Language structure of Esperanto

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This article deals with the grammatical , phonetic and lexical basics of Esperanto .


Sound supply

Printed and handwritten letters of the Esperanto alphabet

The Esperanto alphabet consists of 28 letters. Each letter corresponds to a speech sound . The sounds essentially correspond to the German ones, the special characters have the following equivalents:

Let. pronunciation
ĉ Ma Tsch
H Ba ch
ĵ Blama g e
G Dsch ungel
ŝ A beautiful e
ŭ A u to
Esperanto alphabet with "ideals" as the IPA symbol .
Capital letter A. B. C. Ĉ D. E. F. G G H H I. J Ĵ K L. M. N O P R. S. Ŝ T U Ŭ V Z
lowercase letters a b c ĉ d e f G G H H i j ĵ k l m n O p r s ŝ t u ŭ v z
IPA a b t͡s t͡ʃ d e
f G d͡ʒ H x i j ʒ k l m n o
p r s ʃ t u w
( )
v z

The letter Ŭ is never at the beginning of a word, so it is only needed in the lower case .

Vowel length

The vowel length does not distinguish between the meanings: you can pronounce vowels as short, medium or long as you like. Nevertheless, there are certain tendencies to pronounce the vowels short or long, depending on the situation. For example, a vowel is usually pronounced long in a stressed syllable if it is not followed by more than one consonant, e.g. B. simila [si'miːla], but rezisti [re'zisti].

This vowel length is often retained even with apocopes of the o-ending of the nouns, so that minimal pairs are created that only differ in terms of the length or shortness of the vowel. Example: [viːn] "wine", but [vin] "you".

Word stress

Esperanto has five vowel phonemes: a , e , i , o , u . Each of these vowels forms its own syllable. The half vowel ŭ sounds like the short vowel u, but does not form a separate syllable.

In polysyllabic words, the penultimate syllable is always stressed. With the elision (see below) the ending -o counts; so the last visible syllable is stressed.

Examples (the stressed vowel is provided with an otherwise not written accent ( acute ) for clarity (cf. Spanish )):

  • lúmo (= light) - emphasis on the u
  • abío (= fir) - emphasis on the i
  • regúlo (= rule) - emphasis on the u
  • ánkaŭ (= also) - emphasis on the 1st a
  • nenía ​​(= none, none at all) - emphasis on the i
  • radío (= radio; beam) - emphasis on the i
  • emú '(= Emu) - emphasis on the u (derived from "emuo", see below)


Parts of speech

In Esperanto, the words can be divided into two groups: On the one hand, ending words (finaĵvortoj), which have an ending that defines the part of speech / word function in more detail; on the other hand, particles (vortetoj).

The particles are a limited group of words which, depending on their function, can be divided into prepositions, pronouns, noun particles, adjectival particles, numerals, conjunctions, subjunctions, comparison particles, adverbial particles and exclamations.

The ending words can be divided into verbs, O-words (nouns), A-words (adjectives) and E-words ([derived] adverbs). Verbs have one of the verb endings -i , -as , -is , -os , -us or -u . O words always end in -o , A words always end in -a , E words always end in -e . These three parts of speech are often referred to as "nouns", "adjectives" and "derived adverbs"; However, this designation feigns an asymmetry that does not exist in Esperanto: It forces you to divide the adverbs into two groups ( "derived" adjectives ending in -e and adverbial particles), but does not do this with the adjectives and nouns, although there are also adjectival and noun particles (e.g. iu , ĉio ).

If the noun ending -o is not followed by any further grammatical suffixes, the -o can be elided (left out). The elision is always made visible by an apostrophe (').

There is no indefinite article (Tie estas telefono (or telephone '). - There is a telephone there.) And a definite article that is not bent: la . Although the rules for applying the particular article are similar to those of the German language, there are some differences: B. is in Esperanto, unlike the Germans before abbreviations usually set no definite article (NATO sendis soldatarojn -. The NATO sent troops.)

The plural ending is -j . It is attached to O-words (nouns), A-words (adjectives) and some noun and adjectival particles.


  • la granda domo (or dom ') - the big house
  • la grandaj domoj - the big houses

However, there are also particles that do not end in j despite their plural meaning : ni (we), ambaŭ (both).

Esperanto only knows two cases: the nominative and the accusative . The other cases of German ( genitive and dative ) are translated using prepositional groups (with de or al ). The accusative is derived from the nominative form with the suffix -n . If the plural suffix and accusative suffix meet, the plural suffix is ​​added first, then the accusative suffix. In contrast to some agglutinating languages such as Turkish , plural suffixes are mandatory if the set of the object is not equal to 1, as well as accusative suffixes on all elements (nouns, adjectives, pronouns) of the object.


