Replace, or replace?

I was momentarily confused by something today, but after looking into it, things looked a lot clearer, and then very useful. It involves the word “anstataŭ”, which means “instead of”:

  • Mi trinkis teon anstataŭ kafon = I drank tea instead of coffee.
Specifically, my confusion was over two words related  to “anstataŭ”: “anstataŭi” versus “anstataŭigi”. Two verbs derived from the original preposition. Adequate translations of both could be “to replace” (because it is the action of being instead of something). But there is a very important difference between them.

Look at the following sentences:
  1. The badger replaced the rabbit (The badger itself is now there instead of the rabbit).
  2. The badger replaced the rabbit with a cat (The badger exchanged the rabbit for a cat).
Here the badger is the subject of the verb “to replace”, and there is either one or two objects (rabbit and cat). In the first sentence the badger (the subject) replaces the rabbit (the object) with itself. However, in the second sentence the badger doesn’t replace anything itself, it replaces one object with the other. Clearly there are two different functions of the word “replace”.

This may not be confusing for English people that are used to it, but imagine a student of English learns the meaning of “replace” as in the first sentence. Then sees the second sentence and may think:

“Okay… So the badger replaces the rabbit (exchanges it for itself like in the first sentence)… with a cat? Does that mean “by means of a cat”? So the badger replaces the rabbit using the cat in some way? (Maybe the badger throws the cat at the rabbit, so that it can replace it?).” – Incorrect! And confusing.

This shows that having only a single word for both of these cases is ambiguous. But Esperanto has you covered.
  1. La melo anstataŭis la kuniklon per la kato
  2. La melo anstataŭigis la kuniklon per la kato
The first sentence is like the silly meaning described above: “The badger replaced the rabbit (with itself) by means of the cat”. The second sentence says that the badger replaced the rabbit with the cat (exchanged the rabbit for the cat). Furthermore:
  1. La melo anstataŭis la kuniklon
  2. La melo anstataŭigis la kuniklon
The first sentence means that the badger replaced the rabbit with itself. The second sentence means that the badger replaced the rabbit with something else (unspecified), a much more useful distinction than the previous examples.

How are we to remember this? Why is this the case? The answer is fairly simple.

When making “anstataŭ” into a simple verb “anstataŭi” we are calling on the simple act or state of being “instead of” something: replacing something. Therefore, the subject replaces the object. Adding the ending “ig” is like saying “to cause <root>” (I will eventually get round to blogging about “ig” in more detail!), so “anstataŭigi” could be thought of  as causing a replacement (instead of participating in it); the subject is causing one object to be replaced by (means of) the other.

The magic of the verbal ending

We can tell a verb infinitive apart with the ending ‘i’:

helpi = to help

kuri  = to run

marŝi = to walk

As with the other endings, you can make a word a verb by exchanging its current ending for the verbal ending “i” (Similar to what I did with blua in a previous post):

diro = statement, remark

diri = to say, to tell

What’s great is that the created verb takes on the most useful sense of verb from the type of word it is given.

Here’s some examples:

1. If the root is an action, like “kur-” (kuro = a run), then its verbal form will mean “to do the action”, in this case “kuri” = “to run”.

2. If the root is a description, or quality, like “blu-” (blua = blue), then its verbal form will mean “to be in the state”, in this case “blui” = “to be blue”.

3. If the root is some kind of tool, or apparatus, like “bros-” (broso = brush), then its verbal form will mean “to use the tool (in usual manner)”, in this case “brosi” = “to brush”

4. If the root is a substance, like “akv-” (akvo = water), then its verbal form will mean “to provide with the substance”, in this case “akvi” = “to water, to provide water”.

5. If the root is a person, or type of person, like “tajlor-” (tajloro = tailor), then its verbal form will mean “to act in the manner of the person”, in this case “tajlori” = “to tailor”.

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”