https://www.duolingo.com/ConorHoughton

Word use among young native Esperanto speakers

ConorHoughton
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Interesting and fun article about word use by young native esperanto speakers - they internalize the agglomerative system more fully than L2 speakers and are more inclined to invent words with suffixes, like elekrujo for battery and ventrema for fat.

https://unstable.nl/andreas/ai/psy/s3.pdf

(pdf link)

2 years ago

8 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/Mutusen
Mutusen
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Very interesting, but it's worth mentioning that the children in the study are five years old or younger. Adult native speakers normally speak standard Esperanto. In my experience, it's impossible to tell if a fluent speaker of Esperanto is a native or not.

By the way, some of the mentioned words sound normal to me. I disagree with the following sentence: "ene (= inside) is not normally used by adults in prose but only in poetry." Ene is a totally normal and frequent word.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ConorHoughton
ConorHoughton
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That's interesting - there is a pattern in normal first language acquisition where rules are over generalized; "I rode down the street" becomes "I ridden down the street" as participle construction is learned and then returns to "I rode down the street" later. I assume this is a similar phenomenon.

I do like "ventrema" though!

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/seveer
seveer
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In the Discussion/Conclusion, the authors briefly--and somewhat clumsily, in my opinion--compare the over-regularization of natural languages to their results with EO. But I don't think they spend nearly enough time on it, and they make big unspoken and poorly referenced assumptions about the differences.

"Examples such as “goed” instead of “went” in English, “ouvri” vs. “ouvert” (open) in French, “facete” vs. “fate” (do) in Italian and others that we have found described in the literature on developmental psycholinguistics, at most apply one regular composition procedure, and are immediately obvious to the adult in intent and linguistic regularity. On the other hand, an expert grammatical knowledge of standard Esperanto usage is needed in order to identify the applied structural principles and semantic results produced by Esperanto-speaking children."

First of all, the incredibly simplistic examples used seems like cherry-picking, and discounts the fact that these languages aren't productive, so any comprehensible production is going to be incomprehensible. duh It's basically a tautology. Secondly, the point about needing expert grammatical knowledge is glossed over... Native speakers of natural languages are de facto "experts," in the sense used here. That is, they have an intimate understanding of what is "standard." So there isn't really any difference at all here, except that EO is a language designed to be used by novices instead of experts, unlike any natural language. That is the point. Again, this seems tautological to me.

It seems obvious that much of the alleged "sophistication" expressed by the EO "natives" is nothing more than the fact that Esperanto does not actively discourage such linguistic creativity. But this is not merely some kind of inherent structural feature. It is a feature by fiat. Why is saying penisino more "sophisticated" than saying girl-penis? It's probably because instead of laughing at them, Esperanto parents step back from linguistic authoritarianism for a moment and say to themselves "oh, that's clever," instead of "oh naive children, how cute!" Instead of bringing out an anatomy book, they reflect for a moment on the relativity of language because they aren't native esperanto speakers, themselves! They keep logs of their childrens' language progress... probably a bit more sensitive than the average.

People who think in their native language have an enormous blind spot. I would like to see a study of how the children of non-native speakers of natural languages who talk to their children in same non-native language over-regularize. Of course this would be insanely complicated to gain any real data from. Just like this study and its tiny sample. It's interesting, but you really shouldn't infer any pattern from it. We say "my nose is running" instead of "I'm snotting" purely because our language is obsessed with convention. Shakespeare invented hundreds of these kinds of words that we still use. It is largely a matter of linguistic authoritarianism that prevents production in well-established languages. Of course, once the child is thoroughly indoctrinated in what is "acceptable," he can then invent words willy-nilly for comedic or technical effect. This is just a fundamentally different approach to language culture than EO.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/parapluie41

Yes, I agree with pretty much everything you wrote here. It seems like Esperanto's willing to accept the creative use of suffixes is almost certainly a cultural feature of adult Esperanto speakers and not really something about the language itself.

Technically, you can play with suffixes just like that in English (from what I understand, it's even easier in German). But of course, if an English-speaking child called a vagina a "penisette" their parents would certainly correct them and teach them the standard word.

