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https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ahblair

Can one express things / concepts in EO that are hard to express in EN?

I've heard, due to Esperanto's very flexible word-building, that it is possible to express things or ideas in the language that are much harder to do so in natural languages such as English. For example, bluo is the colour blue and words ending in -e are adverbs, so to say blue in Esperanto would roughly mean "to do something in a blue way"...obviously an idea that makes little sense in English but could be intelligible in Esperanto. I'm just a beginner so i haven't though of any better illustrative examples yet, but would like to know some for conversations with people about Esperanto's flexibility.

Have you made up any words or phrases (or do you know of any) for concepts that are easily / efficiently expressed in Esperanto but hard - or even impossible - in English?

October 15, 2019

32 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/RobertoKin9

As salivanto mentioned, Claude Piron had a list of phrases that are hard to translate out of Esperanto (quoting from his book, "La Bona Lingvo"):

Mi ne estas tre orema (t.e. ‘ema aĉeti oraĵojn’, Sarĝah, Unuiĝintaj Arabaj Emirujoj, 86.07.17, polino, dum halto de la al-pekina aviadilo, antaŭ budo juvelvenda)

Kelkaj italoj estis politike ajnistaj (Pekino, Ĉinio, 86.07.28, italo)

Imagi, ke la homaro subite malstultiĝos ... (Tokio, Japanio, 86.08.05, usonano)

Bona profesoro ne profesoras (Tokio, Japanio, 86.08.05, japano)

Oni nun pli simple frazas (Tokio, Japanio, 86.08.07, ĉino)

Ĉu li oĉjas? (Poitiers, Francio, 87.05.02, franco, pri iu, kiu kondutas onkle al infano)

La fenomeno de denaskismo (Poitiers, Francio, 87.05.02, italo parolanta pri la denaskaj esperantistoj)

Katolikece aŭ pli ĝuste katolikige skizita kultura idealo (Locarno, Svislando, 87.05.17, polo)

Levu la manon, kiuj protestas ... Nun levu la manon, kiuj malprotestas (Oslo, Norvegio, 87.05.23, norvego)

De ĉi tiu stacio la diversaj tramlinioj disbrakas (Oslo, Norvegio, 87.05.25, norvego)

Ili utilis por eldomigi fumon (samloke, samdate, norvego)

Nia proksimiĝo al ĝi [esperanto] estas tro pria, ne sufiĉe pera (Santala, Finnlando, 87.07.13, finnlingva finno) [Komparu kun La funkcio de interlingvo estas esti intera (Vieno, 87.10.30, germano)]

Ili vivas kun pratimo al ĉio fremda (samloke, samdate, finnlingva (?) finnlandano)

Tiu lingvisteco, kiun li havas (samloke, samdate, bulgarino) [Komparu: li fidis tro sian lingvistecon (Tokio, Japanio, 86.08.06, japano)]

Vi ne estas tre muzeema, ĉu? (Hanko, Finnlando, 87.07.18, svedlingva finnlandanino)

La ĉielo bluegas (samloke, samdate, la sama)

Okazis socia distavoliĝo (Tallinn, Estonio, Sovetunio, 87.07.20, estono)

Vortelekti vere estas vortkompari (Zagreb, Jugoslavio, 87.08.03, nederlandano)

Ĉu vi konsentas, ke ni eku? (Zagreb, Jugoslavio, 87.08.04, kroato, gvidonta urbviziton)

Karaj alprelegotoj! (Zagreb, Jugoslavio, 87.08.04, aŭstro)

Ili buŝplenas pri homrajtoj (Zagreb, Jugoslavio, 87.08.05, nederlandano)

Estas senutile longvorte elstarigi la diferencojn (Vieno, Aŭstrio, 87.10.28, aŭstro)

Esperantoj, tio estas antoj, kiuj esperas ... (Vieno, Aŭstrio, 87.10.29, usonano)

Jam dekas [‘jam estas la deka horo’] (samloke, samdate, germano)

Ili estas transkulturigeblaj (samloke, 87.10.30, kroato)

