So, in thinking about Esperanto and some of those people who love Esperanto such as myself, but yet still find some issues with the language. Esperanto is a wonderful tool. It is not perfect, by any means, but is great at what is does – act as a simple to learn and use International Auxiliary Language.
There are two anomalies that exist in Esperanto that I find interest in their existence. Esperanto planned the language. It did not come into existence through serendipity or happenstance. He specifically planned the language in a certain way. The two issues I am going to talk about are gender specificity, and the letters j and ŭ.
Gender Specificity in Esperanto
The Specificity Problem
I have been thinking about this for while, and have even resolved myself to learn the standard way and then learn the way that is more internally consistent with the language (by adding a male and female suffix and have the root be gender neutral, but definitely pointing to the a male base), but this seeming exception to the language’s definite design kept bothering me.
I kept thinking about what little I know of the Spanish, French, and Russian languages all of which have gender assignments for all nouns. Some of which are seemingly arbitrary to my American Male perspective, and completely counter to what is intuitive.
- In Russian car, “maschina” (Englicized from Russian), is female and one would expect it to be male.
- I will have to find more examples
These sorts of exceptions are rife throughout all languages that implement this construct, and it is one of the things that makes these languages difficult to learn and an exercise in memorizing exceptions.
Gender Specificity as Gateway Construct
Now, I was thinking that Esperanto’s gender specificity cannot be so out of place and that there has to be a very definite reason for it. Perhaps its existence which seems counter to its ease of use and internal consistency, and perhaps, it is not meant to cater to ease of use. Perhaps its primary existence is to facilitate Esperanto’s requirement to be a Gateway Language
As I have earlier pointed out other languages have gender assignment to nouns (perhaps even to other words too), and they have rules that deal with changing the word depending on its gender and current use. My thinking is that gender specificity in Esperanto is act as a gateway to this use in national languages. It is there to prepare a person for learning other languages that implement gender specificity, first, and then it maintains Esperanto’s internal consistency.
So, yes it does seem out of place and there is a better and more internally consistent way to implement gender specificity in Esperanto as most will agree, but to do so would be to remove a tool that acts as an important gateway to other languages.
Letters of Exception as a Gateway
A similar line of reasoning will follow here as well for the the letters j and ŭ, both of which sully Esperanto’s ability to call itself a completely phonetic and exception free language. Languages all across the world have letters that when used together form different sounds. I think it is said that Icelandic is the only truly phonetic alphabet used in the world.
Now, these two letters maintain a sort of consistency in their pronunciation when used. The letter j when used following specific vowels always the same sound, and ŭ has a similar use. Now, I currently believe that these exist for the specific use as a gateway to all other non-phonetic languages and to prepare the person for constructs that they might not otherwise have been exposed to in their native languages.
I hope that some of what I have written makes sense to you and may shed some light on to why these exceptions may exist in the language. Please post and questions, comments, and suggestions.