the pronoun "ci"

So I was just looking at the wikipedia article for esperanto and I noticed something that I thought was really weird. In a list of example phrases for esperanto, the word "ci" was used in place of "vi" (you). For example, "Ĉu ci parolas Esperante?", "Mi ne komprenas cin", "Kio estas cia nomo?" (these are all copy and pasted from the page). First I was really confused, because I had never encountered this word before, not when I learned esperanto through duolingo, or in any other thing that I have ever read or seen. But Here it was, being used in place of "vi". So I looked it up, and apparently it is the familiar second person pronoun (thou), as opposed to a formal one (you). And I was really confused because I don't think that I ever have seen this before.

Is anybody able to tell me why I never encountered this before? even on the duolingo course, it just seems like a really important word to leave out of a course. Furthermore, if it is important (as I have seen some people say online) then when do I use it, and how often? is it mandatory?

October 29, 2017


You never encountered this before because for all intents and purposes it's not part of Esperanto. It was not part of the Unua Libro and nobody uses it today - aside from a few kooks (see thread on "leftists" posted today). It was a stillborn proposal of mainly historical interest at this point and has nothing to do with Duolingo which (theoretically) is about teaching Esperanto as it's really spoken.

Update: I took a look at the Wikipedia article you described and I did not see the phrases you mentioned. A look at the edit history shows that on October 29th, those phrases were edited into the article by a user with no other edits to his name. (At least as much as I understand this sort of thing.) Then, the following day, a regular user with a profile and everything (Mutichou) reversed this edit. It seems that these phrases were maliciously edited in by a prankster or kook.

October 30, 2017

I have never encountered it myself, but on Stack Exchange someone defines it as the equivalent of "thou" in English, or equivalent formal tenses in other languages (usted in Spanish, vous in French, etc).

from Stack Exchange source:

"You should use ci about as often as you would use thou in English. Or less.

The purpose of ci was to provide an alternative, singular form of vi for use in translations (or pseudo-translations), when a sudden change in the choice of pronoun has to be rendered.

For example, in Kastelo de Prelongo, the language spoken by the characters is French, which contains the pair vous (polite) — tu (informal or rude). So we read:

Baraktante, ŝi ekkriis: "Viktoro Linŝardo!"

"Jes, belulino mia, Viktoro Linŝardo kiu cin amas, kaj kiu tion ekpruvos al ci. Ĉar mi ne povas esti cia edzo, mi fariĝos cia amanto: la afero estos sama."

Tiu malĝentilega cidiro impresis Matildon eble pli dolore ol la restaĵo.


Struggling, she cried out: "Victor Linchard!"

"Yes, my beautiful girl. Victor Linchard who loves thee, and who will prove it to thee. As I cannot be thy husband, I shall become thy lover: it will amount to the same."

That monstrous thouing made a more painful impression on Matilda than all else. The use of ci is very brief; thereafter, the author renders tu as vi on the understanding that you now know how things stand between them.

However, a switch to thou in English now signifies an exaggerated increase in formality, whereas in the past it represented a decrease in formality: and that could be either a good thing or a bad thing. Other languages have different habits. In other words, the precise significance of ci depends on minutiae of the situation and the culture. This makes it a bad fit for general use in Esperanto."

October 30, 2017

Let's give credit to Andrew Woods - the number two user over at Esperanto Stack Exchange - for writing the above text. Personally, I think he takes too long to get to his point - don't use ci .

I like what is in PMEG on this topic:

Ci estas unu-nombra alparola pronomo (kiu tute ne montras sekson). Ci kaj cia ekzistas nur teorie, kaj estas preskaŭ neniam praktike uzataj. Eblus imagi ci kiel pure unu-nombran vi, aŭ kiel intiman familiaran (unu-nombran) vi, aŭ eĉ kiel insultan (unu-nombran) vi. Sed estas fakte tute neeble diri, kian nuancon ĝi montras, ĉar ĝi apenaŭ estas uzata

Some think it's more familiar. Some think it's more formal. Some think it's more insulting. It's impossible to say what connotation it has because it's barely ever used.

