The conjunction "and" is so universal and ubiquitous that languages in which it is more than one letter tend to shorten it (English &, German u., both having existed for centuries if I'm not mistaken). Why go against the trend with kaj (complete with its atypical diphthong and consonant onset), which got inevitably shortened to a separately unpronouncable k, when it could have been

  • i (from Polish, Russian, or, phonetically, Spanish)
  • a (from Czech, Slovak)
  • e (from Italian or phonetically from French)
  • et (from Latin)
  • u (from the German shortcut)

without any such need? I know it comes from Ancient Greek, but are there any sources on why that was chosen over all the more familiar sounds?

  • 2
    Note that the German 'u' is only ever used as an abbreviation in written language, as und can be pronounced just as easily. Dec 6 '16 at 9:30
  • @OliverMason All right, I don't know as much about German but in English one often finds it easier to say an' instead of and, as in rock'n'roll. So in that language there seems to be space for making not only the written form but the pronunciation as well shorter.
    – La Vo-o
    Dec 8 '16 at 1:02
  • I think the difference is that it's a consonant /n/ in English, and a vowel /U/ in German: in the latter you pretty much have to add a glottal stop before pronouncing the next word, whereas in English the /n/ can just glide straight into the next word. But, as I said, it is widely used in written abbreviations. Dec 8 '16 at 9:27

Notice that -i, -a, -e, and -u are all grammatical endings in Esperanto - and -et- is a suffix. Kaj (from Greek και) was chosen because it is not a verb ending, and is clearly pronounced, making a clear distinction between phrases and words.

Zamenhof wrote about this in one of his Lingvaj Respondoj.

  • The first sentence does not prevent pri, da, je, or plu from existing independently, though. Or do you mean that they would be likely to blend with the preceding word without a consonant barrier?
    – La Vo-o
    Dec 6 '16 at 10:38
  • 2
    It would kind of clash. Suppose kaj were i, then the following sentence becomes horrible: Li kaj ili ŝatas ferii kaj imiti.Mi i ili ŝatas ferii i imiti.. If kaj = u: Luu kaj uzu la domon.Luu u uzu la domon.. There are similar examples for the other single-letter alternatives. Dec 6 '16 at 11:47
  • @LaVo - I don't understand your comment. pri, da, je and plu are not grammatical endings. They are prepositions/adverbs with a single meaning. Dec 6 '16 at 13:38
  • My comment was that they would not be interpreted as such if they were separate words, that e.g. i makes a word infinitive only if it is used as a postfix.
    – La Vo-o
    Dec 6 '16 at 15:07
  • 1
    In Spanish for example by having 'y' meaning 'and' adds an extra phonetic rule to remember in the language, if the following word starts by 'i' or 'y' ... then 'y' becomes 'e' to avoid phonetic repetion. OMG. Dec 6 '16 at 17:43

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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