https://www.duolingo.com/Fantomius

"-iom" accusatives can be ambiguous

  • 25
  • 25
  • 25
  • 25
  • 16
  • 14
  • 13
  • 13
  • 12
  • 7
  • 7
  • 7
  • 5
  • 5
  • 3
  • 1341

Consider these two sentences:

  • Kiom da hundoj vidas la infanoj? (How many dogs do the children see?)
  • Kiom da hundoj vidas la infanojn? (How many dogs see the children?)

Normally in Esperanto, you can tell which noun is the accusative simply by looking for the "n" ending. However, in the case of "Kiom da (noun)", you can't really do that.

In the above examples, this isn't much of an issue, since it's clear an accusative noun should exist, so if infanoj isn't accusative, then clearly hundoj should be.

But what if infanoj also follows an -ion correlative?

For example:

Kiom da hundoj vidas tiom da infanoj?

Unless I'm mistaken, this could either mean:

  • How many dogs see so many children? ("children" is the accusative here)
  • How many dogs do so many children see? ("dogs" is the accusative here)

As another example, you know how air can contain some water, and likewise, water can contain some air? Knowing that, what would this mean:

Kiom da aero enhavas tiom da akvo?

It could either mean:

  • How much air contains such an amount of water?
  • How much air does such an amount of water contain?

It seems that when you use "Kiom da" together with "tiom da", it becomes ambiguous which is meant to be accusative, since no accusative "-n" marker is used.

At first I thought you could just use "Kioma(j)(n)" in place of "kiom da", such as:

  • Kiomajn hundojn vidas tiomaj infanoj? (How many dogs do so many children see?)

leading to other questions such as:

  • Kioman akvon volas vi? (How much water do you want?)

but I recently read that "Kioma(n)" is a question that is expecting an ordinal number (such as "first", "second", "third", etc.). It's useful for asking a question like:

  • D: Kioma monato estas julio? (Which month (of the year) is July?)
  • R: Julio estas la sepa monato. (July is the seventh month (of the year).)

If this is true, it isn't what I'm looking for.

What I'm looking for is an unambiguous way to find out if the noun used with "Kiom da" is accusative, without resorting to inspecting the other noun (especially if the other noun is also paired with an "-ion" correlative).

Is there a way to do this, or does it rely solely on context to figure it out?

6/21/2017, 1:57:25 PM

8 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/salivanto
  • 23
  • 22
  • 14
  • 10
  • 8
  • 1150

I asked this very question almost 20 years ago. It's a good question. :-)

As for good answers, I think I could give a better one if you used some real examples from experienced Esperantists, or gave a real example of something you're trying to say that you don't know how to express.

6/21/2017, 5:57:01 PM

https://www.duolingo.com/Fantomius
  • 25
  • 25
  • 25
  • 25
  • 16
  • 14
  • 13
  • 13
  • 12
  • 7
  • 7
  • 7
  • 5
  • 5
  • 3
  • 1341

How about this:

  • 1: Ĉi tiu komputilo havas multajn programojn!
  • 2: Vere, jes. Nia firmao laboras kun multaj personoj.
  • 1: Do, kiom da personoj povas manipuli tiom da programoj?

That last sentence could be translated to both:

  • So, how many people can handle so many programs? ("programs" is the accusative)
  • So, how many people can so many programs handle? ("people" is the accusative)

Is there any straight-forward way to resolve this ambiguity?

6/21/2017, 6:55:34 PM

https://www.duolingo.com/salivanto
  • 23
  • 22
  • 14
  • 10
  • 8
  • 1150

Thanks for attempting to clarify. My comment at this point is that I'm not convinced anybody really talks this way. When was the last time you said, or heard said, or saw in print (other than in your own example) a sentence like so, how many people can handle so many programs??

A more realistic sentence (i.e. one which a real person would actually say) would be.

  • How many people can a computer with that many programs handle.
  • How many people can handle a computer with so many programs.

Let's say you're throwing a party and need to bake some beans Do you have enough? You open the cupboard, turn it to your friend and say:

  • How many people will this many beans feed?

This sounds like a natural sentence to me. I would express it in Esperanto like this:

  • Kiom da personoj ni povos mangxigi per tiom da fazeoloj?
6/22/2017, 12:29:35 AM

https://www.duolingo.com/jdroege

As a native English speaker, I would have simply assumed that the first noun was most likely to be the subject (ie. subject / verb / object). I am sure there are some people who would assume the obverse. I would say that, IF the clarity is paramount, you would have to craft the sentence to make sure there is no ambiguity. ex. Rigardu la hundojn! Kiom da hundoj vidas tiom da infanoj? It is a little longer, but I think it would be clear that the dogs are more important than the children. Interesting point!

