Esperanto grammar

Today’s mailbag article, http://www.straightdope.com/mailbag/mesperanto.html , starts its reply with the following sentence:

Well, as we all know :wink: , you can’t just throw an infinitive phrase (“paroli”) in there like that. You need a dependent clause. The sentence should read:

“Kie estas tiuj grandaj grupoj, kuij parolas Esperante?”


The truth, as always, is more complicated than that.

This is one of the things that’s a pain in the ass about Esperanto, not that I’m a user of the language. That final -j that produces the objective case of nouns is a ridiculous extraneous difficulty which is unnecessary. If Zamenhof was going to invent a simple language, he could have left that bit off. Score one for English, which has no objective case for nouns.

Tracer: Thanks for the “assist!”

Lawrence: The final -j produces the plural. The final -n produces the objective case.

Like Latin, Esperanto marks its direct objects.

(FYI: The -j signifies a plural in Esperanto.)

Direct objects always get an -n suffix. Once you understand that rule, you’ve hurdled the trickiest rule in Esperanto. Congratulations! That wasn’t that hard, was it?

In English, it’s difficult to change the word order without making the sentence passive and sloppy. In Esperanto, you may twiddle the word order to whatever sounds best (for example, in poetry) or however is most comfortable to the speaker.

Why is the accusative case helpful? Not every language has the rigid word order of English. Some languages feature a different word order; Japanese and a bevy of other languages put the verb last (subject-object-verb). There’s even a few languages out there that typically are object-verb-subject.

(Incidentally, the accusative ending is Esperanto grammar rule #13 out of 16. The grammar rules of Esperanto can fit on one side of a piece of paper with room left to doodle. How many grammar rules does your proposed international language have?)

Honestly, this rule is not as bad as you make it out to be.

Regards,
– Scott S.

Good - you’ll need some scrap paper to work out answers to the comments posted at http://www.xibalba.demon.co.uk/jbr/ranto.html and http://www.cix.co.uk/~morven/esp.htm#grammar … I find them quite compelling.

Bah. http://www.cix.co.uk/~morven/esp.html#grammar

To Yoop (and others…)

Yes, I have seen the “Learn Not to Speak Esperanto” and the “Why Esperanto is Not My Favorite Language” sites. I’ve actually read them with some scrutiny, and I can honestly say I do not disagree with all of those criticisms. They both raise valid points.

Yes, Esperanto is not perfect. I think you would be hard-pressed to say that any construct of humanity could ever be perfect. There’s always going to be someone, somewhere who doesn’t like something.

What disheartens me about those sites is they poke holes in Esperanto without offering any constructive or viable alternatives. If Esperanto is so horrible, why not propose something better? I’d be willing to look at it. So far I’ve seen nothing better proposed, and heck, I know I wouldn’t be able to do any better myself.

Best regards,
Scott S.

Originally posted by Yekrats:

How about English, as the most widely-spoken language on the planet? Or, if that’s too political for you, Swahili. I’m told (sorry, don’t know either myself) that Swahili is more logical than Esperanto or most natural languages, and it already has millions of speakers in many countries.


“There are only two things that are infinite: The Universe, and human stupidity-- and I’m not sure about the Universe”
–A. Einstein

Chronos,

Re: Your proposals of alternatives for Esperanto.

Obviously, I speak English. In fact, I have a B.A. in English (Writing). You suggest Swahili, apparently without looking into it first, so I took the liberty of doing so myself.

From the lessons I found, Swahili grammar has a dozen or so different “noun classes”. To know how to pluralize a noun, you must first know which “class” it belongs to. And then even if you know which class it belongs to, there’s a bevy of nonstandard exceptions. And that’s just nouns. I don’t think I’m being closed-minded by saying that a non-native would have probably trouble with it.

My ideal foreign language would be a non-political language that is easily learned, without many frustrating exceptions. IMHO, I must open my horizons beyond English. I think polyglotism is important now, and will become even moreso in the future. I’m familiar with Spanish, and more than familiar with French, but my second language of choice is now Esperanto. Esperanto is quick to master, and has allowed make some friendly connections in a short time that I would not have made otherwise.

So, Chronos, out of the languages you speak, do you have any other suggestions for appropriate “second-languages” besides English? I’m truly open to suggestions.

Regards,
Scott

I’ll take your word on Swahili; like I said, my info was second-hand. The only languages I personally know are English, Latin, C, and BASIC, so I guess I can’t add TOO much breadth here, but I can say that Latin is a lot simpler than most modern natural languages. True, there’s still five declensions of nouns/adjectives, and there are irregular forms and exceptions, but there’s a darn sight fewer than English or French, and at least, unlike Esperanto, Latin admits that she has exceptions :slight_smile: . Plus, Latin has the advantage of being COMPLETELY apolitical, being (almost) extinct. I’m sure that there’s other natural languages that would work as well or better, but I’ll leave those to others to defend.


“There are only two things that are infinite: The Universe, and human stupidity-- and I’m not sure about the Universe”
–A. Einstein

Chronos,

Now I think you’re onto something: ‘C’ as an international language! Sure, it’s neutral (although not necessarily easily learned). But there’s no arguing that it’s logical.

One problem: no nouns. Well, no bother. That’s why there are pointers! :slight_smile:

Regards,
– Scott S.

Actually, we seem to be glossing over an interesting rule in Esperanto grammar:

If a noun is the object of a prepostion, it may be in either the subjective (ending in “o”) or objective case (ending in “on”).

If the action described is, for example, going into a gardent, then the word for garden ends in “on.” If the action described begins and ends in the garden (“going about in the garden”), then the word for garden merely ends in “o.”

Two things regarding my last posting above:

(1) gardent should obviously be garden
&
(2) I’m only referring to the noun’s use after a prepostion.