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When I first learned Esperanto, I learned that country names usually take the suffix -ujo to convert from a culture to its respective country (e.g. Anglujo, Francujo, Germanujo). But after using the language and talking with people around the world, I have noticed that they use another suffix -io for the countries (e.g. Anglio, Francio, Germanio).

Why is this difference? Do they mean the same, or they actually mean something else?

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    Theoretically anglujo could mean a container of English people other than England itself. For example, "What did you do with all the football hooligans?" "We locked them in the anglujo." :) – Max Aug 26 '16 at 7:49
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There is no difference in meaning betweeen -ujo ans -io in country names that are derived from a demonym (a word referring to a person's nationality).

Zamenhof used -ujo, whereas -io was introduced by Hector Hodler (the founder of UEA) in 1918. In 1922 the Lingva Komitato (the predecessor of Akademio de Esperanto) advised against the usage of -io, but as its usage grew nevertheless, the Akademio de Esperanto decided to undo this advice against -io in 1974. This decision in 1974 did however neither make -io official nor recommended, but just tolerated.

While in the 1990s, -ujo was almost dying out, it is having a comeback in the last 10-20 years. The main reason for this is that the use of -io in country names derived from demonyms is causing confusion to learners of Esperanto, as there are also many country word roots (like Aŭstrali/ and Ĉili/) that end in i and can thus be confused for a derived country name (see my answer to a related question). If one uses -ujo for the derived country names, one cannot confuse them with these non-derived country names ending in -io. The distinction is important for knowing what the demonym is (the demonym corresponding to Ĉinujo/Ĉinio is ĉino, but the demonym corresponding to Ĉilio is ĉiliano).

For this reason, the course on lernu! teaches mainly the forms with -ujo, and many highly regarded Esperanto speakers (e.g. many members of the Akademio de Esperanto) use only -ujo in country names derived from demonyms.

  • Too bad that confusion you mention isn't being resolved the other way around: if you say aŭstraliano, italiano, then you don't need to care about the difference between ital/ and aŭstrali/. That'd be just as convenient (if not more convenient) as the revival of ujo. – marcus Aug 26 '16 at 20:20
  • @marcus: There are some people that follow you proposals (though much less than the users of -ujo). One problem is that if you want to really make it systematic, you would then also have to change the names of most languages, e.g. "la itala" would have to become "la italia". I don't know if anyone actually does this systematically. – Marcos Cramer Aug 29 '16 at 16:46
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See the similar question Why are country names in Esperanto so "irregular"?.

The suffix -uj- is used in the Fundamento, while -i- is a newer addition. But they mean the same in the context of country names. The difference is that -i- is used only for country names, and -uj- is also used for containers (monujo = purse/wallet, not money-land!). Some people prefer -uj- because it's in the Fundamento, some -i- because they think the idea of a container of Englishmen or Frenchmen or Germans is strange, or just because they think it sounds better, and some use whichever they feel like at the moment.

  • Does the Akademio or something else suggest that people should prefer one and not the other? It seems to me that this is too liberal, as I feel like country names should be standartized in a language, so as not to cause confusion. – Lyubomir Vasilev Aug 26 '16 at 6:01
  • @LyubomirVasilev: there is no confusion, only a choice: everybody can understand both forms, and use whichever they like. In fact there is a third form, -lando, which is preferred for some countries like Pollando (but it is nevertheless not wrong to call this country Polujo or Polio). There is an officially recommended list of names at akademio-de-esperanto.org/decidoj/landnomoj/… but this recognizes both -io and -ujo forms. – Max Aug 26 '16 at 7:48
  • @Max I realize that there is choice involved and I've seen the recommendation, which as you say recognizes the both forms. However, as in your example with the name of Poland, it turns out that a country can have three official names! If I was, say, about to search something about Poland on the Internet, which form should I type in the search engine's input field? Or should I make 3 separate searches in hope to find what I'm looking for? Of course, this is not an issue that you or I should solve, I just feel that a more concrete standard for this might help. – Lyubomir Vasilev Aug 26 '16 at 8:06
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    @LyubomirVasilev: The ending -io for country names is not official in the way that -ujo is. It has only been tolerated by the Akademio de Esperanto, but never made official. So if you want to go for what is more standard, use -ujo. On the other hand, -io is currently used more, so in a web search I would recommend to also search for the -io form. – Marcos Cramer Aug 26 '16 at 8:52
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    @LyubomirVasilev: There are only five countries for which land/ is used more often than -uj- or -i- (Pollando, Tajlando, Finnlando, Skotlando and Svazilando). When searching information about them, you should use these very common names. But if you want to contribute to the country system name becoming more regular, I recommend you use Polujo, Tajujo etc. (See my answer to this question and to the related question (esperanto.stackexchange.com/a/223/34) for the reasons why this is more regular and systematic than either the use of land/ or the use of -i-.) – Marcos Cramer Aug 26 '16 at 8:52
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One difference is that -ujo is only used to form a country name from the name of an ethnic group, while -io can also be used to form a country name from e.g. a city or a river. For example, "Alĝerio" is the country whose capital city is "Alĝero".

This is mentioned in PMEG, which however recommends not adding this suffix unless the resulting names are used internationally. A counter-example: "Senegalo" is both a country and a river, and while "Senegalio" unambigously refers to the country, that form is not used in any other language, and should therefore be avoided.

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