Friday, August 8, 2008

Imperial Inquisition

This has been floating around in my head for a while, but I didn't bother looking into it until the other day. According to most people (and google search), "Inca Empire" is the preferred term (as opposed to "Incan Empire").

This strikes me as odd because usually, the word that precedes Empire is an adjective of the nation-name. (consider: British, Byzantine, Ottoman, Peruvian, Prussian, Roman, Russian, Turkish, etc.) However, most of these adjectives are also used to describe the inhabitants of the nation. From that point of view, Inca and Aztec are correct, and British and Turkish become the exceptions.

To my ears though, it's the grammatical form rather than the semantic form that's easier to grasp, and thus, {[n.]+"empire"} sounds stranger than {[nationality adj.]+"empire"}.

Maybe they're just exceptions to the "rule". Or maybe English-speakers should switch to using "Incan Empire" and "Aztecan Empire".

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