Turn around – de temp’ al temp’ mi disrompiĝas!

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It’s all about word versatility this evenin’. We turn a simple word into whole bag of tricks. So don’t turn back, nor avert your eyes. The word of interest is:

Turni : To Turn (pronounced TOOR-nee)

This word specifically means that the subject is turning something. As in “I turned the hands of the clock”, or even “I turned the clock into a watch”. But never “I turned around” or “I turned into a badger”. The difference with those last ones, is that they are implying that the turning is happening to the subject of the verb, the thing doing the action. But Esperanto has a different word for that.

Therefore, if I said the broken phrase “Mi turnis en melon” for “I turned into a badger”, an Esperantist would ask you “You turned what into a badger?” Your sentence is incomplete!

First, lets take the dictionary dive:

Turnilo: winch / crank / tool for turning

Using the suffix “-il” for specifying a tool for performing an action, we can arrive at “a tool for turning”, which is quite versatile in itself; we can tack any noun at the front to get “a tool for turning [noun]”:

  • ŝraŭbturnilo: screwdriver
  • diskturnilo: disk unit / drive / turn table

Deturni: to turn away / to avert

Deturnu viajn okulojn! = Avert your eyes! Here we use the word for “from”. So instead of just turning a thing, we’re turning it from something else. Whenever you get a nice strong action word like this, you can make fun use of “sen” = “without” to describe things that proceed without that action. Here the “a” ending makes an adjective, for describing nouns:

  • sendeturna: without turning away / unflinchingly.  “la sendeturna okulo” = “The unaverting / unflinching eye”.

Returni: to turn back

The “re” prefix means repetition, or going back. So putting the “re” infront of “turni” will usually mean turning something back the other way, or in the opposite direction.

Turniĝi: to turn (around) / rotate / gyrate / revolve (toor-NEE-jee)

Here’s that sneaky “iĝ” suffix again. It means literally “to become [turned]”. Our root here is “turn”. So this is like putting the turning action back on the subject. Remember how we couldn’t use “turni” to have the subject talk about itself turning, it must always be turning something else? Well we can with the suffix: I turned into a badger = Mi turniĝis en melon. While it might be hard at first to deal with Esperanto’s strict nature about who is the subject of a verb, it actually means the sense of words very easy to interpret and reason over for word building when you get the hang of it.

Elturniĝi: to manoeuvre / wangle / contrive

Woah. How did we get that? Looks like a flippin’ Elvish name! So we start with the basic “turniĝi” and add to it the ever useful “el” meaning “out of”. So it’s literally like turning yourself out of a difficult situation! And whenever you’ve got yourself a cool verb like that, you can always make a word to describe someone with that quality:

Elturniĝema: elusive, resourceful, slippery, wily

The “em” suffix (and the adjective “a” ending here) describes something that has the tendency, inclination, or disposition for a given action. So something/someone that is “elturniĝema” is one who tends to be able to wangle and manoeuvre!

A lot of the above can be mix ‘n’ matched, many things that work for “turni” (turning something) work for “turniĝi” (being turned)!

Kapturno: dizziness, giddiness, swimming (in head), vertigo

Using the noun ending “o”, a “turno” is just “a turn(ing)”. When we combine with “kapo” = “head”, we have a head-turning. Which is used to refer to when it feels like your head keeps turning you strangely when you’re a bit dizzy!

And now for some extra fun outside of the safety of a dictionary:

Diskturnisto: DJ

Using the “ist” suffix, which is like English “er” in “Shoemaker”, “Writer”, “Runner”, or “ist” in “Novelist”, “Florist”, “Tourist”, we can define someone who is professionally occupied with turning disks 😀

Neturnita: Unturned / Yet to turn

One might used this to describe someone bitten by a zombie but not yet dead… 😛

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Action, Quality, Thing.

For the sake of future posts, word roots types are the topic for today. This is an important concept in Esperanto for understanding how we build words.

Most words in Esperanto can be said to consist of a root and an ending. Where the root gives the word the core meaning, and the ending marks whether it’s a noun/adjective/verb etc. and its tense, mood, or plurality.

And these endings are productive! The verb form may not be in the dictionary, but we can just use a verbal ending to make it. We can even smoosh roots together for new core meanings before assigning the endings.

But the main point today, is one that has only been touched on in previous posts. That is, that roots are not these neutral creatures that have no properties or characteristics of their own until they receive their endings.

Don’t get me wrong, you’ll rarely see a root by itself twiddling its thumbs. They do in most cases need these endings in a sentence. However, they do have their own properties. There are different classifications of root word. And depending on which classification a root lies in, they act in different ways when different roots or endings are applied to them.

An example in the PMEG is the comparison between “brosi” (to brush) and “kombi” (to comb). Their roots are “bros-” and “komb-“. The “i” shows that they are being used as verb infinitives (as in “I want to comb/brush my hair”).

So what happens when we change them to nouns with our handy noun suffix “o”?

“broso” means “brush”. But “kombo” means… The action of combing!!! As in “My hair needs a combing”. What. The. Hell… Why? We did exactly the same thing, with very similar words!

It’s all because of the roots. “Komb-” is an action-like root. “Bros-” is a thing-like root. When you add the noun ending to a thing root (bros-) it just means the thing. But when you add it to an action root, it means “the action of <root>”. There are other ways to achieve what we want with these roots: knowing that “komb-” is an action root, but that we want the word for “comb” we can use the tool-like suffix “il”, “Kombilo” means “(a) comb”. Conversely, we can use the continual action suffix “ad” on “bros-” if we wanted “the action of brushing”, “brosado”.

This may seem unnecessarily complicated at first, but once the idea is internalised, it makes the process of word-building a lot more foolproof and interpret-able.

There are three main classes with respect to the the characteristics above: action-like, quality-like, and thing-like (like verb, adjective, noun).

Though we could define subcategories. Since within the class of thing-like words, for example, there are tool words, profession words, people words, animal words. All of these will have slightly different interactions (that are usually quite obvious don’t worry).

The point of this post is to create awareness of this fact rather than talk about all possible different interactions of these words (Or I’d be basically translating the PMEG). I’ll give you a few examples of the different roots, and in future posts I’ll talk about interesting things you can do with different roots. For example, it’s not always enough to say “oh this suffix changes the meaning of words to X”. Often one must say “When applied to quality-like roots the meaning is X, with thing-like roots Y…” (Check out this post, which shows how the verb ending interacts with a few different root classes).

Quality-like roots inherently show description, the quality or characteristics of something:

  • blu-: blua = blue
  • saĝ-: saĝa = wise
  • bel-: bela = beautiful

These words naturally lend themselves to the “a” ending of adjectives, describing words.

Action-like roots inherently show action, or state.

  • kur-: kuri = to run
  • rid-: ridi = to laugh
  • kant-: kanti = to sing

The words naturally lend themselves to the “i” ending of verb infinitives (and other verb endings). The “i” shows you the action you expect from the root, and then other affixes will derive meaning from the different interpretations of the action.

Thing-like roots are those that fit into neither of the above, being about either concrete things, or concepts.

  • tabl-: tablo = (a) table
  • hund-: hundo = (a) dog

They lend themselves to the noun ending “o”. They will action differently than the previous categories when participating in word building.