Simple but Expressive

For the most part, it seems that Esperanto tries to ensure that there is only one word for one particular sense, instead of having endless synonyms for words.

A friend, having discovered this trend declared that Esperanto must be the most dull language, with only one way to express things. They said it’s too simple.

But this is not the case! Yes, while there may only be one listed canonical form, there are many ways the same or similar idea can be expressed, through word building. It can also often introduce subtleties of meanings or emphasis to further enhance the text.

I’ll give you a simple example. The word for “pen” is “plumo”, plain and simple. However, I also know that the verb “skribi” means “to write”. And that the suffix “-il” added to a root word means “tool for <root>ing”. So “skribilo” as tool for writing, also means “pen”!

This could also be a category of post I do from time to time… alternative ways of expressing standard Esperanto words.


3 thoughts on “Simple but Expressive

  1. Another great part of Esperanto word building is that ‘skribilo’ can stand in (in a translation) for *any* writing-instrument or tool-via-which-writing-is-done. So the exact meaning is not always ‘pen,’ if that makes sense. And ‘plumo’ itself is lend from the French word for feather, because original pens were feather pens.

    Bonan ŝancon!

  2. It seems to me that skribilo could mean pen, or pencil, or quill, or dry erase marker or any number of things. It’s a more generic term. In English, we might say “give me something to write with.” You could say that literally in Esperanto “Donu al mi ion, kun kiu mi povas skribi” (literally “give to me something with which I am able to write” ).

    Or you could simply say, “Donu al mi skribilon,” (“Give me a (generic) writing tool).

    If you were writing a check, however, it would be better to say “donu al mi plumon” because you probably wouldnt want to write a check with a pencil. You would specifically need a pen.

    • Yes totally! I guess I should have made it more clear this idea of being a more general term: a thing with which to write.

      Though I think there’s merit in saying that you can use this kind of word sometimes when not speaking totally generically, especially if context makes it clear that you’re asking for a pen. I think I’m perhaps comparing it some more standard derivations like: vortaro. Which means just a collection of words, or some kind of grouping of them. But both context and also convention in this case, usually tells us that we’re talking about some form of dictionary.

      I especially find this kind of usage when reading about grammar in Esperanto, or other specialist subjects, authors tend to use some form of derivation that is technically quite generic, but in the context they are used it’s obvious they are referring to a particular thing. Another thing I guess I should have mentioned 😀

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