Apply squirrels where needed – Apliku laŭbezone sciurojn


I recently realised that one of the little enjoyments of my day is when I discover words that demonstrate neat uses of word building. And so this marks the start of a new sub-type of blog post category!

In “productive words”, I’ll introduce a root word which I think has one or more interesting, convenient, or useful constructions that are also found in an Esperanto dictionary (safety reasons). Then, we’ll completely throw caution to the wind and posit some more constructions that aren’t in the dictionary for the sheer heck of it.

Feel free to ask about any words used, or methods of construction; I won’t go into all of them here to start.

Bezoni : To Need

Dictionary examples:

  1. laŭbezone: where needed / as need be / as needed
  2. bezonaĵo: requisite / a thing that is necessary
  3. senbezona: needless

“Laŭ” (“according to” / “following” / “along”) is a frequent culprit for producing interesting constructed words. It works so nicely with so many things. Number 1 is definitely my favourite! So succinct, and avoids those different English variations in favour of a single logical version. But I do also like how simply we get to “requisite” using the “aĵ” suffix!

My thoughts:

  1. Bezonema: needy
  2. Bezonaĉo: base/nasty urge/need also has “necesbezono” as “manko de ĉio, kion postulas la fizika vivo”. What would you say that translates to? Basic needs?


The Ambiguous Lock


A curiosity-led ambling through the pathways of the internet one night revealed something to me that I’d never previously noticed about the English word “unlockable”. A quirk whereby it may mean either of:

  1. impossible to lock
  2. capable of being unlocked

In first case, we have “un + lockable”, where the “un” acts like “not”, and says that we mean “not lockable”. And for the second meaning, we have “unlock + able”, which says that we mean “possible to unlock”.

Pretty wildly different meanings! And seemingly all because the “un” prefix is permitted to mean either negation (not lock) or reverse/opposite action (unlock). Despicable! And Zamenhof knew it; thankfully he blessed us with both “ne” and “mal”, so that we didn’t have to tolerate such flagrant ambiguity in Esperanto:

  • ŝlosi = to lock
  • malŝlosi = to unlock
  • ŝlosebla = lockable
  • neŝlosebla = impossible to lock
  • malŝlosebla = capable of being unlocked

Neat !

Got a question for you, ain’t I?

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 😀

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

House found to be haunted by ghostly badgers.

Today, you get a couple of words I’ve come up with!

Firstly, we have:

malinformadi = to keep uninformed

  • mal : prefix which reverses the meaning of a word
  • informi : to inform
  • -ad : a suffix which implies repeated or continual action (read more about ad)

Example sentence:

  • Kiel antaŭzorgo, la sciuroj malinformadas la melojn = As a precaution, the squirrels keep the badgers uninformed.

It’s very much an active thing to be doing. When you are “malinformi” you are doing the very opposite of informing. Not simply just “not informing”, you are actively putting someone in the dark. The “ad” bit in the full word, stresses the ongoing, repeated process.

Next up, we’ve got:

feliĉigaĵo = something that makes you happy

  • feliĉa : happy
  • -ig : suffix which means “to make/cause <root>” (read more about ig)
  • -aĵ : suffix which shows we’re talking about a concrete thing, which is somehow characterised by the word that comes in front of it. (read more about aĵ)

Example sentence:

  • Ĉiu serĉu la feliĉaĵojn = Each person should look for the things that make them happy

At risk of blowing my own trumpet, I thought those words lend themselves to quite neat sentences 🙂

Also, please do excuse the title… I found myself giving this post a very boring title and decided to spice it up with a little strange. In future, I might use slightly more odd titles, but also try to translate them into Esperanto, you know, for kicks. 😀

Title: Domo troviĝis hantata de fantomaj meloj

That’s utterly unpocketable

Inspiration for a word hit me today whilst reading some text by William Auld (who wrote so well!). So we’re in the rarely visited territory of the Constructed Words category today!

The word is “poŝebla”, the simplest translation of which is perhaps “pocketable”. The meaning is a description of something which is shaped in such a way that it is possible to put it in one’s pocketses (possessed by the spirit of Gollum for a second there).

