Esperanto: A Complete and Comprehensive Grammar/Nouns
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In Esperanto, all singular nouns end in "o," regardless of gender, and all plural nouns end in "oj." Nouns are turned feminine by the insertion of "in" between the word root and the "o" or "oj" suffix. For example:
- Hundo (dog)
- Hundoj (dogs)
- Hundino (she-dog)
- Hundinoj (she-dogs)
Iĉism is a proposed reform to Esperanto to erase the unsymmetrical nature of and/or perceived sexual discrimination in Esperanto nouns. Iĉism isn't a standard form of Esperanto and isn't accepted by the majority of the Esperanto community.
- The suffix -iĉ- is to be used symmetrically with the suffix -in-.
- One should only use them only to highlight the gender or specify it when necessary.
- The roots without suffix -iĉ- or -in- do not indicate gender.
- The prefix ge- is used only in the plural, and then just to show that it was both sexes. It does not use prefix if gender does not matter.
For all but a couple dozen words, the standard Esperanto word is epicene, and ge- is not required. For example, dentisto is a dentist of unspecified sex in both iĉism and in modern standard Esperanto. The main words where the prefix ge- can be useful are:
- Kin terms: avo edzo fianĉo filo frato kuzo nepo nevo onklo patro vidvo
- Words for boys and men: bubo knabo viro
- Titles: fraŭlo grafo princo reĝo sinjoro
This is because In the early days of the language, members of a profession were assumed to be masculine unless specified otherwise with -in-, reflecting the expectations of most industrial societies. That is, dentisto was a male dentist, and instruisto was a male teacher. These became gender neutral in the mid-to-late 20th century in Esperanto, just as actor and author did in English, because of social transformation. The list above shows the gendered nouns that are left today; they remain masculine only because, officially at least, Esperanto has no other way of indicating masculine gender.
As such, moderate iĉists exist. They propose not changing words of kinship like "patro" but only adding iĉo to words that are already neutral such as esperantisto, where only the nuetral and feminine form exist. This is often proposed as for an iĉist to speak to an Esperantist of standard Esperanto to communicate without confusion, the iĉist can add the prefix ge-, when in standard Esperanto usage the noun would be masculine.
- Standard: The unmarked form of the 20 or so gendered nouns is masculine, and the two marked forms are the feminine and the inclusive/epicene. E.g. patro (father) versus patrino (mother) and gepatroj (parents [of both sexes]), the latter extended by some speakers to an epicene singular gepatro (parent).
- Iĉist: The unmarked form is epicene, and the two marked forms are the feminine and the masculine. E.g. patro, (parent), versus patrino (mother) and patriĉo (father).
- Moderate iĉist: The unmarked form is epicene except in terms of kin where -iĉ- becomes redundant and the two marked forms are the feminine and nuetre. E.g. patro and patriĉo (father), patrino (mother) and gepatro (parent).
Proper names, including exonyms
Just as in English and other languages, names of persons and specific places in Esperanto are capitalized regardless of where they occur in the sentence. (Names of months and days of the week are only capitalized if they begin a sentence.)
To fully assimilate an exonym into Esperanto, an "o" is added at the end and the writing is made to conform to the standards of Esperanto: for example, "Novjorko" refers to New York.
The pronouns of Esperanto are similar to that of English, but with the addition of a reflexive pronoun. They are as follows:
|first person||mi (I)||ni (we)|
|second person||vi (you)|
|masculine||li (he)||ili (they)|
|ĝi (it, s/he)|
|indefinite||oni (one, (singular) they, (generic) you)|
Some Esperanto enthusiasts feel Esperanto is somewhat sexist in its use of pronouns as well, and have proposed a reform called Riismo.
According to the Prezento de Riismo, in Riism:
- The pronoun ri replaces the pronouns li and ŝi. One does not use the pronouns li or ŝi.
- The iĉism is accepted.
Use of the pronoun ri parallels usage in many natural languages, such as Finnish, Swahili and Chinese, in which the third-person pronouns have no distinction between feminine and masculine. Esperanto has a gender-neutral (or epicene) third-person pronoun, ĝi, but this has been dispreferred because it translates English it, and is often thought to be inanimate.
Some critics of Riism consider the elimination of li and ŝi to be a major fault. They contend that the gendered pronouns are useful for the very same reasons of emphasis and precision that the suffixes -iĉ- and -in- are; and that while Riism eliminates a sexual inconsistency for nouns, its requirement that li and ŝi be wholly eliminated (as opposed to being relegated to those uses where sex is specifically implied) introduces an inconsistency in gender between nouns and pronouns. As such, many riists propose adding ri to the list of pronouns rather than removing li and ŝi thus making Eseranto have a masculine, feminine, epicene, and inanimate pronouns much like (Ido.
The pronoun ri would also cause problems with comprehension, a common flaw with proposals made on paper but not used much in actual conversation. Many verbs begin with ri-, to avoid confusion with verbs having the prefix re-. Since personal pronouns are most commonly used immediately before a verb, the pronoun ri would cause similar ambiguity: ri gardas (s/he keeps) vs. rigardas (looks), ri petas (s/he asks) vs. ripetas (repeats), etc. Critics making this objection often propose that the epicene pronoun should be gi, by analogy with the prefix ge-.
Other critics argue that the alleged lack of an epicene pronoun is spurious, because Zamenhof himself specified that ĝi should be used when the sex of an individual is unknown, and that the idea that ĝi cannot be used for people is due to interference from English. In Zamenhof's day it was customary to specify gender whenever it was known, and indeed in many European languages this is grammatically required. A shift from li and ŝi to ĝi could be argued to be a stylistic change similar to the ongoing shift from copula-plus-adjective to verb (such as bluas for estas blua), and that nothing so radical as the creation of a new pronoun is required.
However, many Esperantists use the work-around of the demonstrative pronoun tiu (this/that) as an epicene personal pronoun, but only when li or ŝi would be inappropriate.
Unlike other proposals, ciism comes from Zamenhof himself, although it was never pushed by him. He created a second-person singular called ci for when a distinction between the singular and plural you is needed, mostly for literature. However, he recommended against it because the existence of the plural you is also associated with formality in cultures of Europe, which he wanted to avoid.
Another proposal is that of the plural she and it as iŝi and iĝi to allow distinctions found in other languages. Proposed by Kálmán Kalocsay and Gaston Waringhien to better translate texts that were written in a language that has plural gender. They cited the biblical passage Matthew 28:10-11:
- Tiam Jesuo diris al ili (LA VIRINOJ): Ne timu; iru, diru al miaj fratoj, ke ili foriru en Galileon, kaj tie ili min vidos. Kaj dum ili iris...
- "Then Jesus said to them [the women], “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee. They will see me there.” While they were going, ..."
It is obvious from context that "They will see me there" refers to the brothers. However, the identity of the "they" in "While they were going" is completely opaque. Kalocsay and Waringhien proposed the following solution:
- Tiam Jesuo diris al iŝi: Ne timu, iru, diru al miaj fratoj, ke ili foriru en Galileon, kaj tie ili min vidos. Kaj dum iŝi iris..."