  • Mi vidas la grandan domon. - I see the big house.
  • Mi vidas la grandajn domojn. - I see the big houses.
  • Bonan tagon! - Good day!

Verbs and tenses

Esperanto has regular endings for these grammatical tenses :
-is - past tense
-as - present tense
-os -
future tense

The verb has only one form in all conjugated tenses, regardless of person and number.

The ending of the present tense is -as :

  • mi / vi / ... skribas = I write / you write / ...

The ending of the past tense is -is :

  • mi skribis = I wrote

The ending of the future (future) is -os :

  • mi skribos = I will write

The ending of the conditional is -us :

  • mi skribus = I wrote / would write

The ending of the imperative is -u :

  • script! = write!

There is an active and a passive participle in every time stage ; the vowel is the same as in the personal forms. The participles can be used as adjectives and nouns (to denote a person), and sometimes other complex verb forms are formed from them (see below).

The active forms with non-idiomatic translation are

  • skrib int a = having written
  • skrib ant a = writing
  • skrib ont a = will write

The passive forms are

  • skrib it a = written (past, closed)
  • skrib at a = being written (present, in the course)
  • skrib ot a = still to be written (future)

Examples of compound times in the active :

  • Mi estas scribanta. = I am currently writing. (Colloquially "I'm writing.")
  • Mi estas skribinta. = I wrote.
  • Mi estis skribanta. = I was just writing. (Colloquially "I was writing.")
  • Mi estis skribinta. = I wrote.
  • Mi estos scribinta. = I will have written.

Examples in passive voice :

  • La letero estas scribata. = The letter is (currently) being written.
  • La letero estas skribita. = The letter has been written (finished).
  • La letero estas skribota. = The letter will be written.

Occasionally, other simple tenses are derived from the participles, which Wennergren calls “abbreviated compound verbs”. Forms on intus are often among them:

  • Mi venintus, se mi sciintus tion. = Mi estus veninta, se mi estus sciinta tion. = I would have come if I had known.
  • Bezonatas novaj fortoj. = Estas bezonataj novaj fortoj. = New forces are (constantly) needed.

The word formation

Esperanto has a number of semantic prefixes and suffixes that can be used to compose new words. A small selection should be mentioned here briefly:

mal- (expresses the opposite)

  • bona - good; malbona - bad
  • granda - large; malgranda - small

-et- (reduction)

  • rivereto - creek, brook (rivero - river)

-eg- (magnification, amplification)

  • riverego - stream (rivero - river)

-ej- (place)

  • laborejo - workplace (laboro - work)

-uj- (container, vessel)

  • riverujo - river bed

You can also combine several prefixes and suffixes, whereby the order of the affixes must be observed.

  • laborejeto - small workplace, "study"

These semantic suffixes can (in contrast to the grammatical ones) also be understood as word stems to which in turn derivation suffixes can appear, e.g. B. ejeto - small town. This becomes problematic when directly combining prefixes and suffixes. So is z. B. not clear whether malega should mean small , or completely opposite. Such words have to be learned as separate vocabulary.

The order in which affixes are evaluated cannot always be determined without context. That z. B. the word mal | san | ul | ej | o (= hospital) is evaluated in the order ((( mal ( san )) ul ) ej ) o, and not for example ( mal ((( san ) ul ) ej ) ) o is not obvious at first glance.

The following words can be formed with the help of the word stem telephone and the word class suffixes:

  • telephony - telephoning
  • Telefono - telephone
  • telefona - telephone (adjective) (telefona peto = telephone request)
  • telefone - by telephone (adverb) (telefone mendi = order by telephone)

With the help of the semantic word formation syllables, further words can be formed:

  • Telefonado - the phone call
  • telefonejo - telephone booth
  • Telefoneto - small telephone
  • maltelefoni - the opposite of "telephoning" (meaningless word)

With the help of the participles further word formations result:

  • la telefonanto - the person calling
  • la telefoninto - person who telephoned (actually the person who telephoned)
  • la altelefonito - the called party

In contrast to natural languages, the word formation explained above takes place as regularly as possible. This makes learning vocabulary much easier.

