Belecon taksas ne la orelo, sed la koro.
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 )