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On various systems, it is not possible to make accents on some letters like ĉ, ĝ etc…

I've noticed workarounds placing x or h after the accentuated letters, even >, i.e: cx gh.

Is there an officially accepted workaround?

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The accented letters in Esperanto are ĉ, ĝ, ĥ, ĵ, ŝ and ŭ. There are two popular workarounds for typing Esperanto when they are not available.

Traditional method

The h method goes back to Zamenhof. The accent on ŭ is just ignored as it is essentially(!) always implied by the fact that an a or e precedes. For the others, the unaccented letter is followed by h like this: ch, gh, hh, jh, sh. One advantage is that for most letters this looks familiar, and in the case of ch and sh there are even languages which pronounce the letter combinations correctly. The problem is that in rare cases these letter combinations may occur naturally in Esperanto, in which case this is confusing and can lead to incorrect substitutions when trying to restore the accents. E.g., search and replace on a text encoded using the h method may incorrectly turn flughaveno into fluĝaveno.

Most popular method

The x method, which appears to be the most common method today, is to just add x after each accented letter like this: gx, cx, hx, jx, sx, ux. This results in unusual letter combinations that some people (including me) consider ugly, but it's very easy to remember. Since x does not naturally occur in Esperanto, no confusion may arise. One big advantage is that you can automatically restore accents that were substituted in this way, and the only way this can go wrong is when there are some non-Esperanto words (or letter sequences) in the text.

This method is used, for example, by http://vortaro.net, http://lernu.net and http://duolingo.com. The first two even convert x-encoded input into properly accented input on the fly, although for lernu.net (in its popular Esperanto course La teorio Nakamura) this does not currently work when correcting one's answers after getting feedback. So on some important sites, the x method isn't used for writing Esperanto in the most basic Latin letters, but as an input method for the accented letters.

Other methods

Apparently some people use ^ or ' instead of x in the x method, but especially the latter can lead to problems like those of the h method, and these variants seem to be rare.

It seems that at some point another proposal was made which is in the same spirit as Ido's orthography (which is different from Esperanto's to avoid the accents). Perhaps the key disadvantage is that like Ido this proposal replaces j by y so that j is free to be used instead of jh. One might argue that this so-called nova helpalfabeto is the best orthography for Esperanto, but unfortunately it seems to have no chance of being accepted because having it around at the same time as the original orthography would lead to confusion.


Sources: Wikipedia, http://www.esperanto.net/veb/faq-15.html

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The methods you mentioned, using H or X, are the most common and accepted.

As explained in other answers, the H-metodo is in the Fundamento and people can't say you are wrong for using it. It can be slightly ambiguous in compound words:

  • ne-uzo is not neŭzo
  • flug-haveno is not fluĝaveno

The hyphen in compound words is optional in general, but it would be more considerate to your readers if you kept them when using the H-metodo to avoid confusion.

The X-metodo is the most popular, and it can serve a complementary role as an input method i.e. you use it to type in Esperanto and some software you use converts it on the fly or as an extra conversion step.

The Akademio de Esperanto has issued an “Oficiala Informo” where it's clearly stated that technical solutions (such as the X-method, even though it's not mentioned) that don't cause confusion and don't try to reform the orthography are perfectly acceptable.

http://www.akademio-de-esperanto.org/oficialaj_informoj/oficialaj_informoj_6_2007.html

The justification given includes braille and digital formats according to several possible encodings (the Fundamento couldn't possibly assign Unicode code points to the letters in the late 1800's or early 1900's so any encoding used nowadays is essentially arbitrary).

On the other hand if you tried to shuffle the letters around to make room for the additional sounds that Esperanto needs (changing j to y for example), that would cause too much confusion when used side-by-side with the official alphabet, therefore it wouldn't be acceptable.

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Well, adding x or h at the end of a letter when impossible to type accents is the accepted workaround. You can use either x either h, and everyone will understand what you mean.

Also, you are allowed to substitute ŭ for u with no word meaning loss.

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The H system is "official" as it was proposed by Zamenhof himself. The X system, though unofficial, seems to be the most commonly used. Other systems (apostrophes, circumflex after the letter, etc.) are very uncommon.

Note that in the H system, ŭ is simply replaced by u and not uh.

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    Things are not official just because they are made by Zamenhof. It is official because it is present in the Fundamento, but the wording makes it a possibility (MAY), not an obligation: "Remark. ― If it be found impraticable to print works with the diacritical signs (^,˘), the letter h MAY be substituted for the sign (^), and the sign (˘), may be altogether omitted.". – Vanege Aug 23 '16 at 18:08
  • @Vanege: Yes, but no other possibility has ever been officially accepted, so the H-system is the only official way to avoid the superscripts. – Marcos Cramer Aug 26 '16 at 9:01

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