Mi tezas, ke ... (samloke, samdate, aŭstro)

... akvoinĝenieraj artikoloj ... akvoaferaj artikoloj (samloke, samdate, hungaro)

Li similas Orson Welles – Jes, eĉ voĉe (samloke, samdate, sloveno)

La rendevuon li nuligis. Mi uzis la ekdisponeblan horon por ... (Laŭzano, Svislando, 88.10.13, franclingva sviso)

Ni sentabuigu la historion de la Movado (Ulrich Lins, Esperanto, novembro 1975, p. 186)

La maro, kiu gamas tiujn nuancojn de bluo kaj verdo (Simo Milojević, Esperanto, decembro 1986, p. 202)

La angla perbuĝete fabrikis la konsenton, dum la franca perprestiĝis ĝin (Probal Daŝgupto, Esperanto, julio 1987, p. 142; temas pri la maniero akceptigi sin kiel internacie uzata lingvo)

Eble formalismo, burokratismo, senrimedismo, samgrupismo fermas horizontale la universalecon de UEA (Jayme Pereira, citita de Mark Fettes, Esperanto, julio-aŭgusto 1988, p. 121)

En interetna lingvo produkte uzebla sistemo de fidindaj, konsekvencaj gramatikaj reguloj efikas “demokrate”, t.e. samŝancige, por la anoj de tre malsamaj gepatraj lingvoj (Klaus Schubert, Esperanto, julio-aŭgusto 1988, p. 134)

October 16, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ahblair

Fantastic!

But just looking at the list of words, I can only guess at what half of them mean. Did Piron define them anywhere?

October 17, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/salivanto

Several have definitions right in the portion quoted above.

October 17, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/salivanto

Some of these examples illustrate very well why its important to think of verbs derived from nouns and adjectives as actions (profesoro ne profesoru) and not simply as "esti X" - as it's often over-simplified to be.

October 17, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Doktoro_Kiu

My understanding of the "esti X" rule was that it was for a-vortoj, but the interpretation of kunmetaĵoj is an area I need to improve on.

October 19, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/salivanto

Except it's not really a "rule". This is a good point though. I'd thought of it halfway through writing my note and decided to hope nobody would notice. :-)

I will say though that there's an example formed with "plena" - and in one of his works Piron specifically said that "bluas" (one of the examples above) means "to give off a blue color" distinct from simply being blue.

October 19, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Doktoro_Kiu

Interesting, I like that more nuanced sense. I wonder if non-color words have a similar connotation (such as "malhelas").

October 21, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/salivanto

Generally, a verb like X-i means "to do the action associated with X." In the case of a color (or malhel-), we need to think about what action is associated with that root.

October 21, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/malfruemulo

I remember writing an essay last year and being frustrated that I couldn't elegantly express the word aĉetendeco in English.

October 15, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ahblair

What does aĉetendeco mean?

October 17, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Doktoro_Kiu

"aĉet-end-ec-o" would roughly translate to "in-need-of-being-bought-ness". Not to be confused with "aĉet-ind-ec-o", or "worthy-of-being-bougt-ness".

"Enda" doesn't often have direct translations into English other than the few things like "pagenda" = "payable" = "to be paid", where it could still be confused for "pagebla" = "payable" = "able to be paid".

I think food, water, and shelter would rank high on a list of things sorted by acetendeco.

October 21, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JiangtianG

I would also like to point out that even though Esperanto is highly flexible in word-building, it is still extremely difficult to introduce or express things or ideas that are not familiar to European cultures in Esperanto. Especially if the original terminology has double entendre due to many reasons.

For example, Bhagavān is a Sanskrit term, one of many that people use to refer to the Buddha. It is generally translated as "the World-Honored One" in English (if it is to be translated). However, the original word is traditionally considered sextuple-meaning: a) īśvara (and even this term itself has multiple meanings and is difficult to translate without a cultural background), b) dazzling, c) decorous, d) renowned, e) śrī (again, this term is difficult to translate without a cultural background), and f) noble and honored.

