In addition to understanding the agglunative way vocabulary is formed in Esperanto, I'm also going to need to know how to ask and answer questions if I have any hope of becoming fluent in one week. So today, we'll look at Esperanto's table of correllatives.

I am writing this update at the close of my third day of Esperanto study, and I'm already making some good, if simple, sentences. Straightforward ideas and grammar are no sweat already. I have been through quite a bit of vocabulary, crossing off several dozen words on the frequency list I've printed out. But a one group of words is holding me up, both on my progess down the list and also my ability to form more meaningful conversation.

The concept of correllatives isn't a hard one, but in every language, they are inevitably a large group of similar-looking words, which all start to blend together if you rush it. There are two things I consider most important when it comes to learning these words. The first thing is, it's important to find a way to relate to these words and understand them. And the second thing is, you have to use them a lot so they sink in; read, write, talk, and listen... as much as possible.

Question words

This may seem duplicative, but I feel like all correllative terms and concepts are best understood through a focus on the question word, so I will first start by singling those out.

One thing that is a little strange at first is the idea that there are not separate words for who and which. It actually makes sense, though, because questions of who are really just questions of which person.

Who? Which one?
Kiu estas en la kuirejo?

What? Which thing?
Kion vi ŝatas manĝi?

Where? Which place?
Kie vi loĝas?

Which? Which kind?
Kian aŭton vi volas aĉeti?

How? Which way?
Kiel vi fartas?

Why? Which reason?
Kial ili venis ĉi tien?

When? Which time?
Kiam okazas la evento?

How much? Which quantity?
Kiom da akvo li petas?

Whose? Which owner?
Kies hundo estas?

I can already see some of the logic behind these words. Kie and kiel, for instance, use the -e ending because they describe adverbial concepts, and likewise -a describes a noun, etc. It appears the -m words deal in measurement. A meaning for the -l ending isn't clear to me, but I'm certain that one exists!

Table of correllatives

This is clearly built upon Zamenhof's slavic background. The concepts here remind me a lot of Russian. Unfortunately, while I find this table beautifully organized, clean, and logical, I can't help thinking that all of these words sound too similar to be easily distinguished, say, in a noisy room, or when spoken by someone with a heavy accent. The correllatives in most other languages have more audible differences, which I find useful. Still, after some use I may find that I like it.

  what? that some none all
one kiu? tiu iu neniu ĉiu
thing kio? tio io nenio ĉio
kind kia? tia ia nenia ĉia
place kie? tie ie nenie ĉie
way kiel? tiel iel neniel ĉiel
reason kial? tial ial nenial ĉial
time kiam? taim iam neniam ĉiam
quantity kiom? tiom iom neniom ĉiom
owner kies? ties ies nenies ĉies

Some of these sounds are kind of awkward if you ask me — particularly iu — and they get even more awkward when you throw a -j on the end for the plural. But whatever. In a way, the fact that it's not perfect somehow makes it seem a bit more legitimate!


After three days, I can read and understand quite a bit, actually, as long as a topic isn't too specific. But at times some of the words still process too slowly in my head.

Tomorrow is April Fools Day, and I already had a related Italian-themed post written in advance, so there probably won't be an Esperanto update for day four, but rest assured, I will be studying! At this point, I know everything I need to know to survive, but I need to learn how to communicate in a more refined way. In addition to thinking and talking (to myself) as much as possible in Esperanto, I plan to spend the next two days acquiring more vocabulary, as well as learning some common phrases and expressions.



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