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This seems out of place.

From the Tips & Notes of Verbs: -ig/-iĝ


It so happens that the word Esperanto is often used as an adjective, without an -a ending. (For example, there are more Esperanto clubs that call themselves Esperanto klubo than Esperanta klubo.)

I don't really see the point of this being taught at all, especially not in this lesson. I was reading through the Tips & Notes section and thinking that this was all very good, until I came to the last part of it, and for the life of me I could not understand why you would teach incorrect form in a language course.

Calling clubs Esperanto klubo without a hyphen is considered bad style as it breaks with the rules. We have the same problem going on in Norwegian with two nouns being placed after each other (like in English, instead of adjective + noun or noun-noun) and this is frowned upon as it only causes confusion. And at the very least it is not taught in a course teaching the language.

May I have some insight as to what the meaning of this part of the Tips & Notes was? And is there a real point for it to be there?

June 20, 2015



I agree. "Esperanto-klubo", "Esperanto-asocio" and similar expressions are just compound words and should be written with a hyphen. "Esperanto" is not used as an adjective. Wikipedia has articles about "Esperanto-muziko", "Esperanto-movado", "Esperanto-radio", "Esperanto-kulturo", etc., always with a hyphen.


We can avoid the descriptivist/prescriptivist debate altogether on this occasion — this appears to be simply a typo. It should be "Esperanto-klubo".

On the prescriptivist side, the grammar rules say that you can't have two nouns together like that, you have to join them together to make one word. And for the descriptivists, I don't know of any competent speaker of Esperanto who would disagree, so as far as a course for beginners is concerned, it is Wrong.


Well, you have hit one of the core issues with languages...how do you determine what is incorrect. There are two basic schools of thought, prescriptive and descriptive: Can you dictate what is correct (prescriptive) or is what everybody speaks correct (descriptive).

Disclaimer: I am at heart a descriptivist. If everyone says Esperanto klubo, then that's the form I'm going to use.




Any test process that yields a binary result is going to be prescriptive (if you are going to teach something as right/wrong, you have to select it somehow). I think you are conflating moral/social philosophy with pedagogy here. I think the poster's point is that teaching every "incorrect" usage of a language so that people will "recognize" it is both intractable and pointless, and possibly counter-productive. Natural languages are so amorphous and irregular that it is impossible to teach them without severely restricting the topic. If we are going to restrict it we may as well choose to restrict it to the codified rules. The advantage of Esperanto is that the rules were codified at the beginning, not enforced as a cultural power play like many other socio-economic hierarchical "standardization" projects.


I think there's a disconnect here.

Let's say that the official way is "Foo" but everyone uses "Bar" when talking.

Then if you teach "Foo", that is being prescriptive. If you teach "Bar", that is being descriptive. No matter which way you pick, you're only teaching one thing. But the method of selecting what to teach differs.


But you aren't "teaching one thing" when the thing you're teaching is one of infinitely many possible exceptions to a rule in a rule-based invented language. More accurate would be something like "The official way is 'Foo', but everyone uses 'Bar' on restaurant menus, 'Bahr' on restroom walls, 'Barre' on home appliance catalogs..." This happens all the time in natural language and it's fine because those are primary carriers of cultural heritage. Esperanto, in part, is supposed to greatly reduce this type of diversity to maintain mutual intelligibility. Please don't misunderstand: if a speaker understands the rules and violates them with purpose, this is the right of any speaker. But I don't think it is pedagogically sound to teach by democracy, especially in a language where most people are beginners. This is unheard of in any other language. If this was done in mathematics we would all be dead by now.

Obviously people can do what they like, but it will eventually become a mess like every other language. Maybe this is inevitable. But I don't really want to debate this; I have already said far too much and there are some good arguments on both sides.

TLDR: My point is that this is not the question the original poster is addressing, it doesn't really apply to this particular problem. No matter which philosophy you subscribe to, it is difficult to see the above as anything other than a careless error or marketing gimmick that doesn't belong in a course. We don't teach English learners that they should replace c's with k's at random or write R's backward so that they will recognize the Krazy Kleen Laundry or the Toy's Я Us.


More accurate would be something like "The official way is 'Foo', but everyone uses 'Bar' on restaurant menus, 'Bahr' on restroom walls, 'Barre' on home appliance catalogs..."

Which is what they did. They said the official way is "Esperanta klubo" but many people say "Esperanto klubo".

Normally, I would say we've beaten this to death, but...

marketing gimmick

Just what sort of marketing gimmick would this be? Because I can't see anyone going, "Well, I wasn't going to study Esperanto, but I found this note hidden inside a lesson locked until you're a third of the way through the course. And, guess what, it said people are using -o instead of -a sometimes!"


On the first quote you are confirming my point: your analogy is not accurate; the real situation is more complex. It is not the simple substitution of one for another (in math we would call this a bijection), but instead a context-sensitive garden of possibilities dictated by your descriptive deference. That was my only point.

On the second point I am not talking about the course authors, I am talking about the anecdotal clubs that are the subject of the original post and things like "The Esperanto Café". In other words, one often sees things with "Esperanto" on them that are designed by someone who hasn't the faintest idea how to speak Esperanto or may just be beginning. I would have thought that would be clear from the examples that follow. I'm sorry if that was unclear.


Language is not "correct" or "incorrect." If many people use "Esperanto" as an adjective, then you should learn, if not to use it, then to understand it. Imagine if you learned English and you were taught never to end a sentence in a preposition. You would have trouble understanding some of the most basic and common phrases, for instance: "where are you from?".


> If many people use "Esperanto" as an adjective, then you should learn, if not to use it, then to understand it.

But they don't. These words are clearly compound words. I've been speaking Esperanto for many years and this is the first time I hear about "Esperanto" being used as an adjective.


A) This is part of the reason English, and other natural languages are difficult to learn; it is part of the problem Esperanto is supposed to solve. It takes some people a lifetime to be able to speak even broken English. B) Your preposition example is not terribly sound. For one thing, English is a hodge-podge borrowed language like most natural languages, but more so. So most "rules" are after the fact impositions. Cf. Oxford Dictionaries. A lot of these were invented by pedants who wanted to make English more like Latin because Latin was the language of power and scholarship (as English is now). I see the same thing happening in Esperanto (and most other languages) with English. Also you ask us to imagine something that did happen; people were taught these rules, and they didn't stick. I imagine that the same thing will happen with Esperantists and rules that they don't find useful. This will lead eventually to misunderstandings when they encounter people from different natural languages and cultures where those rules would have been important. The question is whether we want to accelerate the demise.

Linguistic relativism and moral relativism have the same problems. No matter how right they are in theory, when you go out into the real world you will experience all kinds of problems from not knowing what is "right" or "wrong" in a given place and time. And as much as we don't like to admit it, humans need this structure to function. It's just a question of which structure we choose and why.

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