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”.

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Oh the possibilities

There’s a sneaky word that has the possibility of tripping you up when translating to Esperanto, especially coming from an English background!

However, instead of Esperanto being the playground bully waiting to trip up poor awkward English, Esperanto is once again helping us to be more concise.

Take a look at the suffix “-ebl”, here’s a post of mine on it.

Why talk about it again? Because this time, it’s about using it as fully fledged root word.

  • Ebla = possible

So here it is. How might you translate “possibility” into Esperanto? Here’s three possibilities:

  • Eblo = possibility
  • Eblaĵo = possibility
  • Ebleco = possibility

Other Esperanto words might set you up for trouble here:

  • Kulpa = guilty, culpable
  • Kulpo = blame, guilt
  • Kulpeco = culpability

Why does “eco” correspond to “-bility” (as with loads of other words too, I suspect), but we can get “possibility” from all three of those endings?

The answer is this. It’s quite helpful in a bunch of cases to think of Esperanto affixes to loosely correspond to common endings in English (at least when you’re starting out), like how “e” creates adverbs in Esperanto similarly to how “ly” creates them sometimes in English (rapida = quick; rapide = quickly), like how “-ness” or “-bility” in English are often similar to “-ec” in Esperanto. However, this is only a rule of thumb. One has to understand what you actually mean by adding “eco”.

In the case with “possibility”, we English use this word to cover the meaning of all three of those alternatives! It’s not like “blame” versus “culpability”.

“Eblaĵo” and “Ebleco” is where we really have to drive the difference:

  • “Eblaĵo” refers to a thing that is possible. “Aĵ” is a suffix, which usually denotes a concrete thing, so “eblaĵo” is “something which is possible, a possibility”.
    • Tio estas eblaĵo = That’s a possibility; that’s a possible-thing
    • La mondo estas plena de eblaĵoj = The world is full of possibilities/possible-things
  • “Ebleco” refers to the property of possible-ness: how possible something is. “Ec” is a suffix, which usually denotes a property or quality of something, not the something itself. You could therefore talk about the “ebleco” of an “eblaĵo”.
    • Tio havas fortan eblecon = That has a strong possibility (“tio” refers to an “eblaĵo”, and “ebleco” is talking about the level of possibility it has).
  • “Eblo” I think out of usage tends to refer to “eblaĵo”, but technically it is the generic noun form of “possible”, which can mean either “ebleco” or “eblaĵo”. So if you’re ever unsure, just use “eblo”.

Reading material on the subject from the PMEG: 1, 2

Hmm… Maybe…

A delightful little root/affix today: “ebl-” = “can be done”

A word of possibilities. It’s very simple but useful. First I’ll talk about its use as a word by itself (with the grammatical endings only), then it’s use in word building.

  • Ebla = Possible

This is the adjectival form, used to describe nouns (o-words).

  • La konversacio estas ebla = The conversation is possible.
  • La ebla konversacio = The possible conversation
  • Ebli = To be possible

The root “Ebl-” I think is quality like, which is why “Ebli” is “to be possible”. So you can use it to avoid the “estas” bit:

  • La konversacio eblas = The conversation is possible.
  • Eblo = Something which is possible (a particular thing)
  • Mi ne konsideros la eblon = I will not consider the possibility
  • Eble = maybe,possibly,perhaps.

I quite like how “eble” can be used to get a “might” construction using future tense:

  • Mi eble laboros = I maybe will work (=I might work)

I think this is nice too:

  • Ebligi = To make possible

Which uses the “-ig” suffix “to cause <root>” see previous posts 1,2,3,4.

When used as a suffix, I think it always has to be at the end of a verb. Because, it makes the idea of the root “possible”.

  • Legi = to read
  • Legebla = readable, possible to read, legible
  • Legeble = readably, legibly
  • Legebli = to be legible

Notice how most of the time the verb will have to be transitive (see previous posts on transitivity: 1,2). This means that it can take a direct object: how can something be readable if you can’t read something? The something is the object. If the verb was “to sleep”, “sleepable” doesn’t make sense. Because you don’t “sleep something”.

However the exceptions are intransitive verbs whose indirect objects or prepositionally related nouns can sometimes take the accusative.

E.g. the PMEG gives:

  • loĝi = to live (dwell)
  • loĝebla = liveable, place that can be lived in
  • loĝi ĝin = loĝi en ĝi = to live in it

Did you know that you can make 3 different words for “possibility” out of this suffix (see this post!)?