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The 'x' method vs. The 'h' method

I'm curious as to why the 'x' method for writing letters with 'hats' is used more than Zamenhof's preferred 'h' method?

The 'h' method seems to make more sense and looks easier to read.

ĉu - chu; ŝi - shi; ĉiuj - chiuj; ĝi - ghi; ŝatas - shatas; ĉokolado - chokolado;

They look like how it's said.

When I see an x I want to pronounce the x, which doesn't work and I have to consciously replace all x's with h's anyway. Why did the less logical choice become popular?

(This isn't necessarily to try and change anything... just an observation from practicing and reading about Zamenhof.)

March 2, 2018



When I see an h, I want to pronounce the h. But with the h-system, you can't trust the h, because it is already in the alphabet. You have the check the letter before it, to know how to pronounce, and sometimes you have to already know the word to be sure.

Also, according to the h-system, ŭ is written u (instead of uh). Which feels really dirty for the principle "one letter one sound".


The X-system was always only ever intended to represent the Esperanto alphabet in computer files. It was never meant to be printed out or written by hand. It has several advantages when used for this purpose. Since X is not an Esperanto letter, the text can be converted by find-and-replace (or an automated version of that today) and it preserves alphabetical order in sorted lists.

I "grew up" when the X system was THE way to represent Esperanto . This was before Unicode - and "latin 3" fonts were a pain in the tail fin. I don't think anything of it.


And in the ancient days of Compuserve you could sometimes see the 'less than' sign used. Ne tre <carme.


I love the idea of "Mi satas gin". It's like the letters are really laid back ;)

And Lingots for making me remember Compuserve!


Yeah, I didn't invent it, but you could think of it as the 'hat' having fallen off. <Cu vi <satus la <san<gon?


AND before that, the Good Earth forum. These were the days of Jim Deer and text conferences on Saturday nights!


I've seen printed materials with it (f ex materials for upcoming events).


I tend to use the h because Zhof himslef approved it (IINM) and it's easy enough to disambiguate. The few times s, c, g, or j come before h it's almost always across boundaries of roots and so - can be used to separate them flug-haveno sukces-hava, chas-hundo and a lot of people use aw and ew with h.

I don't mind the x method except that I detest aux and eux (ugly IMHO) I wish the academy would endorse a single ASCII option since the need for ASCII will not go away anytime soon.

my preferences would be h - w ( chirkaw) or x -w (cxirkaw).

I suspect many esperantists prefer the current situation with ASCII chaos because if there were a broadly accpeted single alternative it might made the diacritics obsolete in many to most contexts.


When I write by hand, I write with the hats (which is actually fun!). When I type, I use the x-method since it is the fastest and easiest for me. The few times I have wanted to alphabetize by computer, the x-method has worked well. You might say my preference is based on habit ...


I agree with you, but I think people choose x to avoid confusion in pronunciation. Is CH one sound or two?


or three /ts-h/


The reason is h causes conflicts like ĉashundo vs ĉaŝundo. The first is a hunting dog, the second is a hook. With -h 'chashundo' could be either one, you would only be able to tell by context (if in a sentence). If no context is available like in a list of words, you're out of luck. There are no such conflicts with x because it's not even part of the alphabet. I wouldn't be one to disagree with Zamenhof or the Fundamento if it didn't cause clear problems to use -h. Esperanto is designed to REMOVE ambiguity, not add it.


First, ĉaŝundo doesn't seem to be a real word, just a example people give for the shortcomings of the H-system. Esperanto has its moments of ambiguity. I present the perfectly good words papilo, a papal tool, and putino, a female well (except not really for either of them).

The other thing that is clear is that Zamenhof assumed that by now we'd all be able to type with Esperanto letters. Realize that Zamenhof used the Western European alphabet, the Cyrillic alphabet, and the Hebrew letters. Yeah, he expected you to type hat letters.

As for the people who say that they don't have the ability, I have my suspicions. After all, there are plenty of people who call their employment history a "resume" and there isn't anything you could do to get them to type those accent marks. They would tell you they can't.

I tolerate the X-system. I can't understand anyone lauding it.

It's time to give up the X's and type hats.


