10

By way of introduction, this question is about a quirk of Esperanto, but there is a general conlang question at the end, I promise.

In Esperanto, every root has a natural grammatical part of speech, much like how nouns have a grammatical "gender" (or noun category) in many other languages.

For example, "ŝoveli" means "to shovel". It is naturally a verb. The same root with a noun ending, "ŝovelo", does not mean "a shovel". Rather, it is the noun-of-the-verb, that is, it refers to the act of shovelling. To refer to a shovel, you have to say that it's the tool of the act of shovelling, that is, "ŝovelilo".

Similarly, "humana" means "humane". It is naturally an adjective. The same root with a noun ending, "humano", does not mean "human", it is the noun-of-the-adjective, that is, "humaneness".

This was an interesting design choice, and one that's puzzled me. For an Esperanto speaker, this is something you have to learn about every root, like noun classes in many IE languages.

Are there any analogues to this in natural languages, or is this a device that has been used in other conlangs?

  • 1
    If you are referring to a noun behind an adjective/adverb, I would say that in Italian normally there is always a substantive behind them that shares the same root (e.g. bello*/*bellezza, beauty*/*beautiful). The substantive could be collective/abstract, but still is a substantive. (Notice also that bello is used as adjective and substantive, so I can say il bello dell'aula to mean the most beautiful person of the classroom (which could also be sarcastic). – kiamlaluno Feb 7 '18 at 6:16
  • 2
    As for natural grammatical part of speech, I would say that grammatical parts of speech aren't natural, but concepts introduced from grammar when studying languages and their similarities. – kiamlaluno Feb 7 '18 at 6:16
  • That's a very good point. – Pseudonym Feb 8 '18 at 1:34
  • I'd rather say it is a quirk of English that roots and even complete words don't have an assigned part of speech and that you can verb a noun and noun a verb without applying any derivational morphology. In inflecting or agglutinating languages part of speech is pretty overt by the affixes a word carries and changing the part of speech can only be done by derivation. It is also quite normal that a root is either verbal or nominal. – jknappen Feb 10 '18 at 19:19
  • For the case of Esperanto, see also this question in Esperanto Language: esperanto.stackexchange.com/questions/2785/… – jknappen Feb 16 '18 at 17:38
5

This is pretty common in natural languages. Think about English words -- most of them have an inherent part of speech and require derivational affixes to change that. "Anger" is inherently a noun and requires "-y" to become an adjective, whereas "excite" is inherently a verb and requires "-ment" to become a noun or "-ed" or "-ing" to become an adjective. This sort of thing is incredibly normal in natlangs -- the reason it seems a bit abnormal in Esperanto is that Esperanto derivation is far more productive than even derivation-heavy natlangs, leading to irregularities in these sorts of changes being much more noticeable.

Also, as an aside, because "human-" is inherently adjectival, you would not say "humano" to mean "humane-ness", but "humaneco" (source). Adding the "-eco" suffix, meaning "the quality of" or something to that effect, is necessary for adjectival Esperanto roots. This is the very reason why Esperanto roots are said to have inherent part of speech, and it's a large part of why the "-eco" suffix exists in the first place.

Your Answer

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.