In fact, if we take a closer look at the etymology, we can see that the word Bhagavān has even more meanings. For example, a) having or showing (vān) merits (bhaga); b) skillful (vān) in distinguishing dharma (bhaga--and just another cultural term!); c) able (vān) to destroy kleśa (bhaga--one more!), just to name a few (considering the change in word-forms).

Oh and by the way, if we directly adopt Bhagavān into Esperanto and make it something like "bagavano," it would not only become something else that has a different meaning in Sanskrit but also give a hard time to other Sanskrit words that share the same or similar word roots. Not to mention that a) Bhagavān has a bunch of other meanings in other Indian (and Nepalian and Tibetan, etc.) religions and cultures, and b) from Sanskrit and Pali to Chinese and Japanese, the world outside of the European languages has a million more terms like this.

October 16, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/carbsrule

I doubt you could find a single language pair, closely related or not, in which every single-word concept from one of the languages was directly translatable into the other language.


Manĝu terpomojn kaj feliĉiĝu!

October 16, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JiangtianG

Hi carbsrule, I totally agree with you that there is almost no perfect word-to-word translation between any two languages. However, that's not my point. My point is that non-European cultures and their languages have entire systems of words that have deep cultural meanings and, even if they can be translated literally, the backgrounds are lost. When they adopt different grammatic rules in word-forming, things can get worse due to Esperanto's simple yet strict rules.

Bhagavān is just a random example--I'm not using a carefully picked tricky word to confuse anyone. Behold the other Sanskrit terms that I introduced when I was trying to explain what Bhagavān meant.

October 16, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Doktoro_Kiu

Do you have examples which are not associated with religious or philosophical concepts? I think such concepts are even problematic within the same language. Ex: different denominations of Christianity will have different meanings for the same words and concepts (and the definitions are often vague at best).

I also find that we seem to have a problematic tendency to believe that words need to translate into words (and not phrases) between languages. I highly doubt that your example cannot be completely described in English/Esperanto/etc. You may have to define a whole collection of philosophical, historical, and religious concepts, but the concept is not beyond translation. You would have exactly the same problem if you tried to translate a similarly complex philosophical term from English.

I agree with you that Esperanto shares more of these kinds of terms with western languages, but I think that such dense words are a poor way to judge any language. Ex: someone can have a full understanding of Sanskrit as a language, but if they are not exposed to that philosophy and culture they will have the same difficulty in understanding the word.

This is kind of like in programming where I can put thousands of lines of code in one function. It is easily used, but what it does/means is still a very complex subject that requires separate study.

October 19, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JiangtianG

Hi Doktoro Kiu, your words make me think. I would say that most examples that I can think of at this moment have something to do with philosophy or religion (or culture in general). Stuff like food usually does not raise too many issues and can be easily resolved--like "Bok Choy" and "Chinese cabbage."

But for abstract concepts, the story is different. How would you explain the Japanese concept wabi-sabi to a non-Japanese and ask her/him to distinguish a "real" wabi-sabi from something fusion or genuinely fake?

P.S. I agree with you that even within the same language, barriers may exist. Like, how can you explain to a white kid what cool is and why white kids ain't cool? How would s/he get why s/he is doing hip-hop but everybody still thinks s/he is lame, while Kim Jong-un may very well be called cool? (Pardon me if the Kim-Jong-un part is a bit controversial. I live in California.)

October 20, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Doktoro_Kiu

Even though you're using philosophical terms as examples, even the most mundane words do not have perfectly precise meanings (as salivanto is saying). What you are speaking about is an inherent limitation of words and language. To quote Alan Watts:

"There is nothing at all that can be talked about adequately, and the whole art of poetry is to say what can't be said."

October 20, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/salivanto

I would take this a step further. I would say that just about any act of translation involves finding ways to come close to expressing the same idea that was in the original, even though nearly all words in the target language cover at least a slightly different semantic territory than the original words. Even "simple" words like "bread" or "brown" call to mind different things, have different associations, or can be used only in a subset of the original circumstances when translated into another language.

