)

I guess that some of these names are shortened from the expression ”-aj insuloj”, like Feroaj Insuloj > Ferooj. But the same expression could be used with any of the above names, e.g. Mikroneziaj Insuloj. And while we’re at it, why not Japanioj for Japan, another island group? The whole system seems very chaotic to me; hope somebody can help. :-)

  • Sub-question: Is there any reason that we say Feroaj Insuloj (> Ferooj) rather than Feroa Insularo, which would result in Feroo (and add consistency to the names)? – Bjørn May 2 at 14:49

It depends what the term actually refers to, a political or a geographical entity.

Japanujo refers to the country, not the physical islands; hence it is in the singular. The same would apply to Malto and the other examples. Same as in English, where you talk about Malta as the political entity, and the Maltese Islands when you're referring to the actual pieces of rock in the water.

The Orkneys, Falkland Islands/Islas Malvinas etc are not a political entity, but a group of multiple islands, hence you're using the plural.

  • But Filipinoj, Sejŝeloj, Maldivoj and Fiĝioj are also political entities? – Bjørn May 1 at 11:41
  • 1
    Good point. The Philippines and Maldives are also plural in other languages, so I would think they are exceptions, and Fiĝio would be the country, while Fiĝioj is the islands. The full title of the country is Respubliko Insuloj Fiĝio. Unfortunately nothing in language is ever black and white. – Oliver Mason May 1 at 11:54
  • Yes, many of the names are probably just carried over from other languages, whether it makes sense or not… :-/ (For example, I don’t see the reason that Maldivoj should be plural and Indonezio not.) Fiĝio(j) is a really confusing example. Does it mean that one could make a similar distinction when talking about other countries either in the sense of states or island groups? Like: Malto (state) – Maltoj (island group), or Tuvalo (state) – Tuvaloj (island group). And what if Falklandoj/Malvinoj became independent, should the state be called Falklando/Malvino? – Bjørn May 2 at 14:46

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