Ĉaŝundo is a word meaning 'hook'. https://en.glosbe.com/eo/en/ĉaŝundo I'm not "lauding" the x-system at all, but for those who don't have a program installed that allows them to easily type 'ĉ' using cx is more appropriate because there is no chance of confusion as there is with the h-system. To me using 'chas-hundo' is just an omission that it's unclear whether it should be read as ĉashundo' or 'ĉaŝundo'. That's not an issue if you use x. Maybe we could use the Polish system instead? 'Cz' for Ĉ, 'Sz' for Ŝ. /sarcasm I absolutely encourage using the hats when writing by hand but it's hard for me to understand why people don't see that the h-system cause clear issues. I know Zamenhof supposedly suggested it (I'm skeptical) but that's not a good reason to use a system that causes ambiguity (in a language designed to remove it) instead of substituting it with a letter that doesn't cause ambiguity.


"Hook" is *hoko." When I said that "ĉaŝundo" wasn't a word, trust me, I looked it up. I'm going to suggest that the website you've linked to isn't the best of resources for Esperanto.

Wells's dictionary has hoko. PIV has hoko, and absolutely nothing that starts with ĉaŝ-. http://vortaro.net/#hoko

It is wholly unambiguous that Zamenhof suggested the H-system. Whether you're skeptical or not, it's there in the Fundamento.

The rules seem clear. Use the hat letters if you can (and because you prefer to type "cx" instead of "ĉ" is not sufficient). If you truly can't use the hat letters (because you are on a system sufficiently antique that it doesn't use Unicode—the now long deprecated Windows ME and MacOS 8.5), the basic rules are that you should use the H system if you can and the X system if you must.

But you should never use ĉaŝundo. It's not a real word.


I'm suddenly watching this thread with interest. I'd always assumed that the "Cyrillic typewriter" stories were true -- but never gave them any scrutiny -- but ĉaŝundo in Glosbe is a great example of why not to use Glosbe.

I still will use the X system in preference to the H system when typing on a computer. It's a question of encoding, not transcription, as far as I'm concerned. (That's a hair I think I will split.)


When I see the word, "ghi," I suddenly think to pronounce it as, /ɣi/, instead of /d͡ʒi/, like it's supposed to. Look how weird the word, auh, looks when written with the H-system.

Plus, the letter, X, is a good distance away from the letters that come before it; by that, I mean, look at the letters on your keyboard, the letter C is right next to the letter X and the letter S is right above it, also, G, H and J are an acceptable distance away from the X key, even though U is a bit farther. So, the letters with diacritics are easily typed as cx, gx, hx, jx, sx, and ux.


The x method is used instead of the h method for a very simple reason, x doesn't exist in Esperanto, h does.


Except your comment leaves so much out. The x-method is only about forty years old, a product of the computer age, which means that Esperanto got along without it for more than ninety years.

Zamenhof knew several languages that use X, so it's not like when he created the h-system, he was unaware of the existence of X.

The x-system was created so that lists of Esperanto words would sort according to the sorting practices that had developed in Esperanto, which we can look at as cedro before ĉapo. That wasn't the original practice.

In Zamenhof's earliest publications, he treated the hat letters as accented variants and intermingled them in lists. Ĉapo before cedro, but maco before maĉo. Later, with a view toward alphabetization, the letters were treated (as we do today) as distinct letters.

Of course, now someone can just write sorting rules for the proper alphabetization of Esperanto letters. Zamenhof assumed that even the h-system was a necessary compromise until Esperanto became sufficiently established that people would have access to the accented letters, either on typewriters (what's a typewriter?) or in type (as in actual physical type).

In theory, we should all be well past questions of the x- or even h-systems, since computers have had the ability to type in Unicode for long time.


You're forgetting that in the early days of Esperanto a lot of people (primarily around Poland/Russia) used typewriters & didn't have access to typewriters with the Latin alphabet so they used Cyrillic, therefore Esperanto got along without it because neither 'c' or 'ĉ' where used. Дум тайпанта или узис 'ц' кай 'ч' анстатаў 'c' кай 'ĉ'. (Dum tajpanta ili uzis 'ц' kaj 'ч' anstataŭ 'c' kaj 'ĉ'.) When writing obviously they would've just used Ĉ.


I haven't seen any evidence that people in Cyrillic-character countries used Cyrillic for Esperanto prior to the 1920s. If you have any proof of this, I'd love to see it.

Zamehof lived in a world where much was done with pen and ink. It was still common for writers to send in handwritten manuscripts. It was an era of handwritten business correspondence. Forms were filled out by hand. People didn't type. Typewriters were a bit of a rarity until the 20th century. When Zamenhof published the Unua Libro, there were only a few thousand typewriters in existence (and you couldn't see what you were typing).

In that world, it's no wonder that Zamenhof assumed that most Esperanto would be either handwritten or typeset (and any Esperanto compositor would go out and get some types that included the hat letters).

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