October 19, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JiangtianG

Hi salivanto, you've definitely got a point here. Would you say this is inevitable in intercultural communication?

October 20, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/salivanto

Well, I was thinking more in terms of the actual meanings of words, and less about actual communication. I'm also thinking about shades of meaning. It's not a yes or no thing. Heck, perfect communication isn't possible even when communicating WITHIN a culture.

October 20, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ahblair

Found this thread which lists a number of unique Esperanto words:

https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/8911008/What-is-the-most-beautiful-poetic-amusing-Esperanto-word-you-know

Some examples from that thread:

kabeiulo - person who has forsaken an interest they were once enthusiastic about. (Or kabeiisto? Not sure which is better with the root kabei, from Kazimierz Bein: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kazimierz_Bein ).

malsandviĉiĝis - 'to become (a shape) which isn't a sandwich anymore'.

bonantagulo - someone whose Esperanto is limited to a few basic phrases like “bonan tagon” (slang).

maltrinki - to do the opposite of drinking.

October 17, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/carbsrule

I think the best example in the Duolingo course (in the culture skill) is ne krokodilu which means "don't speak your native language in a context where Esperanto is expected", but this isn't due to word-building, just an idiom.

The participles are some of the easiest ways to produce whole English phrases from a single Esperanto word: vojaĝonto "person who will travel"
manĝinto "person who has eaten"

Maybe something like domaĉaĉetemularo "group of people who are inclined to buy low-quality houses"


Manĝu terpomojn kaj feliĉiĝu!

October 16, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Doktoro_Kiu

I also like participles when used as adverbs: "Promenante hejmen mi vidis birdojn."

October 19, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/MasonPluzak

I still like the fact that you can say something like "Mi vidas la blankan kaj la nigrajn katojn." And it means exactly that there is a collection of cats that are black and white, but that there is exactly 1 white cat in this collection.

October 16, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/SPANISHLEARNERS5

I agree!

October 15, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/salivanto

Last night I was contemplating ni ĉetablas (we are sitting at the table) and whether this is a realistic example, or just something people say when trying to show how efficient Esperanto is. I tend to think it's the latter -- but for sure, real examples exist. I have not made any effort to collect and present such examples. I think Claude Piron did in some of his works.

October 15, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/LaSemanto

A-ĉetablas?

October 15, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/salivanto

Could you please clarify what you are trying to ask or tell? I'm not sure I understand your comment.

October 15, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/LaSemanto

I don' ask anything. It was a referance to how similiar ĉetablas to aĉeteblas. Just an equivoke, never mind

October 15, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/salivanto

I question whether aĉeteblas (does the action related to "buyable") is good Esperanto word. Certainly ĉeteblas (does the action related to "at a table") is an action, and therefore is good Esperanto.

If you meant "equivoque", I'm still not sure I understand. I certainly never would have guessed what you were trying to say. It would be helpful if you could be more explicit.


Equivoke is another term form for equivoque, I think you' know that.

Neither one of these is a word that I use. If they mean "pun", then I still don't understand what you were trying to say. The word ĉetabli just doesn't seem that similar to aĉetebla to me.

So you say ĉetablas is good Esperanto while aĉeteblas not. :)

Yes. That's what I said.

October 15, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/LaSemanto

Equivoke is another term form for equivoque, I think you' know that. So you say ĉetablas is good Esperanto while aĉeteblas not. :)

October 15, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Espels

There are some examples we have found with my teacher de Esperanto They are with a word "nura". It is very common to use it with UNU. "Ununura" is the thing that exist in the only one copy. But if you exchange the "unu" you can get others interesting words. For example

Trinuraj piedoj donas al segxoj firman stabilecon sen aldona laboro pri kavalito, cxar la piedoj de kvarpiedaj segxoj ofte ne tusxas la plankon sambone/

Bonvolu, doni al mi, tri pilojn - Ne, mi ne povas. La pilaj pakoj estas kvarnuraj.

"nur kelkaj el lernantoj vidas tiom profunde" = Kelknuraj lernantoj tiom profunde vidas

October 22, 2019
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