Are the correlatives inspired from other languages, or are they made-up?

enter image description here

The image is a screenshot of the table at Esperanto at Stanford University: Lesson 3 Correlatives (table of words) .


4 Answers 4


Sanskrit correlatives The photo is from the Scienca Revuo vol. 3, nr-o. 12 (1952). Otherwise, I think they are inspired by Russian, but completely regular: "inspiritaj de la rusaj escepte regulaj korelativoj)", as this webpage says.


Ŝajnas ke plej plena priskribo de korelativoj estas en libro Etimologia Vortaro de Esperanto. Se vi komprenas la rusan en la artikolon vi eblas legi rerakonton pri korelativoj.


The pseudo prefixes are Indoeuropean, ki- for instance from q- which in Slavonic and Romance became k- / q- and in Germanic, Sanskrit (conjunctions only) w-. ĉi- for the French chaque.

neni- instead of a fitting ni- because of French and sound differentiation, negative ne.

The pseudo suffixes -a, -o, and even the location related adverb -e, -en are trivial. For -o one might consider Slavonic.

The suffix -es definitely is inspired by the German genitive.

The remaining suffixes are more artificial IMHO as the choices are limited for unused consonants. (One should not over-interprete similarities to national languages.) [aeo][lm] seem phonetic inspired.

For a linguistic (judging) context:

The correlatives are a nice lingual jewel in Esperanto, but also criticized by some linguists:

  • entirely different frequency of usages (nenial);
  • unneeded (tial = pro tio)
  • introducing sometimes unneeded differentiations: kiom/kio/kiel; but hey, it allows expressing nuances rather easily;

Hence the undoing of correlatives in Ido. I do not hold the arguments for valid though.


The very unequal frequency of usage is mostly due to the influence of the main surrounding languages as well as of mere historical vagaries and whimsicalities. Kial is why, what for, how come ; tial is rendered preferably by that's why, hence, thence (more academic) ; ial should be rendered as for some reason, which is current English. Ial has failed to manifest in Esperanto because in the dominant modern languages such as English nobody will venture to write some-whence, somewhat for, or some-why for purely arbitrary reasons (as arbitrary as the fact you may write "playwright" but not "filmwright"), with the result that they keep their English habit in Esperanto " : instead of writing ial they will write "pro iu kaŭzo, motivo".

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.