I don't think that this kind of standardization is "indoctrination" or "authoritarianism," though. If new words were added to speech patterns with no resistance whatsoever, languages would diverge so fast that dialects would become mutually incomprehensible in a matter of decades. People in New York wouldn't be able to understand people from Boston, and never mind across the pond. Honestly, I could even see the personal dialects of individual families or friends groups diverging beyond comprehensibility. You ever notice how many inside jokes you have with your family and friends? Imagine if, instead of inside jokes, those were quirky conjugations and alternative vocabularies. You could walk ten miles and find two hundred different words for the same thing.

It's just not practical for language to change that fast and I think the impulse to be at least a bit conservative here is a good one. While I certainly appreciate linguistic diversity and experimentation, we also don't want Tower of Babel reruns in every major metropolitan area once every 12 years. Standardization of expression is what allows people to communicate, and communication is ultimately the goal of language. It even allows people to speak across vowel shifts and accents. Sure, "I'm snotty" is basically comprehensible, but someone who pronounces their "o"s differently from me might say "I'm snooty" and I would assume they're confessing a character defect.

(Edit: I would hazard a guess that fixed expressions are also what lets fluent speakers communicate so rapidly. If a French speaker starts saying to me, Ce n'est pas gr... (especially with the specific inflection that people generally say ce n'est pas grave in) my brain can practically turn off for this period because I've heard it so many hundreds of times that it's complete fluidity. When you pile up standardisms, it makes it very easy to talk, so you can talk rapidly and with few or no misunderstandings.

Sure, you could probably dream up a hundred different ways of saying that phrase, but you would sacrifice the light-speed comprehension. In English, we reference Shakespeare-isms all the time because it's so quick and easy and comprehensible that we don't even know we're doing it anymore. It's great for people to say things and have everyone else know exactly what they meant by it, at such a deep level of their brain that they don't even have to think about it. Neologisms are cool, but telepathy is cool too.)

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/seveer
seveer
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I wouldn't go quite so far as saying that suffixes behave "just like that in English." The unique thing about Esperanto is that it has been constructed. The suffixes have a specific, defined meaning, in a way that English suffixes no longer do. Your example of "penisette" contains a suffix commonly used for at least three different meanings. Other suffixes are far, far more ambiguous still. Esperanto, if it manages to survive as long as English, may very well devolve into such ambiguity; but at least in principle, at present, its suffixes (attempt to) carry essentially unique meanings in each case. That said, your point is well taken.

Small digression: The notion of (or at least the practicality of) carefully and specifically, and most importantly, universally defining units of speech or symbolism in a rigorous way is a relatively modern notion, probably enabled by modern publishing and communication. The idea that modern mathematics and its "universal" symbolism only became well-defined in the 19th century, just a fraction of a moment ago, historiographically speaking, despite the fact that the ideas had accrued and been employed over thousands of years shocks some people who don't know its history. Many people I meet seem to think that Pythagoras was writing theorems in modern notation with a stick on some sandy beach. It never occurs to them that "math" was painstakingly written out as unwieldy natural language philosophy before the utility of a discrete and highly regularized system was devised to express it succinctly. Modern music notation is similarly modern. I do believe that there is some value in regularization in a limited way for a language like Esperanto, as long as it is productive rather than prohibitive. Perhaps if we someday agree on a unified system of natural language particles, it will seem as naturally indispensable as mathematical or musical notation. I just disagree that this is somehow (solely or preponderantly) the reason for the effect observed in the above referenced paper, especially because it can not be easily isolated and controlled for.

With regard to "indoctrination" and "authoritarianism," you probably infer a much darker connotation than I give those words. Indoctrination is simply the inculcation of rudimentary knowledge/views and may as well be a synonym for instruction. Authoritarianism, as I use it, is not a political view, but a simple derivation from the adjective "authoritarian," that is, the elevation or advocacy of obedience in contradistinction to creativity/self-determination. In the sphere of linguistics, it is difficult to avoid these outcomes when there is instantaneous worldwide communication in a widely used and diverse language like English. There are tradeoffs, but I am merely describing, not moralizing.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Jidohanbaiki
Jidohanbaiki
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"In the shower with his parents, one of the children turns to his father, points at the organ in question, and says: “peniso” (= penis). Then he turns to his mother, indicates the corresponding organ and says: “penisino”.

Mi tre ridis. Ĉu mi estas malbona persono?

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ConorFingleton

Interesting article.

Evildea did a video on Esperanto, Language Evolution, and Native Speakers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ONSxiyjZYtI

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Fordaemdur
Fordaemdur
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Wow o.O

2 years ago
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