Changing, whether one wants to or not

I was looking up a few words in the Lernu.net dictionary when I came across a little gem: “vole nevole”, it means “whether one wants to or not”. Such a neat little construction! It comes from the action root “vol-“.

“Voli” means “to want/wish”. Its adjective form (“vola”) means “willful, desired”, and so the adverb “vole” means “willfully”. And just like we use “pli malpli” for “more or less”, “vole nevole” is used for what is essentially “willfully or not willfully”.

Also! I’ve noted down another word. I came across it on one of my usual strolls around the ole PMEG. You’ll find it near the bottom in the “Vortfarado” (word building) section! It’s “tiama”, it’s an adjective derived from the table-word “tiam”. “Tiam” means “then/in that time”. But “tiama” is able to describe a noun (0-word). It usually translates as something like “of that time” or “then”:

  • En 1872, mi renkontis la tiaman meloreĝon= In 1872, I met the badger-king of that time

Seems pretty neat!

Adjectives making solo careers

When an adjective (word ending in “a”) is directly describing a noun (words ending in “o”), and when the context clearly shows what the noun should be, it’s often possible to just omit the noun:

  • Mia melo estas la plej bela [melo] en la mondo = My badger is the most beautiful [badger] in the world (see how the second “melo” is unnecessary because we know what’s being discussed).
  • Ili estas la unuaj [personaj] kiuj manĝas melojn = They are the first people who eat badgers. *
  • Granda melo estas pli forta ol malgranda [melo] = A big badger is stronger than a small [badger] (Again the second “melo” is unnecessary).
Understanding that this is what you mean is facilitated by using a word like “la”  (or “ol”, something that sufficiently narrows the meaning) in front of the adjective, to show that you are talking of a specific thing.This is also why telling the time looks the way that it does:
  • Estas la naŭa [horo] = It’s nine o’clock (literally: It’s the ninth [hour])
Here “horo” is obviously implied and therefore not necessary. The same occurs in phrases like “The ninth day of september”, you can simply say “The ninth of september”.
Also worthy of note is the word “alia” = “other/another” (remember not to stress it like the person name [AH-lia], instead make sure that stress is on the penultimate syllable: a-LI-a ). “Alia” is often used in the manner described above (only implying a noun rather than explicitly stating it), because the implied noun is usually very obvious.
Think about it, if I’m talking about X, then go on to speak about “another” Y, the word “another” suggests that Y is of the same type as X:
  • Mi amis tiun melon, trovu por mi alian [melon] = I loved that badger, find [for] me another [badger].
There are also words that mean quantities (e.g. some, several) that perform similar functions often. You can find these, more examples and my main resource for this post on this PMEG page.
I always find it handy to know these little things about a language, just so you know that such constructions are recognised. I find it gives me more confidence using the language!
*Thanks to folks at Lernu.net forums for helping me with the translation of the second half of this sentence, I was unsure about using “ke/kiu” or using nothing at all with “manĝi”.

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”.

I don’t want “to be”

Something tickled me today. I always wondered, how necessary are all the distinctions between various types of word? Or sub-categories of word? Some just don’t seem necessary. What if instead of having to introduce your state of being with the verb “to be” (is/are/am), you could just say with a word that you are in that state?

Consider the phrase:

“The camel is blue”

This ‘is’ (are/am) crops up everywhere. One of its major functions simply being to relate nouns (like “camel”) to adjectives describing their state of being (like “blue”). Would it not be nice to just have a verb form of “blue” that means “to be blue”?

YES IT WOULD. Don’t worry, Esperanto will save us.

The Esperanto word for blue is “blua”. And we could just translate this sentence like this:

“La kamelo estas blua”

Which is literally “The camel is blue”.

However, we don’t have to settle for that! If like me, you think the verb “to be” is unjustly popular, like a celebrity that has risen to fame through sexual deviance alone, then you can change “blua” into a verb meaning “to be blue” by simply changing the “a” to an “i”: “blui”.

Now, we whack this into the present tense “bluas” (“is blue”). And voila:

“La kamelo bluas”

Mmm.