The traditional way to become

A little lexical musing for you today!

We have a perfectly good word for “to become”, which is “iĝi”. We can use it by itself, or use it as a suffix (as it was originally intended):

  • ŝi iĝis pala = she became pale
  • ŝi paliĝis = she became pale

But, according to the PMEG, a more traditional word for “to become” is “fariĝi”. Though apparently the use of “iĝi” is on the rise. I’m glad to hear this, because of how neat the smaller word is, and because I couldn’t figure out how “fariĝi” could actually mean “become”, when it has the word for “become” in it already!!!

Firstly, I’m gonna suggest a reason why “fariĝi” is more traditional, and why “iĝi” seems to be taking over. For this, just assume that it makes perfect sense for “fariĝi” to mean “to become”, then once I’m done, I’ll suggest a reason why I now think it kinda makes sense that it does.

In my previous post, I linked you to an article by Claude Piron on the evolution of Esperanto. In that article he reveals that it wasn’t always the done thing to use affixes as words in their own right; they were always attached to proper roots. But nowadays, affixes are proper words too! We can say “endi” = “to be necessary” (from the suffix “-end”), or “emi” = “to have a tendency to” (from the suffix “-em”)!

Given that affixes couldn’t be used alone, and “iĝi” is one of the most important affixes, it couldn’t have been used alone!

So an alternative was needed, a word to attach it to, which’d maintain the “become” meaning. So that’s my guess as to why “fariĝi” is more traditional! But now affixes can be used alone, so this is far more convenient!

So why the specific word “fariĝi”?

  • fermi = to close
  • fermiĝi = to become closed, to be(come) closing
  • fari = to do, to make
  • fariĝi = “to become doing”? “to become making”? “to become made”?

For some reason, my brain couldn’t think of anything else for a while. But here’s what I think now:

See this sentence:

  • la doloro faros lin viro = pain will make him a man

Look how “doloro” is the subject; it is doing the making.
See how “lin” is the direct object; he’s the one being made into something.
“Viro” is a complement, it shows the result of the action.

When you put “iĝ” on the end of a verb, the old direct object becomes the new subject, and we no longer care about the original subject (the reverse to suffix “ig”, which adds an object); it disappears. I may blog about this in more detail, but here’s what I mean:

  • Ŝi farbis la domon blua = she painted the house blue
  • La domo farbiĝis blua = the house was painted (lit. became painted) blue

“Blua” is our complement here; it’s the result of the action in both cases.

But notice how the original subject (ŝi) is overwritten with the object (domo) using our suffix. In the second sentence, “domo” is the new subject of the new verb (in evil speak: “iĝ” makes a transitive verb which takes a single object, into an intransitive verb). Read this section of Being Colloquial in Esperanto if you’re crazy interested and can’t wait for me to post more about it.

Back to fari:

  • la doloro faros lin viro = pain will make him a man
Which with “iĝ” becomes:
  • li fariĝos viro = he will be made (lit. become made) a man

The old object (lin) overwrote the old subject (doloro), which we now don’t care about, and we’re left with the complement.

Notice how “X is made Y” means “X becomes Y”!!!

  • He is made a man = he becomes a man

So this is why I think I now see why “fariĝi” pretty much equals “to become”. Still, I much prefer “iĝi”! 🙂

I had some real trouble explaining this, so if you need clarification, don’t hesitate to ask!


3 thoughts on “The traditional way to become

  1. “Fariĝi” is a construction that’s used or somewhat possible in some other languages, for example Japanese technically can add both ig and iĝ to the same verb. We can also say it English, to varying degrees of clarity:

    It got done = it got made = It became made, it became done = It’s been made. (“got = become”, same as how we say “I got sick = I became ill”).

    “I made him get sick” = I forced him to become ill

    I know there’s some better examples out there but I can’t think of any right now. Here’s “fariĝi” used in a song:

    As for using things as separate words, I don’t think this is a new /possibility/ but I think that the earlier speakers just didn’t think too deeply about Esperanto so it didn’t happen immediately. Even today we get people who say “ĝisdatigo” for “update” (Obviously, or so I thought, “until-date-cause” sounds more like you’re setting an expiration date on something!) instead of, say, “freŝigo/freŝiĝo” or another somewhat clearer term. Because they simply use what they’ve seen others use and don’t think about it, and modern lessons seem to not teach the theory of how to compound in general (which most English natives sorely need at least), and instead most people seem to teach Esperanto as if it’s much more set than it really is.

    In the past you had the additional bonus of a general lack of internet, mailing and printing costs were high, etc. It would have been difficult to give someone a piece of your experimental writing to see if they could actually read it or not, so most people probably acted on the safe side.

    If you look here, at an English translation of the first book:

    Eventually it says this:

    “…So, for example, the derivation of frat’in’o, which is in reality a compound of frat “child of the same parents as one’s self”, in “female”, o “an entity”, “that which exists”, i.e., “that which exists as a female child of the same parents as one’s self” = “a sister”…”

    This makes it pretty clear that gender isn’t inherent in the roots of words (frato = sibling, not brother), and not even if a thing is human or inanimate is inherent (o = entity. ulo = “a being”, not “a human”). Instead it’s all provided by context or further clarified by the addition of other words which may or may not be always necessary. It also becomes clear if you simply know enough Esperanto – the more you know, the deeper an understanding you have of its real structure. Yet, today, some people are a bit confused about this.

    Looking in some of the earliest English dictionaries, we still find words like “antaŭe – ahead; nuna – actual time”, and yet again, even today there are people who claim that we can’t (or shouldn’t) put grammatical endings at the end of aŭ-words, or words like “dum”! However we have even in English, “a duration (dumo), durational (duma), during, meanwhile, while (dume), to endure (dumi)” and so on, or that is what those words used to mean anyway and they’ve since been corrupted a little with time.

    For another one, “ci – thou, you singular” and “vi – you, you guys, you plural”. I’ve only studied a few languages but this difference exists in Icelandic, Japanese, Spanish and Sami (Lappish) just to name a few. Zamenhof said himself that the words have no formality difference (Why would they? We barely have a word for “please”!) but people stubbornly decided that “the usage is different in my major-European language so it must be different in Esperanto”, so even now there are many people with the wrong idea about their usage. Meanwhile, I’ve actually met people who refused to learn Esperanto after they saw that a ci/vi difference wasn’t listed in their textbook, because “How can you call a language logical if you can’t distinguish between singular and plural you? Why would I want to learn another language that’s just as confusing with that as English is?”. It’s a problem with the community being too strange or too uninformed, not with the language itself.

    So, I think most Esperanto speakers aren’t actually any different today compared to with in the past, it’s just that the language has been “opened up more” by a few people who were a bit more creative or more heavy users, and people gradually began to copy that and see it as normal. Since it’s just a light hobby for most people, it can’t be helped.

  2. I think your reasoning behind the choice of ‘fari’ in ‘fariĝi’ is probably correct. I still use this word myself, as it somehow sounds nicer than the naked ‘iĝi’, but that’s just a personal preference. And it’s largely down to the fact that the courses I started with on Lernu used the ‘fariĝi’ form, as far as I remember.

    Still, either form is perfectly fine, and it’s true that a lot of people do use just ‘iĝi’ these days.

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