Why Esperanto is perfect at it is
All now and then people are talking about improving Esperanto. But I think Esperanto is quite perfect at it is for the following reasons:
1) If we want any chance of a useful language, we need at user base. At having two languages just split that base.
2) About the strange letters - ĉ, ĝ, ĥ, ĵ, ŝ and ŭ. It really is a trade off. What is good about Esperanto is that EVERY time you see a letter you immediately knows how to pronounce it. Even if you haven't seen the word before, even if you don't know what it means. I suppose (and hope) that we agree that this is how we want it. Esperanto is, and should be, easy to learn and this is one of the elements of an easy language. (Don't believe me - see this video about how to pronounce different words in my native tongue (Danish): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Jsf-VIaQoc). So the trade off really is, - do we want many letters or long words. The more sounds we are able to do (the more letters we have) the more different words we can have with any given length. I am quite sure it's not a mathematical perfect sweet spot. If Zamenhof had lived today he would without doubt have asked computer-linguists about exactly how many consonants and vowels would be perfect, but it's a pretty good guess - and see 1).
3) About gender neutrality. Well to be honest, it probably could have been better. And perhaps it can be, - very easily. Changing the standard form (the male) to be neutral and making a new distinction for a male might work. And perhaps it could be done without breaking the language - i.e. without splitting the userbase. Perhaps it is kind of already like that. I have heard people say that a horse (cxevalo) is gender-neutral. The mare (female horse) is a cxevalino and the stallion (male horse) is a vircxevalo.
There are probably other ideas about how to improve on the language. To be honest I am: 1) Still lerning Esperanto and 2) Not very language-intelligent (luckily I am better with math and have a nice job, thank you!) So there are probably good reasons to improve on the language. But really - are they good enough to split the language?
For 125 years the esperantists (or most of them anyway) didn't think so. Yes there is Ido - but see how few people are speaking it.
Well the whole point of this message is really just that we do not need another new language, we just need more people talking it, - because flawed or not, it's very good as it is.
I, myself, have a very hard time learning languages. I have studied English in school, in high school and at university all my books were in English. I have lived 9 month in USA (to study) and 5½ month in Moldova (as a volunteer) where I spoke English - because that's the only common language we had. At that time I did try to learn Romanian (one of the two languages they speak in Moldova). I even had a private teacher and I spend a loong time trying to learn. I did learn some. I could go to the market and buy stuff. But really not much more than that. And my English after all these years - are still far from perfect (as you probably can see here). And I actually do use it. The internet is mostly in English, I have been part of an international cluster in my church receiving and helping people who did not yet speak Danish. I even translated in church (not because I think my English is very good - but because there was a need).
For those of you lucky enough to be talented to learn languages quickly - DO! It is always better to meet people in their language. But even for you I think Esperanto is a gift from heaven! (But really do learn some languages. I am sure it will be good for you - and he world!)
What Esperanto is to me: 1) A very easy language to learn (I am still struggling, but nothing compared to the hard times I had to go through with English!) 2) A very nice community. I have already been to a few conferences (UK in Bjalistoko (2009) and in Kopenhago (2011) as well as some in KELI and one in ILEI). To me this is a 'whole new world' with so many interesting cultures, languages, ideas, ways of doing etc.
On gender neutrality- gxi isn't an exact translation of "it". It can also be used as a singular "they". The default for most things (animals, job titles) already IS gender neutral, as in English. Just because "Mother" stems from the word "father" doesn't make it sexist. That's like saying the word "Woman" is sexist due to it stemming from "Man".
I think Esperanto is perfectly fine the way it is.
It's good, but I wouldn't say perfect, actually in some points I find English better than Esperanto, and I'm saying this as a non native English speaker (I'm Spanish). Those points are:
Accusative is unnecessary. Proof of that is that most of popular languages don't have it and don't need it at all. Removing that -n would make Esperanto a simpler, easier and less frustrating language to learn, and being as simple and easy as possible should be the main goal for any language that wants to replace English as the world language.
About the strange letters, why don't it use the missing normal letters instead? For instance, "w" instead of "ŭ", or why not, removing the "ĥ" since that one is useless. Those letter are harder to type and they make Esperanto look harder that it is for those who see an Esperanto text for the first time. Actually, several years ago I discovered Esperanto and was interested of the idea of a neutral language, but once I saw those letter, I thought it was a strange, not so easy language for nerds, so I lost all interest, and it wasn't until this year with the Duolingo course for Spanish speakers when I decided to learn Esperanto. So I think removing those letter would make Esperanto a more attractive language for those who discover Esperanto.
And about Esperanto being "sexist". Well, I understand this language was created in the 19th Century and back then the world was extremely conservative and sexist. I guess the "-iĉo" proposal could solve that.
Finally, and this is a very personal opinion, I have problems with the pronunciation of the following consonant clusters: "kv", "gv", "dv" and "kn", my English pronunciation is quite good for a Spaniard, so it's ironic I have more problems with a language with a phonology closer to Spanish. Personally, I'd propose to change those consonant clusters by "kw", "gw", "dw" and "n" and I actually pronounce them this way, but since it seems I'm the only one who has that problem, I guess those cluster must be the way the are.
Anyway, Esperanto is quite good overall and that's why I'm still learning it, it simply isn't that perfect.
Well, for other people many of these things are things that make Esperanto attractive and interesting. I was very happy to learn about the accusative, because it essentially means: free word order, which is great. And I really liked the unique look of the letters with the ^ on top. In the age of Unicode and easy-to-install keyboards this really is not an issue anymore. And it wasn't in the time of Zamenhof, as you can easily type ^ over letters with a typewriter (combining ´ and `). I liked how you could immediately see that it's Esperanto, because it has those specific letters. I have no problems with "kv-" etc., and I think for many non-English speakers kŭ- would be more difficult (besides ŭ not being possible in this position).