6/21/2017, 4:06:32 PM

https://www.duolingo.com/danielqsc
  • 21
  • 12
  • 11
  • 7
  • 3
  • 2

Well, PMEG says that you can use "tioma" as a synonym for "tiom da" (more details here: http://bertilow.com/pmeg/gramatiko/e-vortecaj_vortetoj/ceteraj/tabelvortoj_om.html#i-8p5). And even "kioma" can be used this way (but, if it's possible to misunderstand your sentence, it's really better to avoid it).

Informally, there's a neologism, the preposition na, that can be used instead of the accusative when Esperanto rules don't allow it. Be aware that, though almost every active speaker will understand you, many people won't like this preposition being used, since it's still unofficial. The preposition je is also used for this same role (there is a rule in the Fundamento that says that, "instead of the prepositon je, we can simply use the accusative when this can't cause misunderstandings". Many people kind of "reverse" this rule, and then use je instead of the accusative when it's necessary). More info here: https://eo.wikipedia.org/wiki/Na_(prepozicio) (it's fully in Esperanto, but I think you'll understand. There's even a list of arguments, counter-arguments and counter-counter-arguments [!] about it).

6/21/2017, 7:03:06 PM

https://www.duolingo.com/salivanto
  • 23
  • 22
  • 14
  • 10
  • 8
  • 1150

It's probably fair to say that danielqsc's advice is "not standard Esperanto."

I've read the explanation in PMEG about "tioma". It doesn't quite say that it means "tiom da". He says it means "having such a magnitude". Yes, it's a subtle difference, but it's a difference. I've looked for more examples in the wild of "tioma" and most are very difficult to reword with "tiom da".

While it's true that nearly all fluent Esperanto speakers who engage in conversations about na will know what na means, but I am not convinced that "almost every active speaker" can be bothered with such discussions. It's a big Esperantujo out there.

6/22/2017, 1:14:20 AM

https://www.duolingo.com/Fantomius
  • 25
  • 25
  • 25
  • 25
  • 16
  • 14
  • 13
  • 13
  • 12
  • 7
  • 7
  • 7
  • 5
  • 5
  • 3
  • 1341

Wow, thank you for posting this, danielqsc!

Thanks to the PMEG link you supplied, I now know that:

Teorie oni povas uzi ankaŭ kioma en ne-vicorda senco, sed tiam oni riskas miskomprenon.

(That's: "Theoretically you can also use "kioma" in a non-ordered sense, but then you run the risk of misunderstanding.")

So it's nice to know that "Kioman akvon volas vi?" can be correct; it's just not normally said that way.

As for using "je" and "na": I had never heard of "na" before, but I am familiar with using "je" as an accusative marker when the standard "-n" marker won't work for some reason. So taking the example given in the "Na" Wikipedia entry:

  • Iom da virinoj ŝatas iom da viroj.

This could be dis-ambiguated with "je" (or "na") like this:

  • Iom da virinoj ŝatas je iom da viroj. (Some women like some men.)
  • Je iom da virinoj ŝatas iom da viroj. (Some men like some women.)

I find it kind of funny how Esperanto puts so much emphasis on marking the accusative (which, to be honest, makes sense to me), only to have a common set of words (like "kiom da", "tiom da", and "iom da") where the accusative marker is not used (which doesn't really make sense to me).

Now that I know that "Kioma(j)(n)" is legal, I may use it more confidently, or perhaps use "je" in cases where it will resolve ambiguity.

So it looks like these usages are valid:

  • Kiom da akvon volas vi? (How much water do you want?)
  • Kioman akvon volas vi? (How much water do you want?)
  • Je kiom da akvon volas vi? (How much water do you want?)

and of course:

  • Iom da virinoj ŝatas iom da viroj. (Ambiguous: Some women like some men or Some men like some women.)
  • Iom da virinoj ŝatas je iom da viroj. (Some women like some men.)
  • Iom da virinoj ŝatas iomajn virojn. (Some women like some men.)

It seems like the first sentence of each case is by far the most common. But it's nice to know that there are other options.

Thanks again for your post, danielqsc. Very informative!

6/23/2017, 7:46:34 PM

https://www.duolingo.com/Luko.
  • 19
  • 17
  • 13
  • 10
  • 8
  • 8
  • 3

I would bet most languages in the world accept these ambiguities. Certainly, if -om correlatives ended in a vowel it would take the accusative, but there were no vowels left ;) I think the na preposition wouldn't be bad for the language, you could use it for -om correlatives and also for proper names that are not completely esperantizied, but it is not necessary as context solves it most of the time, and when it doesn't you just look for another way to say it, which would be few times in a lifetime.

6/25/2017, 5:22:22 AM
Learn Esperanto in just 5 minutes a day. For free.