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Belecon taksas ne la orelo, sed la koro.

Ted Alper's picture

Is Elvish more beautiful than Esperanto? The question came up in a discussion with a friend of a friend on Facebook -- and my response is given as the title of this post (adaptita de la Zamenhofa proverbaro). I'll note that the f-of-a-f was unable to defend her preference for Elvish in Elvish, which ought to count for something. But it left me wondering:

Is Esperanto beautiful? I know it's a standard question, both among Esperantists and, for some reason, among people who know nothing about Esperanto, but I still haven't worked out my own thoughts on it.

I don't even know how to judge such a thing. I've certainly heard and read some very lovely sentences in Esperanto, but many of them were translations of presumably very lovely sentences in other languages. And I've certainly heard some clunky Esperanto sentences (most of them coming from my own mouth).

I'm not sure that people who want to argue about this really have a consistent standard. The Grabowski anecdote ( here retold by Don Harlow ) is surely relevant.

And what does it even mean for a language to be beautiful? Is this a statement about its phonology? Or its simplicity of design, its elasticity, its capacity for precision or conciseness? Those are all interesting properties, and Esperanto scores fairly well in my subjective judgement of most of them -- but are they aspects of beauty?

Of course, who am I -- who is anyone -- to say what others shouldn't consider beautiful? People may go to the same concert and one will be enchanted by the brilliance of the composer, another by the artistry of the performers, and some of us may even appreciate the craftsmanship of the tuba .

One thing I like about Esperanto -- I don't know if it's a reason to award any beauty prizes, though it might give Esperanto a shot at "Miss Congeniality" -- is its accessibility. Anyone willing to spend even a little time with it can quickly get to the point where he or she can appreciate the beauty of specific sentences, poems, stories, what not. Elvish speakers might find that more difficult (though Donald Swann helped a bit )

by Ted Alper


I fed this post into "I write Like", style analyzer, and I got:

Ted Alper's picture

I write like Harry Harrison I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!

April 12, 2013 by Ted Alper, 4 years 17 weeks ago

variable beauty

derek's picture

I suspect that we all have heard songs in our native language which we consider to be beautiful, and others which we would listen to only under duress. Yet the language, even many of the specific words, are the same.

If every reading and song in a given language seems to have a different amount of beauty to each individual listener, it will be hard to find objective measures that can be embraced by different people and cultures, and applied meaningfully to various languages.

March 25, 2013 by derek, 4 years 20 weeks ago

But some people are still

Mike Jones's picture

But some people are still looking for Universal Grammar.

March 26, 2013 by Mike Jones, 4 years 20 weeks ago

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder...

russ's picture

Until someone proposes some objective definition of "beauty" in languages which everyone accepts, this kind of question seems kind of silly indeed, or at best simply a way to get to know someone else's tastes.

E.g. lots of people say "German sounds ugly; French sounds beautiful", yet to me German sounds perfectly fine, and I like the way it sounds better than French. Shrug - personal preference.

March 18, 2013 by russ, 4 years 21 weeks ago

Such objectification was done

Mike Jones's picture

Such objectification was done long ago. Here is the result:

"I speak Spanish to God, Italian to women, French to men and German to my horse."


-and, one could now add, "I speak Esperanto to my friends."

March 18, 2013 by Mike Jones, 4 years 21 weeks ago

Objectification criteria

derek's picture

Demonstrating, I suppose, the high regard Charles had for his horse.

Indeed, Charles' comment, like the Grabowski anecdote, demonstrates that many opinions expressed on the beauty of a language are very often attempts to criticize or celebrate the speakers of a given tongue, rather than to assess anything about the sound of a language.

March 25, 2013 by derek, 4 years 20 weeks ago

"I speak Esperanto to my friends."

russ's picture

and "I speak English to make money", to take an idea from a related / similar saying!

I also sometimes speak Polish to my wife, but that's probably less universally applicable. :)

March 18, 2013 by russ, 4 years 21 weeks ago

Contact us / Kontaktu Nin

Contact Us / Kontaktu Nin:

Landa Kongreso * 2017 June 30 - July 3 * Annual Congress

EO Esperanto: La Landa Kongreso 2017 okazos en Raleigh, Nord-Karolino, Usono, 2017 ekde la 30-a de junio ĝis la 3-a de julio, 2017.
Por aliĝi, vidu: Aliĝilo

EN English: The Annual US Esperanto Congress 2017 will be in Raleigh, North Carolina, USA, Jun 30 - July 3, 2017.
To sign up, see: Registration

NASK * 2017 jul 4 - 13 * Summer Courses

EO Esperanto: La bonega kursaro NASK - Nord-Amerika Somera Kursaro okazos de la 4-a de Julio ĝis la 7-a de Julio ĉe Raleigh, Norda Karolino, ĉe la Universitato William Peace. Por vidi pli da detaloj aŭ aliĝi, klaketu ligilon NASK.

EN English: The excellent North American Esperanto Summer Courses (NASK), will be happening from July 4 to 13th, at William Peace University, in Raleigh, North Carolina. To see more details or sign up, click on NASK.


Which NASK is best for you?:

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