Remember how last time I got utterly nerdy on yo asses? Well it’s only gonn’ get worse.

I think I’ve already mentioned that I’m ever so slowly writing a little Esperanto novella, a fantasy parody. In this book, there are ridiculous sorcerers, and exceedingly ridiculous spells, and I wanted magic to be associated with archaic language and full of mystery, as often one does.

Non-artificial languages are steeped in history, it’s easy to pick an ancestor, like Latin, and make such use of it for this goal. But what about Esperanto?

Well, we do have over 120 years of history, but we have the Fundamento, and we make a considerable effort to make sure the core of Esperanto stays the same, so everyone can always understand each other. Have you ever read Esperanto text by the creator of Esperanto himself? Not only was he incredibly eloquent with the language, but he’s also perfectly understandable from all that time ago. If you’re interested in how he responded to people’s questions about the language’s grammar, like I was, read the “Lingvaj Respondoj“. Esperanto has indeed changed over time (take a peek here for more info), but nothing like the difference between Spanish and Latin.

So what can be done? Well, of course someone way smarter than me has already thought such a thing would be bloody cool. Have you ever heard of Arcaicam Esperatom? Archaic Esperanto (AEo)? It’s like an Esperanto code, designed to make Esperanto like the difference between Middle English and Modern English or somethin’.

The best easy-access description of it I’ve found is the Esperanto-language wiki-page on the topic. It purposely adds complexity to the language, like more noun cases and verb conjugations, and gives it a slightly Latinesque feel. The title of this post is the Archaic Esperanto for the following:

Badgers: they will be our masters

Meloj: ili estos niaj majstroj

Sooo, all my sorcerers’ spells will be some lump of archaic obfuscation :D I’m thinking I’ll try to make spells be AEo tongue-twisters, or poems. Or perhaps in the realm of the more silly: food recipes, or instructions for electrical appliances, always spoken with great seriousness, because no sorcerer now knows the true meaning of the words!

See if you can translate the sentence below to archaic Esperanto!

The courageous fish, whom the badger had quietly killed, had been travelling from Paris to Shanghai.

La kuraĝa fiŝo, kiun la melo mallaŭte mortigis, antaŭe vojaĝadis de Parizo al Ŝanĥajo.

I’m a trifle nerdy, and that’s setting off my understatement-o-meter. But whether or not you are too, you’ve probably heard this quote before:

Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.

Your brain may even have read it in a commanding captain’s voice. Then a massive wind up, and POW; we’re in warp. Daa, dadada, dadada BOM BOM, dadadada da daa daa daaaa dadada daaa, –

Ahem. *lays down trumpet*

Anyway, I’ve always remarked, as I’m sure many before me have, that the ending line is so punchy.

To boldly go….

Some of you may remember certain school teachers of English language endlessly chastising you for splitting infinitives: this process of instead of keeping the “to” with its “go”, you split it with a word describing the action.

To ceaselessly battle.

To tirelessly study.

Many seem to consider it bad style. And often it can look clumsy. But I think there’s a place for it. It certainly feels at home in that Star Trek quote. And it’s that quote that fuelled me to ignore my English teacher! What if it were “to go boldly”?! Doesn’t that sound lame? Generally, the real way of getting around a split infinitive involves rephrasing completely. But dat ain’t needed nor wanted here, son.

ANYWAY. Why did I bring this up? You’ve probably realised that in many languages, you simply cannot split the infinitive, because it is only one word!

Take Esperanto: infinitives are the i-forms of verbs:

  • danci = to dance
  • ami = to love
  • iri = to go
  • tedanci = to do the tea dance (makes tea rain from the sky!).

I certainly can’t put “boldly” in the middle of “iri”.

So this got me thinking. How do we translate this? And is it as punchy? And is there anything we can do if it ain’t so punchy?

So the most naive translation I can come up with for that bit is this:

  • iri aŭdace kien neniu iris antaŭe (literally: to go boldly where no one has gone before)

Now, you gotta admit, that iri aŭdace — iris antaŭe combo really does give it a nice rhythm. BUT, you may disagree, but it really does read like “to go boldly” to me; it makes sense, but the punchiness is gone. It’s like a normal utterance. The power of the boldness word is lost.

What are our options? Well, in Esperanto, given the slightly freer word-order, a common technique for applying emphasis is to bring the word requiring emphasis to the beginning of the phrase, if this is permitted:

  • aŭdace iri kien neniu iris antaŭe (literally: boldly (to) go where no one has gone before)

Despite the unfortunate consequence that pronouncing “-ce” then “iri”  is a little less pretty, this really does bring back some umph, don’t you think? You get right to main point in the first word – BOOM, not even having to say a pesky “to”! (The thing that stops this starting to translate like “boldly going where…”, is how the paragraph begins: “it’s continuing mission: to X, to Y, to Z.” i.e. not “Xing, Ying, Zing”.)