The tabular words

The tabular words ( Zamenhof's table ) are forty-five words of different types of speech (including the interrogative pronouns / adverbs and demonstrative pronouns / adverbs), which are systematically made up of the five prefixes ti- , ki- , ĉi- , neni- and i- and the nine suffixes - o , -u , -a , -el , -e , -am , -om , -al and -es are composed and can therefore be easily represented in tabular form.

asking; also referring back
generalizing; all encompassing
person, named thing
who? which / which / which? (of the named)
those / that / that
someone, any-
nobody, no-
unnamed thing
that that
something, something
there, there
when? when
then; at that time
sometime; at any time
always; always
never; at no time
what kind, how procured?
like that, like that, like that
ia of
any kind, of any kind
any kind, any kind, any kind
no, of any kind
how, in what way?
so, this way
somehow, in some way
in every way
in no way
how much?
so much
a little, any amount, any amount
everything, all quantities
nothing, not a lot
why (reason, cause)?
therefore, therefore
for any reason, no matter why
for any reason
for no reason
ties of
anyone, anyone
ĉies for
everyone, everyone as a whole
nobody, not a thing, not a whole

The indicative words become neutral or distant meaning ("those"); by preceding or following ĉi , closeness can be expressed explicitly (factual, spatial, temporal, etc.): tio - “that” (neutral) or “that”; ĉi tio or tio ĉi - "this". tial - "because of this" (neutral) or "for that reason"; ĉi tial or tial ĉi - "for this reason".

In natural languages ​​such as French ( combien, comment; quelqu'un, quelque part, quelque-fois ) and German ( when? Then; what? That; who? Der ) there are also approaches to an at least apparent system, which is not however consistent as the table shows as an example for the German language.


It is sometimes said that Esperanto is a language puzzle .

The Esperanto vocabulary comes for the most part from European, primarily the Romance languages , also from German and English , and to a lesser extent from Slavic languages , Greek and other languages. Esperanto words often go back to related word variants in several languages. In a number of cases they represent forms of compromise between them.


  • similar to Romance languages :
    • Latin : sed, tamen, okulo, akvo ... (but, anyway, eye, water)
    • French : dimanĉo, ĉe, frapi, ĉevalo … (Sunday, by, knock, horse)
    • Italian : ĉielo, fari, voĉo … (heaven, do, voice)
    • from several Romance languages: facila, fero, verda, vino, libro, koloro ... (light, iron, green, wine, book, color)
  • something like in Germanic languages :
    • German : baldaŭ, bedaŭri, hundo, nur, nun ... (soon, regret, dog, only, now [now])
    • English : birdo, spite ... (bird, in spite of it)
    • from several Germanic languages: bildo, fiŝo, Fremdda, hasti, somero, vintro ... (image, fish, foreign, hasten, summer, winter)
  • something like in Slavic languages :
    • Polish : ĉu, krado, pilko, moŝto … ( question particles , grid (rust), ball, highness)
    • Russian : barakti, serpo, vosto ... (wrestling, sickle, tail)
    • Czech : ne, roboto … (no, robot, scoop [in Czech čerpadlo scooping ])
    • from several Slavic languages: bulko, klopodi, krom, prava, ĉerpi ... (bread roll, try, except to be right, scoop)
  • similar to other Indo-European languages :
    • Greek : kaj, biologio, hepato ... (and, biology, liver)
    • Lithuanian : tuj ... (immediately; in Lithuanian tuoj)
    • Sanskrit : budho, nirvano ... (Buddha, nirvana)
    • several: du, ju ... (two, each)
  • similar to in Finno-Ugric languages :
    • Finnish : lirli, saŭno (splash, sauna)
    • Hungarian : ĉako, ĉardo, ĉardaŝo … (Tschako, Csárda, Csárdás)
  • something like in Semitic languages :
    • Hebrew : kabalo ... (Kabbalah)
    • Arabic : kafo, taso (coffee, cup)
  • similar to other languages:
    • Japanese : cunamo, zeno (Tsunami, Zen)
    • Chinese : tofuo, teo , kaolino ... (tofu, tea, kaolin)
    • Hawaiian : vikio ... (Wiki)

In the more than one hundred years of its existence, Esperanto has developed similarly to a naturally developed language - new words that are used in everyday language , in magazines or in literature find their way into dictionaries after a while . In some cases, new words also appear first as coins of lexicographers in dictionaries and from there gain popularity. Some of these words will be included in the official vocabulary of the Esperanto Academy and will henceforth be part of the generally binding principles of the language. The Academy also monitors other aspects of language development and makes recommendations from time to time, e.g. B. on country names. Foreign words are used in Esperanto according to rule 15 of the Fundamento de Esperanto . One of the new words is mojosa, an acronym from moderna-junstila, equivalent to English cool.


