vir- vs -iĉo
Which should I use when specifying a masculine noun, say amiko.
Or does amiko already mean male friend?
As I understand, this is how Zamenhof intended it, but it has become neutral.
Specifying a female friend is easy, add -in-, but specifying a male friend . . . ?
Should one use vir- to show masculinity or accept that Esperanto has changed a lot and use -iĉo?
Plain and simple -iĉo is not part of normal Esperanto and is not part of this course.
As for "amiko", not all speakers agree, but amiko is generally gender neutral, and I believe that's how the course teaches - even though there are some phrases about "amikino" and "geamikoj" - which IMHO should be removed if they haven't already been.
"Vir-" as a prefix is generally reserved for animals. For humans, use "vira" - so, "vira amiko."
If I wanted to emphasize that "yes, this friend is male," I personally would not hesitate to use amikiĉo. It is not taught in this course however because 1. its usage is currently not quite popular enough, although given the current trend of -iĉ I wouldn't be surprised if that changes within 10-20 years, 2. to avoid confusion with words like patro that are definitely not gender-neutral in Esperanto, and 3. because amiko is a particularly tricky case where speakers are fairly divided on if it is already a gendered root or not.
I wouldn't be surprised if that changes within 10-20 years,
Oh, my sweet summer child, people were saying that when I learned Esperanto 22 years ago.
I too occasionally use -iĉ- - but only occasionally, and always conspicuously and kind of as a joke. Certainly many speakers who don't use it would understand it because it's discussed so much in certain corners, but I promise you that if you were to say amikiĉo to my wife, for example, she'd probably conclude you mispronounced amikaĉo.
According to Wikipedia, putting vir- before a word can turn it male too. EDIT: One of the characteristics of languages is that they change and develop, I don't think I'm favour of changing Esperanto because it is supposed to be a universal tool. Say if I invented a screw driver and claimed it as "the one" screwdriver and then people bought into it and later I changed it, it sorta defeats the object.
Its a reasonably logical, well-constructed word. I can't imagine myself ever using it.
Why can't your imagine yourself ever using it?
Because you don't think that you'll ever need to specify a male friend or because there is a better alternative?
as far as i know "amiko" is a neutral word, but you can use it to refer to a male friend since if you was referencing to a female you would use "amikino".