In any case, there won't be any such major changes to Esperanto. Luckily. It would weaken its position, because people would see that there are dozens of different versions out there and say: "Oh, not even the speakers can't decide how to say or write anything, this language doesn't seem to be finished yet." (one reason why I stopped learning Lojban, for instance).
You may like the look of the diacritics letters, but that's cause you're likely an Esperanto lover, but most people don't like diacritics at all, for instance, most native Spanish speakers hate the diacritics of our language, (like the tilde "´") and we often don't write them. English is a very clean language, with no diacritics at all (only the apostrophe), and that's something learners like. Installing programs for writing Esperanto letters is less easy than just typing the Latin letters on a normal keyboard.
The accusative is unnecessary as I said, changing the order of the sentence is something that far from being any useful, makes a language even harder and confusing, having a one single order makes a language simpler and easier for learners.
Those strange aspects may make Esperanto perfect for language geeks, but those flaws won't let Esperanto be a serious world language candidate.
I agree Esperanto won't have any major change, but that means Esperanto will never succeed against English as a world language candidate, perhaps the Esperanto community only need to change the goal of the language rather than the language itself. For instance, Esperanto has proven to be good as an introductory language, since it's relatively easy and mixes aspects of several European languages, learning Esperanto first makes you able to learn later another European language easier. Actually, that's the main reason why I'm learning Esperanto. So I think the introductory value of Esperanto is a more realistic goal for its community.
I think the diacritics are kinda cool, and not as difficult to write as people make them out to be, however I do still agree it's a bit of a weak point of the language. Ido tried to fix this, but in my opinion they did this poorly, as they introduced digraphs and the like instead, which means you can no longer read letter-by-letter and always have the right pronunciation, as you can in Esperanto, in turn making the language less simple in another sense—rather a big sacrifice, if you ask me.
One thing Ido did get right is to simply have the accusative be facultative: you can use it if you really do want to play around with the word order, as for stylistic/poetic reasons or just to place different emphases in your sentences, but you are able to just go with the simple SVO structure without the need of an accusative in most circumstances. I rather think that's what Esperanto should also have done, or perhaps should still do. In effect, it's a little bit like that already, as even the most experienced and skillful Esperantists—subject somewhat to their native language(s)—tend to forget the accusative from time to time, and I know some Esperantists who forget it almost every single time and still do well with the language otherwise.
Given that, I don't think it's true that the accusative is serious enough to not let Esperanto be a serious world language candidate, but it's true that it doesn't help. The diacritics... well, again, I think their difficulty and awkwardness are overstated, but they too do not help.
You might be right about the goal of the language, although time will tell if that's all it will be able to achieve (not that that isn't a fine thing already, mind you); it does seem to be going through some growth recently, in no small part due to the Duolingo course(s).
Yes, I agree with you. I don't consider Ido perfect either for the reasons you mention, in my opinion the alphabet of a constructed language shouldn't have neither diacritics nor digraphs. About the accusative, it's true that it can be useful for aesthetic and artistic purposes like poetry, literature and music, but it should be removed from normal speech. The fact that even fluent esperantist often forget the accusative is the proof that Esperanto would be a better language without it. And I also think that a language that is supposed to be neutral should be also neutral about genders, that's why I like the -iĉo proposal.
Ido is too much like Esperanto to be worth learning. Learn Esperanto or learn something different.
I have yet to learn Ido properly, but I will at some point. However, I doubt I will like it quite as much as Esperanto, because I dislike how it has forgone some degree of regularity—sometimes for good reason, often not so much. For example, there is an exception to always stressing the penultimate syllable in the infinitive -ar ending. The correlatives are much less regular. There is the problem with there no longer being always one sound per letter, one letter per sound, like in Esperanto, like I mentioned. For some reason it chose not to have all pronouns end in -i or at least in the same letter/sound. Those sorts of things, I dislike. But it has some advantages over Esperanto, as well.
I agree about the -iĉ proposal. I don't so much agree with removing the accusative from normal speech; I just think it should be made facultative, like I said. It's not like it's difficult for the listener, just for the speaker to remember it, and if it's facultative and they forget (or just choose not to use it), then there is no problem in that case either. However, I guess the more important message is that we both agree that it's a bit silly for it to be obligatory, as it technically (if not in practice) is, now, for Esperanto.
Well, I already speak Esperanto. Ido's similarity to it is exactly why I want to learn it. Also, I recently got an offer to translate English into Esperanto and Ido, and because I didn't know Ido I probably don't stand a lot of chance at getting the job.
I think your idea of having the accusative as totally optional is actually great. As you say, it's only frustrating for the speaker but not for the listener, so that way the veterans could use it while the beginners like me don't have to use it at all if we don't want to.
I'm glad you agree :) that's how Ido did it, so it's not wholly my own idea.
In the meantime, try not to worry about it too much even if it's technically obligatory right now, because as I mentioned, almost everyone forgets it now and again. Sometimes people will point it out to you, I suppose, but other than that, it's not too much of an issue.
Well, I never thought about learning Ido, but if it's ever added to Duolingo, I might give it a chance to Ido or even to Interlingua.
Good. I told she, it's optional to use the accusative (her) - in International Inglish.
Interesting points that English is clean WITH hidden diacritics (& insane spelling). We can discuss this in some café (just been autocorrected) ;)
Okay, everything was fine except one thing. You said that if people are talented at learning language should especially learn Esperanto, which is ironic since the language is mostly advertised as a clutch for those who have bad language skills.
That said though, this person has a tantalizing disagreement against Esperanto, even if the person was a former Esperanto enthusiast. http://inf.ufrgs.br/~vbuaraujo/misc/kontrauranto/