How to count on Esperanto

Cardinal numbers from 1 to 10:

number 1 2 3 4th 5 6th 7th 8th 9 10
Esperanto unu you tri kvar kvin ses sep OK well dec

From this the numbers up to 99 are put together as follows:

10 dec 20th dudek 30th tridek 40 kvardek ...
11 dek unu 21st dudek unu 31 tridek unu 41 kvardek unu ...
12 dek you 22nd dudek you 32 tridek you 42 kvardek you ...

100 (cent) and 1000 (mil) are installed in the same way as dek (10):

100 cent 101 cent unu 110 cent dec 120 cent dudek
200 ducent 201 ducent unu 210 ducent dek 220 ducent dudek


1000 mil 1001 mil unu 1010 mil dek 1985 mil naŭcent okdek kvin
2000 you mil 2001 you mil unu 2010 you mil dek 100.007 cent mil sep

Larger numerals (miliono, ...) and nulo (zero) are considered nouns and must be connected with the counted by the prepositions de or da : du jaroj - two years, du milionoj da jaroj - two million years. 'Nulo' occasionally appears as a quasi-original numerical word 'nul'.

At zero, usage is variable.

Ordinal numbers are formed with the ending -a (adjective ending) and, in contrast to cardinal numbers, are inflected like adjectives

  • la kvar a domo - the fourth house.
  • Mi vidas tri domojn, sed ne la kvar an . - I see three houses, but not the fourth.


The Esperanto professional associations maintain the specialist dictionaries. There are (as of April 2013) 63 “official” professional associations that have the status of collective members of the UEA (Esperanto World Association). Almost all of these associations maintain dictionaries in the relevant subject (e.g., information technology, physics, biology, medicine, railways, etc.). These dictionaries are mostly available on the Internet.

The most important specialist dictionaries are updated regularly.

The technical vocabulary also tends to be unambiguous, in accordance with the principles of language. For example, moment in the sense of “time instant” means momento . If, on the other hand, one speaks of physical properties such as torque , moment of inertia or angular momentum , one uses momanto .

Language example

Universal Declaration of Human Rights , Article 1:

Ĉiuj homoj estas denaske liberaj kaj egalaj laŭ digno kaj rajtoj. Ili posedas racion kaj konsciencon, kaj devus konduti unu alia en spirito de frateco.
All people are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should meet one another in a spirit of brotherhood.


Web links

Wikibooks: Esperanto  - learning and teaching materials

Individual evidence

  1. Plena Manlibro de Esperanto Gramatiko, § 2.1 - Vokala variado
  2. ^ Kalocsay & Waringhien (1985), § 20 Rim. III, p. 41
  3. Plena Manlibro de Esperanto Gramatiko, § 3.1 - Vortospecoj
  4. Plena Manlibro de Esperanto Gramatiko, § 3.1 - Vortospecoj - Vortetoj
  5. Bertilo Wennergren: La gramatikaj terminoj en PMEG. In: Lingva Kritiko . November 28, 2006, accessed on November 17, 2018 (Esperanto, on grammar terms in the Plena Manlibro de Esperanta Gramatiko , PMEG).
  6. Plena Manlibro de Esperanto Gramatiko, § 28.4.3 - 28.4.3. Nekutimaj kunmetitaj verboj
  7. Esperanto takes "its word roots mainly from the Romance languages" and adds them "to achieve greater phonetic differentiation by borrowing from Germanic languages"; according to Heinz F. Wendt (editor): Das Fischer Lexikon Sprachen , Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, Frankfurt am Main, 1977, p. 357.
  8. Zamenhof wrote that of the words that sound different in different languages, he took either those that are common to two or three major European languages, or those that belong to only one language but are also popular with other peoples; Source: Ludoviko Lazaro Zamenhof: Fundamenta Krestomatio de la lingvo Esperanto , 18th edition, Rotterdam, Universala Esperanto-Asocio, 1992, pp. 238–239.
  9. Basic and official words are in the Akademia Vortaro ( Memento of the original of July 12, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. ("Academy Dictionary";) listed; Retrieved September 13, 2012. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  10. Akademio de Esperanto: Oficialaj Informoj N-ro Numero 12 - 2009 05 04: Listo de rekomendataj landnomoj ( Memento of the original from May 8, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. . Retrieved September 12, 2012. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /