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  5. Imagine a future.......


Imagine a future.......

where in our day, a new author burst upon the scene who was so beloved that he/she became known as the Erma Bombeck of the Esperanto world (you youngsters and non-Americans will have to look Erma up). So much so that all this author as to do is use a neologism and it soon gets taken up by Esperantists the world over, to the point where it is not even imagined that there was a time that it never existed. Let's say one of this author's neologisms is "gentro" the word he/she came up with for the gender neutral "parent". Naturally the icxistoj start using it as a root form for "gentricxo" for "father" and "gentrino" for mother. These usages were somewhat slower to catch on, but since they were based on the original Author's word, they nonetheless became as accepted.

Now we travel 100 years into this future Brave New Esperanto Word, "gentricxo" and "gentrino" have been so much used in the past 100 years, that "patro" and "patrino" are considered as archaic as the horse and buggy and it becomes a Strange Thing for them to be used at all.

Now the question: In this future esperantujo, "patro" is never used except by some hardcore die-hards, maybe 100 people at the most. Will this mean that "patro" is no longer "correct" Esperanto?

This of course raises the question: What IS "correct Esperanto"?

August 12, 2015



I haven't yet started Esperanto (it's next on my to-learn list, which is why I'm following these discussions), so I'm aware that in the eyes of many, my opinion will mean nothing, and I'm okay with that. :)

That said, it strikes me that this battle between reformers and prescriptivists happens with every healthy, living language. Sometimes it's within organized groups (those who prefer that laid out in the Fundemento vs reformers in Esperanto, or those working on the Dictionnaire de l'Académie française vs those who prefer modern French), and sometimes it's a constant low-level debate between individuals, like the number of people that complain texting is ruining English, or the debate about "learner's accent" vs. "proper Irish" in Irish speaking communities.

I wouldn't dare be so presumptuous as to offer an opinion vis-a-vis Esperanto specifically, as one who at the moment is on the outside looking in; I honestly don't know what my opinion will be.

But I would offer this as food for thought on the topic in general:

When I first heard that Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking) communities were complaining about "learner's accent" and expressing very real and deep-seated fears that it would destroy, fracture, or irreversibly change Irish, my sympathies were with them... but from an intellectual standpoint, I jumped for joy. See, when I was first studying Irish 25 years ago, the common wisdom was that it was a language on its deathbed. Young people didn't want to learn it, certain ethnic and religious groups didn't want to speak it (at the time, and for many years previous to that, there were very strong political implications vis-a-vis speaking the language), schools taught it badly, and the older people who did speak it socially and with ease were aging and dying. So, the very fact that enough people were learning it to cause a sudden debate about "learner's accent" meant that Irish had a chance of revival and survival. I'm doing my best not to end up with "learner's accent," but if it happens despite my best efforts, when it comes to Irish, that's better for the health of the language than my being one more person who could have tried to speak it, and didn't.

So, without offering an opinion on the divide either way, I would suggest that the fact that enough people care about Esperanto to have the debate about what's correct speaks very well for the continued health of Esperanto as a language.

[deactivated user]

    Great comment :) Thank you.

    > I would suggest that the fact that enough people care about Esperanto to have the debate about what's correct speaks very well for the continued health of Esperanto as a language.

    Very true. However, in the past , some of the debates on this topic here have gotten very nasty. That's the whole thing. If we can debate it in a humane way, as I believe the OP does. But that's not what the community has seen, and I believe many are tiring of the subject altogether.


    The problem has often involved moderators who, like you, do not understand the debate. This does not stop them from pretending to be the official spokespeople for open-mindedness and/or tolerance.

    In the most recent round of these discussions a small group of people with an Esperanto "dialect" called Esperant', which only they knew, came to these forums saying that their version of Esperanto was a more modern dialect and that it solved many of the problems of perceived gender bias in Esperanto. When these people did not meet with immediate success they called the whole Esperanto learning community on Duolingo bigots and other things. The moderators thought it was a debate about Esperanto dialects and told reasonable people to be tolerant with this small group trying to offer their own unique version of Esperant' as Esperanto. Many people thought that beginners could be confused into believing that Esperant' was actually a "dialect" of Esperanto.

    Orthohawk here is attempting to help people understand that there is "correct Esperanto". Which can only contribute to more reasonable debates in the future. Part of the problem with the most recent debate is that many people who have political messages to spread or personal problems with Esperanto, saw it as an opportunity to discuss one of their pet topics "Is Esperanto Sexist?" But the people who were upset at the Esper' group were less interested in that issue than in rare/personalized versions of Esperanto being presented as "more correct Esperanto".


