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What language is the closest to Esperanto in terms of alphabet letters and sounds? Are there any languages that have all the sounds found within the Esperanto phoneme inventory?

  • W.r.t. melody romance languages with a more restraint melody than Russian, French or maybe even Italian. Maybe Rumanian but I cannot judge that. Statistics on phonetics over several languages would be interesting. – Joop Eggen Dec 12 '17 at 13:26
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Czech (IPA @ Wikipedia, Omniglot) has

  • č = ĉ
  • š = ŝ
  • ž = ĵ
  • ch = ĥ
  • dž = ĝ

and does not distinguish between u and ŭ in writing (au, ou are read as diphthongs and so is eu in loanwords). All other Esperanto letters are a 1:1 match. There may be slight nuances in the pronunciation of e (as always) but Esperanto seems to be quite lenient in that point so I don't consider that a difference.

You need to remove all the other crazy rules and exceptions from Czech first (e.g., that i after d, t, n changes their sound, or that the voicedness of consonants in clusters or at the end of words can switch, etc.), along with a couple of extra letters (long wovels, soft d/t/n, y, which sounds just like i but does not soften, ě, which sounds like e but does, ř) but what's left is Esperanto pronunciation with the above substitutions.

The same will hold for most Slavic languages, I suppose.

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    Does Czech have the h sound? Something that makes Esperanto quite unique is that it has both the h and the ĥ sounds. Of other languages that I’m aware of, only German and Scottish English (loch) have both sounds (and maybe Dutch too, but I’m not familiar enough with it!) – Bjørn Jan 17 '17 at 12:04
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    @Bjørn Yes, "all other letters" includes h. – La Vo-o Jan 17 '17 at 12:13
  • hoch would be an example of a word which contains both, pronounced "hoĥ" (pronunciation link on Wiktionary) – La Vo-o Jan 17 '17 at 13:06
  • OK, thanks! :-) It does seem like, though, that the word hoch is pronounced slightly differently in Czech [ɦox] than in German [hoːχ]. But I suppose both [h] and [ɦ] would be good Esperanto? – Bjørn Jan 17 '17 at 13:52
  • Likely so. The German hoch also has a darker o. I'm no expert but I think that may be linked. – La Vo-o Jan 17 '17 at 14:45
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Mi ne scias kiu estas la plej proksima lingvo, se mi ja povas diri, ke la bulgara estas tre proksima. Mi ne estas fakulo, sed kiel denaska parolanto de la bulgara, mi kredas, ke ni havas ĉiujn sonojn de Esperanto.

Ni havas literojn por preskaŭ ĉiuj sonoj de Esperanto. Ni vidu: jen listo de la plej interesaj literoj, kune kun detaloj pri la esceptoj:

  • C (EO) = Ц (BG)
  • Ĉ (EO) = Ч (BG)
  • Ĝ (EO) = ДЖ (BG). Ĉi tiu estas la ununura esperanta sono, por kiu ni uzas du literojn (kontraste al la angla, ekzemple)
  • H kaj Ĥ (EO) = Х (BG). Ni uzas la saman literon por la du sonoj.
  • Ĵ (EO) = Ж (BG)
  • Ŝ (EO) = Ш (BG)
  • Ŭ (EO) = Л (BG). Atentu! Ni uzas Л (BG) kaj por L (EO), kaj por Ŭ (EO).

Do, ni ne havas apartajn literojn por ĉiuj esperantaj sonoj, sed mi pensas, ke nia alfabeto estas tre proksima.

Mi pensas, ke la samon oni povas diri, ekzemple, por la rusa kaj la serba, kaj eble por aliaj slavaj lingvoj, kiuj uzas la cirilan alfabeton, sed mi ne konas ilin sufiĉe bone.

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I have no idea what Croatian sounds like, but I've heard several people say they have the best Esperanto accent, so I'd guess that. The sounds in Polish didn't sound too different to me.

  • Yes, I guess Polish has most if not all of Esperanto’s sounds. After all, Zamenhof spoke Polish well. :-) Still, Polish also have some sounds NOT FOUND in Esperanto, like nasalised vowels (ę, ą). So, maybe there would indeed be a better overall match between the total phoneme inventories of Esperanto and Croatian? – Bjørn Jan 17 '17 at 13:55
  • I've heard it said before in a few places that those who speak Polish natively end up having very good and clear Esperanto pronunciation. – Chris McDowell Jan 17 '17 at 14:19
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Slovak is as good as the Czech language in the La Vo-o's answer. Both languages are very similar and every of them has only one letter witch is not in the other:

  • ř in the Czech language doesn't exists in the Slovak one,
  • ľ in the Slovak language doesn't exists in the Czech one.

However no one of them is used in Esperanto.

(Czechoslovakia was about 70 years the common country for Slovak and Czech people.)

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The German language has all the sounds (when you include foreign words with French pronunciation for the letter ĵ).

However, going to the details, you will encounter differences:

  • High German does not have the diphthongs ej and eŭ
  • In German, ch has to prononciations depending on the previous sound (Ach-Laut and Ich-Laut) while Esperanto ĥ is always "Ach-Laut"
  • German distinguishes two types of e's and o's where Esperanto only has one (ideally between the two German types)

I would be surprised when one can find any language that has a phonological system exactly like Esperanto going at that level of detail. On the other hand, Esperanto sounds are pretty common and by no means rare in the languages of the world.

EDIT: There are some resources to research phoneme inventories of the languages of the world: PHOIBLE and UPSID. Have fun!

  • I wouldn't count German because there are consonant clusters in Esperanto that are foreign to German. Germans often have easily recognizable accents - especially if they use a German R while speaking Esperanto. – Tomaso Alexander Jan 17 '17 at 3:13
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This is a difficult question because it would require the knowledge of many languages and then it still may be a subjective response. From my experience and general perspective, without specifying sounds, Esperanto sounds like Portuguese, Italian, and Spanish. This is because of the large number of Latin root words. For example, all of these Latin languages have a majority of words with pronunciation stress on the penultimate syllable so this facilitates the common sound for me.

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