There is another tool on Esperanto’s belt of course VORTFARADO!!! (or word-building…).

  • aŭdaciri kien neniu antaŭe iris (literally: boldy-go where no one before has gone)

Notice I change the order of “antaŭe” and “iris” to maintain the rhythm (aŭdaciri — antaŭe iris), purely poetic and unnecessary :P

Now, what’s going on ‘ere then. “Aŭdaciri”? can I just go and do that? This is actually more than just just boldly going (as you may know if you’re familiar with this section of the PMEG). This is like a special kind of going, a kind of going that is by its very nature, daring and bold. Exploring the dangerous bits, inviting new trouble, poking your nose into the fresh-universe-snow. The going is defined by the daring.

Why? I’ll explain with the PMEG example. You can’t just go around sticking on adjectives and adverbs (a-words and e-words) to things and expect them to mean the same plain old thing:

  • dika = thick
  • fingro = finger
  • dikfingro = thumb
  • dika fingro = thick finger

Get my drift? If you join those words together, you are saying that its very nature is highly influenced by the attached property; we’re not talking about just a slightly thicker finger here; this finger is something else, it’s set apart, and one of its defining apartnesses is its thickness compared to a normal finger.

We’re not just being bold while we go through the universe; we’re bloody well pioneering for our species, our whole movement through the universe is about audacity and facing the new, the strange, the tough, and the scary head-on. THAT is how we are going through the universe.

How’s that for punchy?

(Note: an acceptable translation for “boldly” might have been “kuraĝe”, with more connotations of courageousness. But that is like boldness against fear. When what I think we really want here, is boldness in the face of trials of our morality, understanding, strength, etc. I.e. not necessarily things that make us afraid, but things that make us confront our own darkness and thought, and struggle to find the right path. A pretty lofty goal, hence audacity, intrepidity).

Or: on the use of “ol” after “antaŭ”. 

Why you gotta go and use “ol” after “antaŭ” sometimes?

“Antaŭ” is the word for “before” and “in front of” in Esperanto! So it’s doing the work of two:

  • La hundo estas antaŭ la kato = the dog is infront of the cat.
  • Antaŭ la alveno de la hundo, la kato estis feliĉa = before the arrival of the dog, the cat was happy.

I’ve made posts touching on “antaŭ” before, such as this one.

But sometimes “ol” has to come after it:

  • Antaŭ ol la erinacoj atakis, nin meloj jam superŝutis = before the hedgehogs attacked, we were already overwhelmed with badgers

Wanna know why? Eh?!

What happens when I want to say “the squirrel sang before the cat (sang)”?

  • La sciuro kantis antaŭ la kato = The squirrel sang in front of the cat.

What tha?! When we just used “antaŭ” by itself it means “in front of” here! It only tends to mean “before” when it’s followed by an expression of time, or an event (the squirrel sang before morning).

This is because we’re trying to use it like a different class of word. See, “antaŭ” is a preposition; it defines a relationship with a noun: before her arrival, in front of the cat.

We’re trying to use it like a conjunction; a word that connects two whole phrases together (like “the squirrel sang” and “the cat sang”). That just ain’t gonna fly. If we allowed that, then that singing example would be an ambiguous sentence wouldn’t it? How would we know whether the squirrel was singing in front of the cat, or whether it sang some time before the cat sang?

“ol” is the word we use to help us know which usage we’re going for! Together “antaŭ” and “ol” make our conjunction, and roughly mean “antaŭ kiam” = “before when”  or “before at what time” (which is also usable, but way less traditional and usual).

The squirrel sang, before at what time the cat sang.

It’s the same deal with the preposition “post” (=after/behind). Except “post kiam” is most used!

I gone done made some new words didn’t I?

I managed to find inspiration to add more to my fantasy parody in the making. And that’s mostly owed to a set of very strange and vivid dreams.

Anyways, while I was on a roll, I created a couple words I like:

  • “Foriru!” ŝi bojis ĝeniĝbrove. = “Go away!” she barked with a troubled frown.
    • ĝeni = to trouble
    • ĝeniĝi = to be troubled (see posts about the affix “iĝ”, which is like “to become <root>” or “to be <root>ed”)
    • brovo = (eye)brow
    • So literally “troubled-brow-ly”
  • Li komencis kuri, stumblis, malstumblis, sed tiam falis. = He started to run, stumbled, found his feet, but then fell.
    • “mal” is a prefix which reverses the meaning of the word that it goes in front of (see previous posts)
    • So “malstumbli” literally means “to un-stumble”. I just love the idea of “un-stumbling”!