  • Ĝenerale, la melo ne estas poŝebla = generally, badgers are not pocketable (it is not possible to put badgers in one’s pockets)

And now for the derivation!

  • poŝo = (a) pocket
  • -ebl = suffix meaning “possible to <root>” or “<root> can be done”; “legebla” = “legible, possible to read”

See this post for more information on “-ebl”.

As you’ll learn from the post about “-ebl”, it expects to a verb at its behind. But “poŝo” is the noun form. So to get the proper interpretation of “poŝebla”, we must first interpret “poŝi”, the verbal form.

Check out this PMEG page, under the section “Verboj el ne-agaj radikoj” (“Verbs out of non-action roots”).

It shows a bunch of guidelines about interpreting the verb forms of naturally object type words (like pocket, stone, city).

I believe the most relevant examples are under this statement “Se la radiko montras ilon, aparaton aŭ simile…” (“if the root indicates a tool, apparatus/device or similar…”). It goes on to explain that the verb form then means “to use the tool in its usual manner”. So “to pocket” is to put something in your pocket, or keep something in your pocket.

Therefore “poŝebla” is “possible to put/keep in your pocket”.

I thought it was quite a cool word, sort of like a whimsical version of “portebla” (portable, possible to carry).

Note that you don’t need this word to talk about things like “pocket dictionaries”, those can just be “poŝvortaroj” not “poŝeblaj vortaroj”.

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!

Make more tasty!

I’ve been playing around with making words in Esperanto recently. Been daydreaming in conversations with people. Every word they say that I don’t know in Esperanto, I try to make it, using what I do know in Esperanto.

Out of my playing, I’ve stumbled on a useful set of steps for making a particular kind of word (much like this previous post, check it out, it’s neat!).

So, do you by now know what I mean by a “quality” root? If not see this post.

Today we’ll be using quality roots, and these:

  • pli = more (see this post for more details)
  • malpli = less (“mal” is a prefix that reverses the meaning of things)
  • igi = suffix meaning “to cause/make <root>”, e.g. “boli” = “boil”, but “boligi” = “to cause to boil”
  • iĝi = suffix meaning “to become <root>”, e.g. “pala” = “pale”, but “paliĝi” = “to become pale”

Now, say you’ve got a quality root in its adjective form, like this:

  • bela = beautiful
  • longa = long
  • vasta = extensive, vast, wide

You can do a neat thing with them. Using this formula:


Things in brackets show alternatives! So you get a few choices here. The idea is, you’ve got some quality, like “beautiful”, and you want to make a verb which means: to become, or cause someone/something to be, more or less that quality:

  • beli = to be beautiful
  • plibeligi = to embellish (literally: to make more beautiful)
  • plibeliĝi = to grow/become more beautiful
  • malplibeligi = to make less beautiful
  • malplibeliĝi = to become less beautiful

Cool, huh?

This saves you some work:

  • Mi estas bela, sed… = I am beautiful, but…
    • ŝi volas igi min (esti) pli bela
    • ŝi volas plibeligi min

They mean roughly “she wants to make me more beautiful”. But look at the second one! So neat! So neat in fact, that I wasn’t sure on the structure of the above. I think the “esti” is optional. The long way around would be then “estigi min pli bela”. Also note that “beligi” would mean “make beautiful”.

Sometimes, all this adding of “ig” and “malpli” etc. makes the words really long, so sometimes we use shorter forms. Look at these two:

  1. plilongigi = (literally) to make more long
  2. longigi = (literally) to make long

There is a clear theoretical difference. 1 implies something is already long, and you are making it longer, and 2 says nothing about how long it was, but you’re now making it long (maybe like English, the omission of “pli” might mean that the thing wasn’t long or beautiful until you made it so). But in practice, this distinction matters little, and often the shorter word will be used. Especially when you get to “malplilongigi”, you might just say “mallongigi”. See this PMEG page for this note, and more “ig” examples.

Here’s a few more I like:

  • plilongigi = to lengthen (to make longer)
  • plivastigi = to extend (to make more extensive)
  • verdigi = to colour green (to make green)
  • plilarĝigi = larĝigi = to widen
  • malplivarmigi = to cool down/ to cool (something)