    I believe that "patro" will still be correct Esperanto, much as "prithee" and "knave" are still correct English.

    In fact, we don't need to conjure up a far future - there are already usages which have fallen out of fashion and which the majority of today's Esperantists consider quaint or even wrong, and which may be advised against in the modern language, but which are nevertheless still considered correct because they appear in the oldest writings.

    For example, consider elrigardi; this used to be used where we now use aspekti (to look like, to have a certain appearance). Elrigardi may have been coined on the basis of German aussehen, but since it seems to mean "to look out of" rather than "to appear, to look like, to have an appearance" it is not much used. I'll wager that most of today's speakers won't have heard of it in this use and may consider it simply wrong, or perhaps a native German speaker's learner's error.

    I came across the word while reading the Fundamenta Krestomatio (a chrestomathy or list of writings collected early on to give learners exposure to what was then considered good style so that, by emulating it, they would speak and write acceptably as well). The edition I have has several footnotes pointing out such cases where today, a different usage is more widely used.

    This usage of "elrigardi" is marked "archaic" in PIV but it is not considered wrong.

    In my opinion, "correct Esperanto" is roughly the union of "what is in the Fundamento" and "what is currently accepted as correct".

    So funny things from 1910 that have passed out of fashion will probably be correct, but funny things from 1970 that have passed out of fashion may simply be wrong, being sanctioned neither by Fundamento-icity nor by current acceptance. "Patro" falls in the former (Fundamenta) capacity.


    Correctness can be defined as adherence to a (formal, authoritative) standard. If you have such a standard, the question of correctness can be settled by checking it against that standard. If there is no such standard, or no agreement on which (version of a) standard to check against, the question is meaningless. In the case of Esperanto, if 100 years from now the Fundamento in its current form is still accepted as the standard, then "patro" will be correct. Whether something can be correct yet considered outdated is a separate question. At a minimum, you may want to keep it around to use it in historical fiction.


    Nice post. Very calm, very logical, well thought though. Thank you for adding positively to the debate.


    Look at how English works as a universal language. There are accepted non native versions that have developed on their own, as well proposed standard versions to be taught and used by foreign speakers. Besides that a lot of schools or governments in some countries will strictly impose teaching an English from a particular country. I think people that would debate what is correct but in the end these things seem to develop by themselves.


    But actually English is taught and you can say what is correct and what is not. If you couldn't, then how people could communicate?


    can one say the same about Esperanto? And if so, then, what are the criteria for determining what is "correct Esperanto"?


    The point I was trying to make about that is that with enough speakers there will be variants but likely, there will also be dominating versions


    I know the point thee was trying to make. the problem is that it didn't answer the question in the original post.


    You mean what Esperanto is correct? You can't really give a simple answer to that but based on my own experience a language is correct if it works. As far as I know even Zamenhoff expected it to change and develop so I don't think anyone could answer 'X' Esperanto is the correct one and say the others are wrong.


    Well, sad to say, thee would be wrong. According to the Declaration of Boulogne, The Fundamento was established as the "netusxebla bazo de Esperanto" the untouchable basis of Esperanto. IOW, if a form, word, construction contradicts what is in the Fundamento, then it is not "correct Esperanto." Not saying that, e.g. "komputilo" is not correct Esperanto, not at all. That form does not contradict anything in the Fundamento. It is merely an addition to the Fundamento, just like any of the nine "oficialaj aldonoj" put out by la Akademio.

    A form/word/construction found in the Fundamento is by definition "correct Esperanto" and no amount of wishing otherwise can change that. Even if, as in the hypothetical situation of the original post, a word falls out of general use (or even if it never was in general use), that word is still "correct Esperanto." In this case, "patro" will forever be defined as "father" even if a hypothetical word meaning "parent" (e.g. "gentro") were to be introduced, and by the word building principles of Esperanto, "gentricxo" comes to be the only word used for "father" in everyday speech. So, just because "everyone says" Germanio, this does not mean that "germanujo" is "the wrong word."


    "You can't really give a simple answer to that but based on my own experience a language is correct if it works"

    "He like running" works fairly well but it is rather not correct English.


    Sorry but if enough people start saying that, and the intended message is being communicated you will have no choice but to accept it. If I use the word bike for car and someone brings me a real bike, I have made a mistake because communication failed, but imagine a dialect developing where cars were called bikes communication would succeed and it would be accepted as a slang word but not necessarily wrong. My point is correct or incorrect is often about communication.

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