Esperanto has been the most popular constructed auxiliary language for over a century since the 1890s. That's why all new auxiliary languages are rightfully compared to it.

Esperanto has been criticized over the years. Many of the recurring points of critique are included in Justin B. Rye's article Learn Not to Speak Esperanto. It has been replied in detail by Vítor De Araújo and more broadly by Claude Piron among many others.

Despite all the critique, Esperanto has its merits and its relative success among auxiliary languages is undeniable. But does it really deserve its success? Is Esperanto really an ideal world language? In this article we will review the most important points of critique and compare Esperanto to Pandunia.

Alphabet

The alphabet of Esperanto is as follows:

A B C Ĉ D E F G Ĝ H Ĥ I J Ĵ K L M N O P R S Ŝ T U Ŭ V Z
a b c ĉ d e f g ĝ h ĥ i j ĵ k l m n o p r s ŝ t u ŭ v z

People often criticize the letters with "hats" because they are not included in the standard keyboards of typewriters, computers and smart devices. The hatted letters are a hindrance indeed.

What is often overlooked is that there are two sets of letters: big letters and small letters. Both do the same task: they represent spoken language in writing. So it's like using two hammers to hit one nail. Latin, Greek and Cyrillic alphabets have developed this kind of double character set, while most other writing systems get by with only one set of letter-forms.

The alphabet of Pandunia uses logically only the small Basic Latin letters.

a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p r s t u w x y z '

Eurocentrism

Eurocentric grammar

Esperanto and most other Western auxiliary languages are pretty much the same. They have largely the same Western European vocabulary (with minor differences) and they repeat the same Standard Average European features of grammar, that are shared by French, English, German, Spanish and other languages from West and Central Europe.

  1. Word class is defined by suffixes. Verbs, nouns, adjectives and adverbs have their specific endings.
  2. Nouns (or at least pronouns) are inflected for cases such as nominative, dative and accusative.
  3. Verbs are inflected for tense, person and/or number.
  4. There are definite and/or indefinite articles.
  5. Singular and plural forms are separate. The plural form is used redundantly also after numerals. For example in English "one cat, two cats" and in Esperanto "unu kato, du katoj".
  6. Prepositions are used instead of postpositions.
  7. There is a specific polite form for 2nd person singular pronoun.
  8. There are separate gender-specific 3rd person singular pronouns.
  9. The perfect tense is made up of to have or to be and a participle. For example in English "I have talked." and in Esperanto "Mi estas parolinta."
  10. The passive is made up of to be and a participle. For example in English "I am seen." and in Esperanto "Mi estas vidita."
  11. The normal word order is subject-verb-object.
  12. The word order is changed in questions.

Both English and Esperanto have all of the above except number 7. Ido, Novial and Interlingua have all of them. In contrast for example Chinese has only features 8 and 11, and the former is apparent only in the written language – because of Western influence! (In Chinese there are three characters for the 3rd person singular 他 (he), 她 (she) and 它 (it) but all of them are pronounced the same, "tā".)

Standard Average European features are not bad just because they imply Western bias. Some (not all) of them are bad because they are illogical or simply difficult for those who are not used to them in their native language. Many learners stumble with articles and "difficult" personal pronouns. The world language should be free of such unnecessary features and rules.

Pandunia has only feature number 1: Word class is defined by suffixes. It is also a main feature of Esperanto. But otherwise Pandunia diverges greatly from Esperanto in particular and from Standard Average European grammar in general. So grammar-wise Pandunia is not Eurocentric like Esperanto.

Western or global vocabulary?

Esperanto boasts with its international vocabulary. At a closer look it's not so international. Most Esperanto words come from Western languages. Esperanto chooses a European word even when no international Western word can be found. Such words are birdo (bird, only in English), vosto (tail, from Russian хвост) and knabo (boy, from German Knabe).

Isn't it arrogant to create a language for the world without looking beyond your own neighbourhood? It was in the spirit of the time, the time of colonialism, when Esperanto was created.

Pandunia acknowledges that there are many stocks of international words: Western, Indian, Sinitic and Perso-Arabic being the major ones. Hundreds of words are borrowed from each of them. Pandunia's vocabulary is evenly global.

Word class marking

Simple word class marking with final vowels is an ingenious idea and it fits well with the Indo-European root-and-suffix word pattern. But what about words that don't use this pattern?

Importing nouns to Esperanto

In Esperanto nouns end in -o. There are three methods how the ending is added:

  1. Add the ending to root that already ends in a consonant. Ex. birdo (bird), boato (boat), roko (rock), supo (soup), problemo (problem).
  2. Add the ending and keep the final vowel as part of the root. Ex. sufleo (soufflé), kopio (copy), heroo (hero), ŝampuo (shampoo).
  3. Replace the original final vowel with -o. Ex. sofo (sofa), ĉimpanzo (chimpanzee), zebro (zebra).

Most people think that method 1 produces words that sound natural, but methods 2 and 3 produce words that sound unnatural.

This issue becomes a real problem when names are imported to Esperanto. Is it possible to transfer similar names like Mary, Maria and Mario to Esperanto so that they remain distinct? It seems like no. Normally Mary and Maria are written "Maria" in Esperanto – though -a is officially an adjective ending!

Importing nouns to Pandunia

In Pandunia nouns end in -e or they don't have any ending at all. In general -e is used after roots that are difficult to pronounce without it.

  1. Add no ending to roots that are universally easy to pronounce. Ex. problem (problem).
  2. Add ending -e to roots that end in more difficult consonants. Ex. bote (boat), supe (soup), sufle (soufflé).
  3. Put the stress accent on the last vowel of the roots that end in an inseparable vowel. Ex. heró (hero), xampú (shampoo), sofá (sofa). The accent difference is present both in written and in spoken language.

With this solution all kinds of words can be imported to Pandunia without changing or deleting any important letters.

Esperanto roots have inherent word class

One of the most confusing things in Esperanto is that, while it has separate word class markers, the roots belong to word classes already! What's even more confusing is that roots, which belong to the same category, can belong to different word classes.

For example blua (blue) and malferma (opening) are adjectives, but the root blu- is an adjective while the root malferm- is a verb. This results into weird asymmetries in word derivation. Additional asymmetry is caused by unsystematic distribution of transitivity in verbs, which is illustrated by the root nask- (birth).

blu- malferm- nask-
blua = blue - naska = birth-
blui = be blue - -
- malfermi = make open naski = give birth
bluigi = make blue - -
bluiĝi = get blue malfermiĝi = get open naskiĝi = be/get born
malfermita = open(ed) naskita = born

Pandunia roots are classless

The roots are classless in Pandunia, so there's no need to memorize whether for example kay- (open) is basically a verb or an adjective. Word class is added by adding the appropriate ending: -i for adjectives or stative verbs, -a for active verbs and -u for passive verbs.

nil- kay- jen-
nili = (be) blue kayi = (be) open jeni = born
nila = make blue kaya = make open jena = give birth
nilu = get blue kayu = get open jenu = be/get born