I've always used policano but today I discovered that policisto, while not as common, is in fairly wide use. It is even found in some reputable dictionaries. Is there a reason to prefer one term or the other?

It seems to me that if polico means "police force", a member of that force would necessarily be a policano. On the other hand, a policisto would have to be someone who is habitually or professionally involved with the verb polici. This verb is not found in dictionaries, and neither is it found in use anywhere in the Tekstaro.

Alternatively, a policisto could be someone professionally involved with polico - whatever that might mean exactly.

The best justification I have been able to find for the frequent use of policisto is national language influence (German: Polizist).

Is there an internal (to Esperanto) reason to support the derivation of policisto from policano? Have we reached the point where policisto is common enough and we just have to accept it even if there is no logical reason for it?

  • Is -ist really only used with verbs? Oct 1 '16 at 18:07
  • I stand corrected. (I don't know what I was thinking - since dentisto is a glaring counter-example.) I've modified my question slightly with this in mind. I was probably led astray by the thought that isto is often contrasted with anto. I also rolled back the recent edits to my question since some of them changed the meaning. My question is based on the though that policisto is indeed fairly common, just not as common as policano. The rolled-back edit said "not that common, which is completely different. Oct 2 '16 at 11:24

In PIV, the suffix -isto is primarily defined as:

Persono, kiu profesie, daŭre, prefere aŭ ofte sin okupas pri la afero difinita de la radiko

Person, who professionally, continually, preferentially, or frequently, is occupied with the subject defined by the root

The root-word does not have to be a verb or to possess a verbal form in routine use: consider maristo or arbaristo for example. (Note however that Esperanto permits extremely free verbification, and polici, mari and arbari are valid words. Polici is included in Wells's dictionary.) PIV mentions policano once but then defines kaŝpolicisto as plain-clothes policeman.

The word policisto appears in Fundamenta Krestomatio, Marta, and Metropoliteno. The word policano appears in the Ekzercaro and La Revizoro. Both appear in La Faraono and both are used very frequently in Monato articles.

If you need to refer to a person who studies police forces academically you could use policologo.

As for the difference between -isto and -anto, PIV says:

La suf. ist montras precize la profesiecon kontraste al ant, kiu signifas fojan, okazan faranton, k al ul, kiu montras iel personiĝon de la agado: «trompanto» fojfoje trompas, «trompisto» vivas el trompoj, «trompulo» estas homo esence karakterizebla per trompemo.

The suffix -ist- indicates precisely the professional nature in contrast to -ant-, which means doer from time to time or on a specific occasion, and to -ul-, which indicates a sort of personification of the action: a trompanto deceives people from time to time, a trompisto lives by deceiving people, a trompulo is a person essentially characterized by a tendency to deceive.

The verbification of the root-word polico follows the pattern of intended purpose: just as the intended purpose of a broso is to brosi, the intended purpose of a polico is to polici.

In nearly all contexts there should be no real difference between policisto and policano. Some people might consider use of -isto to be wrong for a volunteer or temporary member of the force, but that seems questionable to me.

  • 1
    Certainly there are many examples on non-verb istoj (dentisto springs to mind). What's missing from this answer from the point of view of what I was trying to ask are (1) what function of Esperanto word-formation allows us to go from polico to polici with the specific definition in Wells, and (2) is one of the terms (policisto policano) more logical or accurate than the other. In my investigation, I find a lot of people commenting that they're suddenly surprised by the existence of the other term. Oct 2 '16 at 11:02
  • 2
    I've edited. Briefly: (1) in this situation the root-word is an object created to perform an action, and so the verb is the action; (2) no, they are generally equivalent. Oct 2 '16 at 11:39
  • Thanks for the edits. I still have my doubts about polici which is in Wells only on the English-to-Esperanto side. It's not the main part of my question though. Still, there's a difference between an action done with a tool (brosi) and one done by an adminstracio. Consider other words defined as administrations. Doganisto doganas? Kanceliero kancelarias? Admiralitati? Of course, the parallel between doganisto and policisto is clear enough. At this point, I'm convinced by your point 2 above. Thanks. Oct 2 '16 at 12:00

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