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

Country names in Esperanto

I am curious about why in Esperanto, the names of many countries are just an Esperantized version of their names in the Romance languages, but not how people in those countries would actually call it.

For example, Japan is Japanio, while Japanese people would call their country "Nihon" or "Nippon" (depending on their dialect). Egypt is Egyptio, while Egyptian people would call their country "Misr".

This even happens with European countries. For example, Grekio would actually be "Hellada" and Georgio (not the US state of Georgia) would actually be "Sakartvelo." Even the "Deutschland" is called Germano!

I was just wondering, wouldn't the use of the "actual" names be a bit more international?

October 19, 2019

8 Comments


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

Think of it the other way: How many people know Japan as "Japan" (or something similar) and how many know the country as "Nihon"? Which is more useful for communication? (Hint: Have a look at the translations on https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Japan)

October 19, 2019

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

Thanks for your reply. It is true that Japan is known as Japan in more languages than in which it is known as Nihon. But the problem is, all those people who know Japan as Japan learned this word from English or French or some other European language that is or was regionally (or even globally) predominant.

On the other hand, in languages whose speakers are very likely to have known the Japanese before they knew the Europeans, Japan is Nihon or Nippon. Examples include Chinese, Cantonese, Korean, Thai, Lao, etc.

Similarly, in all the Arabic languages/dialects, Egypt is Misr.

I guess there is always a balance to be achieved between making things sound more like they are supposed to be and maintaining the "ease of communication" under the old regime, the eurocentric cosmology.

October 19, 2019

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

As a point of interest, I understand that there was a movement in American Sign Language to stop using the traditional country names and to import the signs used by Deaf people in the country in question. It's pretty interesting and makes a lot of sense in that context.

October 19, 2019

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

Totally.

October 20, 2019

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

I was just wondering, wouldn't the use of the "actual" names be a bit more international?

I suppose it depends on what you mean by "international." My sense is that the word used in the greatest number of nations is the most international, by definition. In some cases (like Barato and Suomio) the local name can gain some traction, but there are usually extenuating circumstances - like concern over whether Barato really is "the country of the hindoj, or having a root with a double letter like Finn-lando.

Edit: Apparently I should have refreshed before posting. I didn't see that there were already some fine answers on this thread.

October 19, 2019

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

I was just wondering, wouldn't the use of the "actual" names be a bit more international?

It would actually be less international. There are many countries that call themselves one thing, when the entire rest of the world calls them something else. Consider Hungary, who calls themselves "Magyarország", but who the rest of the world knows as some variant of "Hungary." (This happened because the Magyar people, who now inhabit the region of modern Hungary, took it over at some point, replacing the people who called themselves something closer to "Hungarian.")

This outsider-insider naming happens a lot, and generally it is probably better to follow the form that a greater number of countries recognize. That said, Esperanto does deviate from this in a few places, based on the desires of locals. India in Esperanto is "Barato", not "Hindio" - for example. And the root "kore-" underwent a shift in meaning from a country to a people, because many felt that they should be recognized as a people first, and a country second like most old world countries. So, if any Esperantists in a country are unhappy with the common name for their country, they can make their grievances known to the community, and they'll probably slowly shift to match their requests.

(It's way less important, but I've sometimes been a little dissatisfied with the common Esperantization of places in the U.S. The common Esperantization of my state, Colorado, is "Koloradio." The reason for the extra "i" in there, is to distinguish between the river (Kolorado) and the state (Koloradio.) This happens a lot when there's a city/state or geographical feature/state pairing with the same name in Esperanto. Except there's no consistency to it. Why is it that the state of Kansas becomes "Kansaso" and not "Kansasio" when it's also named after a river, and there's a city of the same name?)

October 19, 2019

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

The common Esperantization of my state, Colorado, is "Koloradio." The reason for the extra "i" in there, is to distinguish between the river (Kolorado) and the state (Koloradio.)

I recently had a discussion about the Esperanto name for "Indiana". I had no idea it was so controversial. In the process, I found out that there are many standards (or so-called standards) in use. I've always fallen back on PIV, and yet I found out that Bertilo has published a list of country names which conflicts with PIV. I know Chuck Smith claims there was no standard till Vikipedio came along. I don't agree - and neither have I compared the articles in Vikipedio to Bertilo's list or the list in PIV.

I disagree with Bertilo's analysis, and I also think that actual usage in the US should get some extra weight here.

I am not convinced that there is "no logic" to it, as you said. I'm not sure I've heard of the Kansas River (or "The Kaw). It's certainly not what I think of. And if you google "How did (state) get its name", the results are:

  • The state was named for the Kansa Indians.
  • Colorado come from the Spanish, "ruddy"or "red." The early Spanish explorers in the Rocky Mountain region named a river they found the Rio Colorado for the reddish silt that the water carried down from the mountains.

And oddly, it seems that Kansas City, Kansas is named after Kansas City, Missouri.

I can tell you that Esperantists in Quebec and New York do indeed make a distinction between Novjorko and Novjorkio on one hand, and between Kebeko and Kebekio on the other hand. It's very handy.

By the way, I just checked. Strangely, the Vikipedio article insists on calling states "subŝtatoj instead of just ŝtatoj and it seems to agree with PIV in some cases and with Bertilo in others.

(I'll come back and post a comparison, maybe.)

Personally, I favor Indanio because it matches the etymology of the name.

October 19, 2019

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

Thanks for your insight. The example of Hungary is a very good point.

I live in Kalifornio and I have a similar dissatisfaction, especially since California already has an "i" at the end. Besides the state of California, we also have the city of California (and another city of California in Kentucky), and the Gulf of California. Not to mention the California Republic during the Mexican war. Plus "Yes California." Lol. Names can get really messed up.

October 19, 2019
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