October 30, 2017

Nor should it ever be used.

November 1, 2017

I agree with what silvanto and Kliphph said.

Just want to add something I read somewhere about Zamenhof's intent regarding this (can't find it now, will post if I do). His concern with "ci" was that including it in the language would lead to the distinction of a formal and informal second person pronoun (e.g. the french "tu" vs "vous", as Kliphph mentioned). These sorts of distinctions create problems for non-native speakers, because it is not always obvious when the formal or informal pronoun should be used (as a speaker of french as a second language, I can confirm).

He actually admired that English has done away with this distinction by having the second-person singular and plural pronouns being identical. He decided to incorporate this feature into Esperanto, but left "ci" for the occasional times when it is useful in translation.

In essence, it's sacrificing precision in favour of ease of learning, the latter which is one of the central goals of Esperanto.

Note that ci does still exist in some compound words, like "cidiri", which can be translated as "to speak intimately with someone".

October 30, 2017

It's important when you cite Zamenhof to cite the source . . . If you read this somewhere, it would be great to go back and find out where, and let us know.

Don't say "Zamenhof said . . . " unless you can say exactly where he said it.

November 1, 2017

This seems to be a reference - direct or indirect - to what Erinja says here. Unfortunately, her source has gone 404.

Maybe it was this:

10.5 Pri la pronomo “ci” La neuzado de “ci” tute ne estas senkonscia imitado de la ekzistantaj lingvoj, — kontra˘ue, ˆgi estas specialaˆo de la lingvo Esperanto, specialaˆo bazita sur pure praktikaj konsideroj kaj esploroj. La plej bona maniero kompreneble estus, se ni al pli-ol-unu personoj dirus “vi” kaj al unu persono ˆciam “ci” sed ˆciuj nuntempaj kulturaj popoloj tiel alkutimiˆgis al la ideo, ke “ci” enhavas en si ion senrespektan, ke ni neniam povus postuli de la Esperantistoj, ke ili al ˆciu unu persono diru “ci” ni devus sekve havi apartan pronomon de ˆgentileco (kaj tia pronomo efektive ekzistis en Esperanto anta˘u la jaro 1878). Sed la praktiko de ˆciuj ekzistantaj lingvoj montris, ke tia “formo de ˆgentileco” estas ofte tre embarasa, ˆcar tre ofte ni ne scias, kiamaniere ni devas nin turni al tiu a˘u alia persono (ekzemple al infano k.t.p.): “ci” ˆsajnas al ni eble ofenda, pronomo de ˆgentileco ˆsajnas al ni ridinde ceremonia. En tiaj okazoj oni en la ekzistantaj lingvoj uzas diversajn artifikojn, kiuj tamen tre ofte estas tre embarasaj, kiel por la parolanto, tiel por la a˘uskultanto (ekzemple anstata˘u “ci” kaj “vi” oni diras “li”, “oni”, “sinjoro”, “fra˘ulo” k.t.p.). Por forigi ˆciujn ˆci tiujn embarasojn, ekzistas nur unu rimedo: diri al ˆciu, ˆciuj kaj ˆcio nur “vi”. ✯ Personaj pronomoj ✯ 35 Malkompreniˆgon tio ˆci neniam povas ka˘uzi, ˆcar en la tre maloftaj okazoj de neklareco ni povas ja precizigi nian parolon, dirante “vi, sinjoro”, a˘u “vi ˆciuj”, “vi amba˘u” k.t.p. Por la personoj, kiuj tre sentas la bezonon de “ci” (ekzemple kiam ili sin turnas al Dio a˘u al amata persono), la uzado de “vi” ˆsajnas neagrabla nur en la unua tempo (tiam ili ja havas la rajton uzi “ci”), sed post kelka praktiko oni tiel facile alkutimiˆgas al la uzado de “vi”, ke ˆgi perfekte kontentigas kaj oni trovas en ˆgi absolute nenion “malvarman”. Cio ˆ dependas ja nur de la kutimo. Respondo 28, La Revuo, 1908, Februaro

November 1, 2017

thou? please return to the 13th century

October 31, 2017
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