Where to keep your objects

“Skribi leteron” means “to write a letter”. In the interests of exploring Esperanto’s word building mechanisms, what happens if we do: “Leterskribi”? Is this allowed? What does this mean?

We sort of have something similar to this in English, “to letter-write”, meaning to perform a writing action where the writing is formatted like a letter. It is in fact allowed in Esperanto, and does have a slightly different meaning than keeping the words separated.

“Skribi leteron” implies the definite writing of a letter. Whereas “leterskribi” simply defines the type of writing one would perform if one were to perform that action. Whether that means you write one or several, or never finish the letter is not clear without an object.

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To agglutinate or not to agglutinate.

So, with the delights of Esperanto word building, one might be tempted to shove meaning together without a care for who gets hurt. I’m thinking of a specific type of example today.

Is it ever appropriate to shove a quality or attribute type word onto a noun with that quality?

E.g. “blua” (blue) is a quality or attribute (just like angry,sexy,powerful). “Floro” (flower) is a noun we might be interested in. Should we use, “blufloro” or “blua floro” when talking about a  blue flower? Should we always separate out the adjective?

From what I can tell, there is a distinct usage of both approaches. If we simply want to talk about an arbitrary blue flower, we should just describe it with the adjective “blua floro”. However, if there is a particular type of flower, a singular idea of a flower, a flower characterised by being blue, then we can speak of it as a “blufloro”.

In the same way that we have “blackberry” in English to specifically refer to a species of berry, but if we happen to find any old berry, and that berry is mostly coloured black, but may not be a blackberry, we may describe it as a “black berry”.

The magic of the verbal ending

We can tell a verb infinitive apart with the ending ‘i’:

helpi = to help

kuri  = to run

marŝi = to walk

As with the other endings, you can make a word a verb by exchanging its current ending for the verbal ending “i” (Similar to what I did with blua in a previous post):

diro = statement, remark

diri = to say, to tell

What’s great is that the created verb takes on the most useful sense of verb from the type of word it is given.

Here’s some examples:

1. If the root is an action, like “kur-” (kuro = a run), then its verbal form will mean “to do the action”, in this case “kuri” = “to run”.

2. If the root is a description, or quality, like “blu-” (blua = blue), then its verbal form will mean “to be in the state”, in this case “blui” = “to be blue”.

3. If the root is some kind of tool, or apparatus, like “bros-” (broso = brush), then its verbal form will mean “to use the tool (in usual manner)”, in this case “brosi” = “to brush”

4. If the root is a substance, like “akv-” (akvo = water), then its verbal form will mean “to provide with the substance”, in this case “akvi” = “to water, to provide water”.

5. If the root is a person, or type of person, like “tajlor-” (tajloro = tailor), then its verbal form will mean “to act in the manner of the person”, in this case “tajlori” = “to tailor”.

He killed his father!

“He killed his father!”

Did he kill his own father? Or did he kill another man’s father? You just don’t know! In Esperanto, there is a way of resolving this and similar kinds of ambiguity. The word for “he” is “li”. The word for “his” is “lia”. However, if we want to simply refer back to the subject of the verb, we use the pronoun “si” or in this case, “sia” for possession (his/her/its). Therefore, if we don’t use some form of “si” we must be talking about someone other than the subject of the verb!

1. Li mortigis lian patron.

2. Li mortigis sian patron.

(Remember the ‘n’ is just the accusative ending)

Sentence 1 means “He killed his (someone else’s) father”. Sentence 2 means “He killed his (own) father”.

Simple yet useful!

Parts of Speech Fun

One of the things that I always find myself doing in English, is the blatant overuse of the suffixes “-esque” and “-ly”. I use them often without care as to whether they make a proper word or not! For some reason I just find it useful to be able to make an adjective or adverb from other parts of speech.

“-esque” often makes a noun into an adjective (we often achieve the same thing by using “-like”):

European –> European-esque

Neanderthal –> Neanderthal-like

“-ly” often makes an adverb, in order to describe the manner in which an action occurs:

Happy –> Happily

There are so many exceptions to the rule if you want to do it properly in English. But it’s so simple in Esperanto! There are only a small amount of Esperanto words that do not have a suffix marking something like their part of speech (“o” = noun, “i” = verb).

All you have to do to make a word into an adverb is change it’s part of speech letter to “e”, or for an adjective “a”.

Amiko = friend

Amika = friendly

Amike = friendily

Disaster Has Struck

I ran out of my favourite tea a little while ago. THE HORROR. Then suddenly inspiration for a new Esperanto word accosted me:

“La senteosentaĉo.”

Which means:

“The terrible feeling of being without tea”

“Sento” is a feeling or sentiment.

One can make a word have a feeling of awfulness or contempt by inserting the suffix “-aĉ”.

“Sentaĉo” = “Awful/terrible feeling”

The word “teo” means “tea”, and the word “sen” means “without”. Often when you combine it with a word, it adds something like the English “-less” suffix.

E.g.

“helpa” = helpful

“senhelpa” = helpless, without help

Therefore “senteo” = “tea-less, without tea”

So “senteo” + “sentaĉo” = an awful feeling characterised by being without tea!

Conjunction

So here’s another interesting simplification Esperanto makes over English. The word “kaj” (pronounced like the “ki” in “kite”) means “and”.

So you can say:

“La fiŝoj kaj katoj” = “The fishes and cats”.

Sometimes, depending on where this comes in a sentence, we might want to introduce it with “both”.

“I like both fishes and cats.”

But this essentially just introduces the conjunction, so why should it be anything but the word used for this conjunction? So “kaj” also means “both”.

“Mi ŝatas kaj la fiŝojn kaj la katojn.” = “I like both the fishes and the cats.”

Same works for “aŭ” (pronounced like “ow” in “how”), which means “or”, but can also mean “Either…or”

“Mi ŝatas aŭ la fiŝojn aŭ la katojn.” = “I like either the fishes or the cats.”