This word has very interesting etymology:
"Perhaps back-formation from Yiddish רביצין (rebetsin, “rebbetzin, rabbi's wife”). Zamenhof's explanation that it was from German Kronprinzessin (“Crown Princess”) is thought to have been an attempt to avoid antisemitism. Reanalysed as edzo (“husband, spouse”) + -ino (“feminine gender”)."
The idea of creation of the language itself was an idealistic attempt to solve national hatred, that was quite salient in the 19 century Europe and finally led to World Wars in the 20th century.
It seems that Zamenhof feared that presence of obvious Jewish words could hinder acceptance of the language.
is there a good place to get a list of all of the "attachment" things you can add to words like -ulo or -ajxo or -ino or et-? Maybe they're called suffixes and prefixes?
Note that the definite article is attached to the wife, not the someone else. You could absolutely leave it off and say "Ŝi estas edzino de aliulo" (She is a wife of someone else) but this is subtly different than the sentence above: "Ŝi estas la edzino de aliulo" (She is THE wife of someone else) makes it clear to the listener that the speaker assumes that the marriage in question involves only two people. Seeing that there are many marriage systems around the world that can accommodate multiple spouses, this may be an assumption the speaker of an international language would want to avoid, but there's nothing grammatically wrong with it.
Thank you for the reply.
I'm not saying that the is attached to someone else. Someone else is attached to wife - Duo even suggests someone else's as a translation which clearly prevents the article being applied at the same time, only the of construction makes it somewhat palatable. However, the wife in question is at the same time described as specific by the and unspecific by of someone else.
If it was she is the wife of the other one then it's perfectly ok. If it was at least she is the wife of another one / she is the wife of a driver your explanation could be applied. If it's grammatically correct, then so be it. But I still find it very strange and would love to hear opinions of other Esperantists.
The Esperanto sentence could be more literally translated as "She is the wife of someone else" (as traevoli mentioned), which is a somewhat unusual but grammatically acceptable sentence. The definite article serves the same purpose as in this alternate English translation. I think some confusion might arise from the fact that the most natural English translation makes use of the possessive ['s] for which there is no direct equivalent in Esperanto.
Also, it seems possible that the definite article is justified because "the wife" refers to the same person as the pronoun "she", thus making it a specific person presumably known to the listener, even if the referent of "someone else" is not known. But my knowledge of formal grammar is not the best, so I'm not sure if this interpretation holds water. Also, consider the following sentence, which is structurally very similar, but in which the definite article is (in my opinion) more unambiguously required:
"He is the leader of some other tribe"
In the event that none of my explanations and examples are convincing, I'll just conclude by saying that I intuitively find "Ŝi estas la edzino de aliulo" to be the preferable translation of "She is someone else's wife".
Thank you very much for taking time to reply.
Your sentence sounds more natural and I feel its similar to my example with She is the wife of another one. If I read either of those sentences, I'd even think about it. It's just this one particular sentence :-).
I'll trust you that it's correct. I'm just learning Esperanto and English isn't my native language. My sense of what is normal and what is not is biased by my native Czech, which doesn't use articles at all so I have to think about them more.
It's true that "She is the wife of someone else" is a closer translation, which is what you meant to say, I think. It doesn't actually sound more natural in English, though. I mean, if you were thinking in English (and not translating from Esperanto), and had to express that thought, you'd naturally say "She is someone else's wife". And if you then tried to translate it to Esperanto, you'd have to say "Ŝi estas la edzina de aliulo", because that's how possessives work in Esperanto. The same is true of French and Spanish too, because in order to translate the English "〈noun〉's" to French/Spanish, you have to say "de 〈noun〉" (with appropriate French/Spanish articles).
In reply to VynM: Congratulations on reading the whole thread :-). Personally, I'd never say else's because I find it rather unpleasant to pronounce due to the double s and I can't get rid of a bad feeling about someone else's in general. I understand what it means but of someone else just sounds better to me.
Anyway, it's beside the original point which was the definite article in Esperanto (and possibly in English) when referring to a wife who's at the same time the subject of the sentence but also being referred via association to an unknown person. traevoli claimed that it conveys extra information about the type of relationship, rcardwell suggested that it's ok given the wife is the subject of the sentence. He also provided an example where the article is definitely required which supports traevoli's argument.