Ĝenatajn melojn oni lasu kun iliaj propraj pensoj

I met some lovely Esperantists today! It was quite a shock being greeting in Esperanto for the first time! My brain was slightly confused, despite how much I’d prepared by listening to Esperanto radio. And I definitely need to practice speaking more, not for pronunciation, but for actually coming up with sentences on the spot!

I came up with 2 words I liked this week!

1. Plendema = fussy

  • plendi = to complain
  • -em = a suffix which means “tendency to <root>”. See previous posts.

2. Korloko = soft spot (as in “I have a soft spot for a good curry”).

  • koro = heart
  • loko = location
  • So it’s like saying “There’s a place in my heart for….”

And also a phrase that I kinda like:

  • Ni rekafu baldaŭ! = We should go for a coffee again soon!

Neat huh? :D

Aren’t affixes lovely? They are like the sprinkles of word building; shove some nice spongy root words together and sprinkle on the affixes. Some roots are so neat and generally useful they are all but official affixes.

You may be aware that over the many years of Esperanto’s life, many have tried to introduce new prefixes and suffixes for one reason or another. You can read about the ones that remain unofficial here (for prefixes) and here (for suffixes).

Some of those seem pretty useful, and others redundant, and some are useful for certain scientific folk. If all of those were official, can you imagine the learning load?! Getting the hang of the proper use of affixes in word building is a little trickier than just lumping roots together, so we definitely don’t want a whole barrel of them, but:

If you could have just one more affix widely used and official in Esperanto, what would you have? You could pick from the unofficial ones, or make up your own! You know you want to.

I quite enjoy one of the meanings of the unofficial suffixes, “e”. Check out meaning 2.

Say you’ve got an object, e.g. a brick (briko). And you want to say the equivalent of “brick-coloured”. You’d probably go for: “brikkolora”. Meaning 2 is exactly this. Instead of relying on suffixing the full “kolora”, you would just go “brikeo”. Short an sweet.

Only thing that bothers me, is that I’m not satisfied with my pronunciation of “e” followed by a vowel. It just feels unwieldy having to pronounce “e” as in “bet” followed by another vowel. I kinda wish “eĵ” was a suffix. Something about “brikeĵa” pleases me :D

Though I wonder if there could be a more generally useful suffix than one that just means colour! :P

I’m a little stunned that I’ve not come across this PMEG page before… I think not anyway… Though feel free to correct me if you’ve seen me mention it before.

It’s all about making words out of phrases (rather than just shoving roots and affixes together). It’s a goldmine of inspiration for word building, and gets you thinking about how to really play with your words.

I’ll probably write a couple posts over time on it, and today will be concentrating on the section entitled “Vortigo per A-finaĵo aŭ E-finaĵo”, which, as you may know, means something like “making a word with an A-ending or an E-ending”.

Now, you may recall that A-words (adjectives) are used to describe O-words (nouns). So if you’ve got your O-words (which shows a thing or concept), you can describe the kind of thing using an A-word:

  • melo = a badger
  • blua melo = a blue badger

E-words, describe everything else, and you’ll mostly see them describing actions.

  • ŝi kuris = she ran
  • ŝi rapide kuris = she ran quickly

So, what this section of the page talks about, is taking a phrase of some sort, and smooshing it into a single word, and then using it to describe something where that original phrase would apply.

A simple example is the first one.

  • sur tablo = on a table
  • surtabla lampo = a table-top lamp, a lamp which is on the table

You can even make an adverb version, if you’d rather describe an action:

  • Ili sidis surtable = They sat on the table (literally like: they sat on-table-ly)

Instead of:

  • Ili sidis sur la tablo

Just look at the flexibility of those examples on that page though!

This one’s really cool:

  • kun blanka ĉapelo = with a white hat

You could be boring and start a sentence as below, which is going to be slow starting and lengthy despite the simple property you’re trying to express:

  • La homo kun blanka ĉapelo… = The person with a white hat

Or you could set yourself up for a more interesting/complex yet succinct sentence with:

  • La blankĉapela homo… = The person with a white hat / the white-hatted person

Ain’t that grand?

Here’s one that I just thought of:

  • en la dorsa poŝo = in the back pocket
  • La endorspoŝa telefono… = The back-pocketted phone… / the phone in the back pocket…

Written out long you’d have to go for:

  • La telefono, kiu estas en la dorsa poŝo… = the phone which is in the back pocket

Ĝis!

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