Esperanto
Author: David Poulson


ITA-ATA

Author: David Poulson
Published on: June 25, 1999

UNCOMFORTABLE OVER-PRECISION

During the discussion of a recent Esperanto Topic article a question was raised about the use of past participles in Esperanto. After some thought I decided that I would take the opportunity to deal with this issue at length because, it appeared for a while to be a very important matter to the Esperanto movement. (Well, at least to some of it!)

It seemed that even the most proficient users of the language just could not agree exactly when and where the "estas -ata" combination should be used, and where the "estas -ita" form was most appropriate. Since Esperanto was (and is) described as a logical language and since its grammar is claimed to be both easy to learn and completely consistent, it seems very curious that people could not agree over this one area of usage.

Well it is very curious and I think that it's worth a few hundred words of discussion to try to figure out - not a definitive answer to this controversial question- but how come such a problem occurred in the first place. (Here, I might add, it isn't the only problem of this kind to be found in Esperanto. The whole issue of transitive and intransitive verbs, for example, is a real can of worms which I am definitely not going to open.)

Let me first say a word of apology to any readers who are making their first visit to this Topic. I have now written 35 articles and have not until now found it necessary to explore a grammatical issue. So if this particular article seems to you incomprehensible, please ignore it for the time being and begin to find out more about Esperanto right here, at the beginning of the series, instead.

And for those of you still with me, let me hand over for a moment to Montagu Butler, the author of one of the best textbooks on Esperanto ever written (see below for details) who very sensibly summarises and disposes of what he described as a:

STORM IN A TEA-CUP

Peter was born (the telephone was installed) in 1962. Estis -ata-ita?

For many years controversy has raged over this question. On both sides equally, eminent Esperantists have written thousands of pages, with no sign of reaching agreement. One side appeals to frequent usage: the other to logic and the Fundamento, and to Zamenhof's words: "En la lingvo Internacia oni devas obei sole nur la logikon." ("In the international language only logic must be obeyed.")

I venture to suggest that both sides are right, but not exclusively. Often -ata and -ita are equally possible: the choice depends on circumstances, eg the context, the thought in the speaker's mind, the meaning of the verb.

If naskig^i means "enter the world" and if Peter's birth took place from 3.00 to 4.00 p.m., then in the morning he was naskota, and in the afternoon he was naskata , and in the evening he was naskita.

I moved to a new house in December 1961. In January 1962 I ordered a telephone: it was then instalota. In February workmen dug a trench and brought in a wire: the telephone was instalata. Only in March was it ready for use. In April g^i estis instalita jam unu monaton. ("It had been installed for a month.") Thus in 1962 the telephone was instal-ota, instal-ata and instal-ita.

If the enemy <="" i=""> the town in the morning, it was then okupata, and in the evening it was okupita. If the enemy okupis (=enlog^adis, ie "continued to live in") the town from 1914 to 1916, during those two years it was okupata (and also okupita).

Zamenhof translated "I am busy" by Mi estas okupita. Nevertheless, if my affairs are still weighing heavily upon me, Mi estas okupata well expresses my present situation.

To return to our opening sentences. Both forms Petro estis naskata, (was being born), and Petro estis naskita, (had been born), are possible and correct. But both are uncomfortably over-precise. the English 'medial' forms "was born" and was installed" are comfortably less precise and may carry either meaning according to context. The 'medial' forms Petro naskig^is, Oni instalis la telefonon, , which are equally unprecise, are a perfect translation of the English, and are usually preferable to the compound tenses.

Butler, Montagu C. Step-by-Step in Esperanto: a Simple Textbook for English-speaking Students. 8th edition. London, Esperanto Publishing Company, 1965


I think that the key to this sort of problem (as I said earlier, it's not unique) is that, as Butler suggests, human beings are uncomfortable when they try to be too "precise" in communicating their meaning verbally to other people. I don't know why this is so. But the fact that it certainly is so, confirms my own view that the "correct", ie effective, use of language is not a science, but an art.

Although Zamenhof was a scientist, a doctor and an ophthalmologist, he was also a poet and an artist. And, as I have said before, Esperanto is a work of art and a masterpiece at that.

Any contributions to a discussion which relates to this proposition will be most welcome!

(HOME)

PRI TUTKOMUNA LINGVO
PRI RUSA LINGVO
PRI ANGLA LINGVO
PRI ALIAJ NACIAJ LINGVOJ
BATALO DE LINGVOJ
ARTIKOLOJ PRI ESPERANTO
"" PRI "KONKURENTOJ" DE ESPERANTO
LECIONOJ DE ESPERANTO
.KONSULTOJ DE E-INSTRUISTOJ
ESPERANTOLOGIO KAJ INTERLINGVISTIKO
TRADUKO DE MALSIMPLAJ FRAZOJ
TRADUKOJ DE DIVERSAJ VERKOJ
FRAZEOLOGIO DE ESPERANTO
, . VERKOJ DE ZAMENHOF KAJ PRI LI
, PROKSIMAJ MOVADOJ
ELSTARAJ PERSONOJ KAJ ESPERANTO
PRI ELSTARAJ ESPERANTISTOJ
. EL HISTORIO DE RUSIA E-MOVADO
KION ONI SKRIBAS PRI ESPERANTO
ESPERANTO EN LITERATURO
. KIAL E-MOVADO NE PROGRESAS
HUMURO PRI KAJ EN ESPERANTO
- ESPERANTO POR INFANOJ
DIVERSAJHOJ
INTERESAJHOJ
PERSONAJHOJ
/ DEMANDARO / RESPONDARO
UTILAJ LIGILOJ
IN ENGLISHPAGHOJ EN ANGLA LINGVO
PAGHOJ TUTE EN ESPERANTO
NIA BIBLIOTEKO


All rights reserved. With any use of materials, a link to the site miresperanto.com is required!