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https://www.duolingo.com/Thyago31

Why in Esperanto do the adjectives go to the plural forms?

Per example, in Esperanto the plural of "pretty houses" is not "bela domoj" (like in English), instead it is "belaj domoj".

Why do that rule exist? What is the function of the pluralization of the adjective when the substantive is pluralized?

0
2 years ago

29 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/jirka92122
jirka92122
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1) free word order 2) redundancy for easier understanding 3) allows one to sometimes leave out the noun while knowing the number

That said, the difference in having or not having this rule is not that big. Speakers of many languages are used to having such a rule. You should look at data, rather than just your gut feeling. Ido does not have this rule, and the few studies done on which is easier to learn, Ido or Esperanto, showed that they are about the same difficulty.

You could also get rid of other rules. Why are there verb tenses? Why is there the plural at all? Some languages (e.g. Chinese) do not have those grammatical features and work as well.

Leaving out some of the rules will make certain ideas from certain languages harder to express. If you want a language that is as easy as possible, you want Toki Pona not Esperanto. That is a language which doesn't care (on purpose) to express everything including all sorts of subtlety, in fact it wants to simplify your thinking. When designing Esperanto on the other hand, Zamenhof translated huge amount of literature and taylored the language so that it could express well what he found. An auxiliary language needs to express ideas from many different cultures, so it needs to have some complexity. Zamenhof did not want to simplify or change your thinking and culture, he wanted to make it easy to express your thinking and culture to others.

10
Reply12 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Vanege
Vanege
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I find it more logical, if you have a group of blue goats, you don't have a blue group of goats but a group of blue goats.

plural(blue + goat) = pluralblue + plural*goat

4
Reply2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/jzsuzsi
jzsuzsi
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In French, Spanish, Italian.... adjectives go to the plural form.

In German, they have a tricky system to make the adjectives agree with the gender (and plurality) of the noun. Rotes Haus, Kleiner Apfel, Rote Häuser, Kleine Äpfel. But nothing happens if the adjective comes after the noun: Das Haus is rot. Die Häuser sind rot.

In Hungarian, one can say we do the opposite as in German. Adjective first-> it does not change. Piros ház, piros házak Noun first -> adjective takes the plural. A ház piros. A házak pirosak.

So, adjectives can work a lot of different ways, the creator of Esperanto picked one of the logical ones. :)

4
Reply2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/KenCollins0

My theory has been that the German predicate adjective is really an adverb modifying the verb, That explains the form, fixes the terminology, and makes for fewer rules. In Latin, it would be a predicate adjective, and since our prescriptive grammar comes from Latin, we call it that.

Hungarian is not an indo-european language. It's distant relative, Turkish, treats adjectives similarly.

0
Reply1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Sphinx1824
Sphinx1824
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A lot of European languages have that rule and the guy who invented it was from Europe, so that's probably why it's in there. It may in some cases clarify which noun the adjective goes with.

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Reply2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Chilotin
Chilotin
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Why in English do adjectives don't go to the plural form? :) Romance languages have plural and feminine forms for adjectives, Germanic languages don't have it, I guess. Agreement between parts of a sentence is a common place. In some languages "house" and "houses" are said with the same word or "go" and "goes". In other languages, there is a plural form for "which" (Which house? vs "Whiches" houses?).

Esperanto was made using words and oversimplified rules of many Indoeuropean languages, so it has things different to English, like this.

2
Reply2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/chaered
chaered
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German is kind of weird in that it depends on the syntactical context: there are feminine forms for adjectives (ein kleiner Mann; eine kleine Frau) but not after a definite article or used separately, and going plural discards all gender information for nouns and adjectives, so there are separate plural and (singular) feminine forms but no separate plural feminine forms. It feels like German got frozen halfway a transition from having a full set of inflected adjectival endings to doing without them entirely.

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Reply12 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/flootzavut
flootzavutPlus
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That actually explains a lot. I've found German really random in that respect, and it really confused me.

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Reply2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/KenCollins0

German only has five adjective endings, they are completely regular, and they apply to all adjectives. The definite article is matched with the adjective ending like this: (I put in line breaks, I hope they are preserved)

| Six articles: der, die, das, des, dem, den | Five adjective endings: -e, -en, -er, -es, -em

| des, den, dem are always followed by -en | das is always followed by -e | die (if singular, always followed by) -e | die (if plural, always followed by) -en | der (if the subject, always followed by) -e | der (otherwise, always followed by) -en

If there is no article, or the article or other determiner has no ending, you have to preserve the sound the article would have had, except with des.

| missing das (all adjectives take) -es | missing des, den (all adjectives take) -en | missing dem (all adjectives take) -em | missing die (all adjectives take) -e | missing der (all adjectives take) -er

| das große schöne rote Haus | ein großes schönes rotes Haus | mit dem warmen fließenden reinen Wasser | mit warmem fließendem reinem Wasser

Foreign adjectives ending in a vowel (such as rosa) officially don't take endings (ein rosa Kleid), but that sounds awkward. Colloquially, people add an -n and then the ending: ein rosanes Kleid

Go by sound, not by grammar, and it is easier.

Our prescriptive grammar comes from Latin; imposed on Germanic languages, it only sort of makes sense.

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Reply2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/flootzavut
flootzavutPlus
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Thank you! I have a feeling it'll still take me a while to get my head around, but this is very helpful.

Coming from a background of Slavic languages, where everything has a case and a number (and depending on the language, sometimes has gender even in the plural), the German endings feel quite haphazard and confusing, and I've been feeling rather at sea.

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Reply2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/KenCollins0

German works kind of like algebra. The case, number, and gender is spread out, something like this:

x(a+b+c) : mit dem guten warmen reinen Wasser ax+bx+cx: mit gutem warmem reinem Wasser

With some exceptions, genders go by semantics, not endings. For example, cardinal directions are masculine, minerals are neuter, spices are masculine, and so forth. Hence salt (neuter) and pepper (masculine) is completely regular.

Don't try to learn rules for genders and plurals. instead, learn nouns like this:

Das Buch, Bücher Der Mantel, Mäntel Die Frau, Frauen

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2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/flootzavut
flootzavutPlus
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That's very handy about the gender thing, thanks - I wish more people supplied this kind of information. It seems like it would be very helpful to the learner!

I am still not really getting my brain around this, but it's somehow strangely reassuring to know there's logic there, even if I am yet to grasp it. I think I need to get organised at some point and write this stuff down and puzzle it out. Like I say, for someone with a background in Slavic languages, it all feels very haphazard and the logic doesn't (yet) seem logical to me!

(In fairness, this is at least in part because I'm a shameless dilettante when it comes to German - it was the first tree I started here on Duolingo, mainly because there was nothing else I was more interested in and I just wanted to dabble in something while I waited for more interesting (to me) languages to appear. Even a fair chunk of the time I've actually spent on German has been with the German trees for French and Russian speakers!

As more Slavic languages and others I'm genuinely interested in have happened a long, German has slipped further and further down my priorities. I'd be happy to improve my glancing knowledge, but keep getting distracted by - ooh, shiny... 8-o LOL)

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1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/johaquila
johaquila
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German declination is horrible, and unfortunately, random is a pretty accurate description. As a native speaker I have zero problems getting these things right (though even some native speakers do have problems!), but I find it extremely hard to understand and explain the rules.

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Reply1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/KenCollins0

This is a good example of something language teachers notice. If students think a language is hard, it will hard. If they think it is easy, it will be easy. The first thing I did as a German teacher was explain why German was easy. Then they had fewer difficulties. I remember a woman who asked, "Kevin gets Ds in everything, why is he getting a B in German?" I saw my former high-school German teacher conducting her second-year class completely in German. She even asked a student—in German—to get a box off a shelf, and he did. Immediately. Without thinking. They were all fluent in German and didn't realize it.

There's a saying, deutsche Sprache, schwere Sprache. Program your brain with that and German will become hard, even for native speakers.

Never tell an Esperanto student that the accusative is hard. Or that anything else is hard. As soon as you say it, it becomes harder than it would have been if you had kept your mouth shut.

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Reply1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/flootzavut
flootzavutPlus
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I remember very fondly my first ever German teacher. For the first two weeks, we weren't even sure she could speak English. It was confusing but it was pretty fun, and we got used to it. Even when she switched out of immersion teaching, she had a gift for making it fun and interesting and making us feel like it was easy and we could be good at it. Our year was split in two, with half learning German and half French, then in the second year of secondary school, those of us in the top set were given the chance to learn German as well. I would say that during that year, most of us came to enjoy German way more than French, and we were getting ridiculously high grades (I seem to remember me and my best friend getting 97% and 98% respectively in our end of year exams) without feeling like it was hard work.

The next year she did an exchange with an English teacher from Germany who spent the entire time complaining how terrible we were at German (after a year!) as compared to German students of a similar age and how well they spoke English, conveniently ignoring the fact they started at 9-10 and we had started at 13-14. Strangely enough, our enthusiasm for German as a class wilted considerably...

People often say they're not good at languages when really, they have no idea if they're any good - they've never been taught in a way that'd let them find out, which is a terrible shame :-/

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1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/jirka92122
jirka92122
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Really responding to johaquila: While those pesky -n's may seem hard, the one piece of data that is not just a "gut feeling" about difficulty of learning is the study done in the 30s comparing Ido and Esperanto. That study did not find any measurable difference in the two in how simple they are to learn. There is nothing like actually trying something in practice. One can have a feeling what is and what isn't difficult, but... unless you have some hard data, you are just making wild guesses based on perhaps anecdotal evidence.

1
11 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/johaquila
johaquila
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Saying that something is hard may not be a good idea when teaching a language, but my experience as a native German speaker learning Esperanto is still that I keep forgetting to add those pesky -ns to the objects of transitive verbs and often add them after prepositions that take the accusative in German but not in Esperanto. So I am making lots of unnecessary mistakes.

0
1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/flootzavut
flootzavutPlus
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Coming from a background in Slavic languages, for the most part I've found it baffling. I'm used to everything having at least two out of gender, number and case, and while Slavic languages have a reputation as being complicated, the complexity makes sense to me. German? Not so much!

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Reply1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/KenCollins0

That's because you aren't used to German, and because people impose a Latin descriptive grammar on German, which creates lots of unnecessary rules. It is like schoolchildren in 17th century Massachusetts learning the ablative form of "house" as "from the house" and being required to identify which nouns were in the ablative case—when in reality, English isn't that complicated.

Unnecessary rules: German only has one set of five adjective endings that apply to all adjectives and are always regular, but imposing a Latin scheme results in 16 forms and two sets of rules. German nouns and verbs have vowel changes that are predictable.

Unnecessary rules: the rule about separable and inseparable prefixes to determine when the prefix "ge" is needed for a participle isn't necessary. The rule is not about "ge," the rule is that there must be an unstressed syllable, and if not, "ge" supplies it. It goes by rhythm.

Omitted rules: When nouns and adjectives change the vowel, they always front it, the front vowel it is always predictable and the orthography makes it clear. O goes to Ö

Ignored patterns: There are a lot of strong-weak verb pairs. The strong verb is always intransitive and the weak verb is always transitive; "Der Baum fiel" and "Ich fällte den Baum."

Unnecessary complications: In Latin, gender corresponds to word endings, and that is true to a small degree in German, but German gender goes by semantics. Paprika is neuter when it is a vegetable but masculine when it is a spice, which makes perfect sense when if you are thinking about spices and vegetables, but no sense if you are trying to detect an imaginary rule about words ending in A.

There are no rules for predicting the plural form, but there are no rules for predicting the words either. so you just learn the word with the article and the plural and you don't need rules.

It is possible to formulate a generative grammar for classroom use on the fly that makes the language quite easy to learn. This is true of any Language X that is described as Language Y.

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1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/johaquila
johaquila
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@KenCollins0: Some things you wrote about German (my native language) are highly misleading.

  • Much of German grammar doesn't make any sense to me on a cognitive level, either. Every decade or so I discover a new aspect of German grammar that I of course get right intuitively all the time but that is left out in most grammars and very hard to explain independently.
  • Declinations of adjectives and nouns are not completely predictable and are in fact subject to historical change.
  • Although there are only few possible endings, choosing between them in German is more difficult than one should think because the ending doesn't merely depend on case, gender and number plus how the adverb or noun ends. German has inherited a system of 'weak' and 'strong' declinations. Sometimes in an adjective/noun chain only the first adjective gets the strong declination, sometimes all of them and sometimes only some of them. This has to do with definiteness/indefiniteness and whether the adjectives are required to identify the object or just provide extra information.
  • The genitive is in the process of disappearing and the dative and accusative are in the process of merging. Both processes are about half-way completed and are being artificially conserved in this state by standard German. The result is a complicated system which moreover native speakers often don't adhere to in practice.
  • The association between declination endings and case/gender/number is almost random. This makes it hard to learn the tables. In combination with the two previous points it also becomes quite hard to learn German declination by induction. This is why it's so hard.
  • The "Latin scheme" is not "imposed" in this case. It is a historical fact that of the eight or nine cases of Indo-European, German still has four, and that these agree with four of the seven cases that Latin preserved from the same origin. I have never heard anyone mention the other three in connection with German.
  • There is no general phonetic rule for whether ge- is required with a participle or not. Let me just mention what I think is the worst aspect. (Here we come to one of those rules I stumbled over.) "Ich habe die Welle kommen [ge]sehen" has a different meaning depending on whether you use ge or not. However, since even most native speakers get this wrong, taking the wrong decision isn't completely wrong - it's just awful, misleading style.
  • What you call omitted rules and ignored patterns is merely rules that are left to induction by the learner because they are no longer productive and teaching them explicitly actually makes it harder for most learners.
  • German gender is not semantics based any more than Latin gender. There are rules of thumb, with many exceptions, for certain classes of nouns, just like in Latin. (E.g. in both languages most tree species are feminine - including the Latin ones ending in -us! - even though the word for tree is masculine in both.) One of the most important is that abstract concepts and collective nouns are usually feminine. But some words fall into no such class, or into several classes that make conflicting predictions. When these enter the language (example: Crêpe) it takes a while until native speakers can agree on a gender. (Feminine as in French or masculine like Kuchen because a Crêpe is a Pfannkuchen?)
  • The gender of a compound is almost always that of the last component, and similarly all nouns derived by the same suffix normally have the same gender. Of course it would be better to explain this than to instruct learners just to look at the last letters of a word. (Does anyone really do this?
  • There are of course rules for forming the plurals of nouns. The real problem is that there are too many of them and it's not always clear (sometimes not even to native speakers) which one is correct.

Altogether, I don't buy it that describing German as a form of Latin is a real problem nowadays. Otto Jespersen, a Danish scholar, addressed what he called the 'Latin superstition' more than half a century ago with relation to English. I think it was addressed for German around the same time or earlier - and this actually reached the German schools. It's conceivable that in some countries German as a foreign language is still taught based on this 'superstition', but you haven't given a single convincing example for that.

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11 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/KenCollins0

Imagine if English required agreement between demonstratives and nouns. Imagine if we had to say "this house" but "these houses," "that mouse" but "those mice." Oh, we do. Never mind.

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Reply1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/johaquila
johaquila
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The honest answer is that this was one of several mistakes that Zamenhof made. Another is the obligatory accusative -n. Both features are not needed for a simple language (as witnessed by English not having them), and both make learning the language a bit harder than necessary for speakers of various native languages that don't have these features or that treat corner cases in sufficiently different ways to cause confusion.

However, as in natural languages, unnecessary complications are never just disadvantages. In this case, they introduce redundancies that sometimes make it easier to understand a sentence. And once people learned them and got used to them, they will defend them. This is probably the main reason why Ido, which improved these aspects and several others while still maintaining almost complete mutual comprehensibility with Esperanto, never achieved critical mass. It's better than Esperanto, but it's not sufficiently better to justify the switch.

Esperanto is pretty good, but it isn't perfect - nor does it have to be. That said, in my opinion it would be pretty reasonable for an Esperanto speaker to pick a small number of simplifications and make them part of their personal idiolect. E.g. you could decide that the rule you asked about does not apply to you, and that you will only follow it temporarily to get through the Duolingo course. But that later on you will just ignore it, even if other Esperanto speakers try to correct you. They will still understand you and you will understand them, without any extra effort. All natural languages have this kind of variation (e.g. American vs. British English), and as long as it's sufficiently minor, it's never a problem.

There is a certain danger that when people change the language it becomes more complicated. (This is what happens when pidgins turn into creoles.) However, if any simplifications introduced are guided by the standard rules of Ido, the opposite effect is possible. I guess the mistake of the Ido movement was trying to decree a change and trying to make the language change too quickly. And then also presenting Ido as a different language, when it's really just a dialect.

2
Reply61 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/jirka92122
jirka92122
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Just a quick point. You have to have a rule saying how you find out what is the subject and what is the object. It is not that english does not have such a rule as much as that english uses word order most of the time for marking object. You replace one rule by another rule. And the rules for word order can also get nasty quickly: It's easy for trivial statements such as "kato kaptis muson". But even the simple act of asking a question can be difficult if you follow the english example of putting question words at the beginning. "Kion kato kaptis?" vs "Kio katon kaptis?" or perhaps "Kio kaptis katon?" In english, it is the differnece between "What did a cat catch?" vs "What caught a cat?" and suddenly the rule became difficult with an extra verb in there for good measure. English easily gets tangled up in knots because of word order (tell someone to avoid a hanging preposition to see this in action). You could get around it I suppose by forcing SVO order on the question as "Kato kaptis kion?" or "A cat caught what?"

OK, you have maybe solved one problem, and then add in an indirect object and a more complicated sentence, etc... At some point perhaps you go "oh screw it I will stick an -n in there somewhere to make this sentence understandable". And in fact this is what Ido does. It does not do away with accusative, they also realized that you lose too much if you just do away with it. They just made it optional in the simple cases. Which does mean that there is now a more complicated rule, or in fact two different rules for the same thing. You already replace other "cases" by prepositional phrases in Esperanto, that is you add a few letters somewhere around the word (or phrase), and the phrase can be placed fairly freely. Why not do the same thing with the object. Why introduce a new "unnecessary rule" about word order?

You could take the point of view of the "na" people and express object as a prepositional phrase as well: "kato kaptis muson" vs "kato kaptis na muso". You gain a tiny bit more consistency, though it is hard to see much of an advantage it is over just sticking an -n at the end of "muso". It is functionally the same thing.

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Reply41 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/mensogulo
mensogulo
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In the end, it's the price for the free word order. Which for me as russian native speaker is an invaluable language feature.

1
Reply2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/jzsuzsi
jzsuzsi
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Russian word order is free?

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Reply2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/jirka92122
jirka92122
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If you read Esperanto written by native slavic language speakers, they will use nonstandard word order for emphasis a lot more than native english speakers.

3
Reply12 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/jirka92122
jirka92122
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Slavic languages in general have free word order.

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Reply2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/mensogulo
mensogulo
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It is almost free. You're learning russian, right?

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Reply2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/KenCollins0

The order of the parts of the sentence is free, but the order of the parts of a noun phrase is not. You can say "For him bought I three nice red hats" but within "three nice red hats" the order is fixed. You can't say "hats red three nice" in either Russian or German. There's also an order of adverbial expressions. In English the adverb of time is usually as far away from the verb as possible: "I am flying from New York to Chicago tomorrow." In German it comes right next to the verb: "I am flying tomorrow from New York to Chicago." That order is not free unless one of the elements is promoted to the topic of the sentence and put first. "Tomorrow I am taking the…" In English, we have to say "blue hats." In Esperanto, you can say "blue hats" or "hats blue" but more people say the former than the later.

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Reply2 years ago