I read in an article some time ago that people had let go of the idea that Esperanto words have a root that is free of word type, believing instead that there is a 'default' word type (a base form), such that perhaps grand/a is first and foremost an adjective, and vid/i, a verb. I saw a similar suggestion about ĝoj/i here on Stack Exchange recently. The entries in Vortaro would also suggest such a thing. However, when first learning Esperanto, I did learn that you can, in principle, make most any word type out of any root, which would suggest a linguistic analysis with a neutral root makes sense. (Subjectively, this also 'feels' more pleasing and elegant, to me.)

So, what is the truth? Are roots neutral with regards to part of speech, or do they have an inherent/predominant type? Do people, be it Esperantologists or just Esperantists overall, generally agree on this, or is this an open issue that is still debated?

Thank you in advance for your inputs.


Mi legis antaŭ iom da tempo en artikolo ke homoj forlasis la ideon ke esperantaj vortoj havas radikon, kiu estas libera de vortotipo, anstataŭe kredante ke estas implicita vortotipo (baza formo), laŭ kiu eble grand/a estas unue kaj plejparte adjektivo, kaj vid/i estas verbo. Mi vidis similan sugeston pri ĝoj/i ĉi tie en Stack Exchange lastatempe. Ankaŭ la eroj en Vortaro sugestas tian aferon. Tamen, kiam mi unue eklernis Esperanton, mi ja lernis ke oni povas, principe, faru pli-malpli ajnan vortotipon el ajna radiko, kiu sugestas ke lingvistika analizo kiel neŭtrala radiko havas senson. (Subjektive, tio krome al mi ŝajnas pli agrabla kaj eleganta.)

Do, kio estas la vero? Ĉu radikoj estas neŭtralaj je parolpartoj, aŭ ĉu ili havas 'radikan', precipan tipon? Ĉu homoj, aŭ esperantologoj aŭ entute esperantistoj, ĝenerale konsentas pri ĉi tio, aŭ ĉu estas nedecidita afero, kiun oni ankoraŭ pridiskutas?

Antaŭdankon pro viaj ideoj.

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    I can see you mention a recent answer by me. You may be interested I only wrote that part after asking a question very similar to yours: esperanto.stackexchange.com/questions/2181/… – La Vo-o Jan 24 '17 at 16:31
  • Ah, so it was there after all? I did a search, but I must not have used the right terms. I apologize for that. Regardless, thank you for linking me there! – Vincent Oostelbos Jan 25 '17 at 0:44
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    No worries. The new question generated more discussion than the old, so it's good it was not flagged as a duplicate. – La Vo-o Jan 25 '17 at 15:11

You'll see people argue this back and forth, but there is no question that that roots have a basic quality. Some people treat this as some mystical or mysterious thing - and perhaps that is a source of some of the disagreement. It's not mysterious, but follows naturally from the meaning of the root.

  • The meaning of grand' has to do with size, so naturally it's best to think of the basic form of the word as granda.

  • The meaning of kur' has to do with motion, so it's natural to think of the basic form of the word as kuri.

  • The meaning of tabl' has to do with a piece of furniture, so it's best to think of it as tablo in its basic form.

The meaning of the roots impact how the work in compounds, and often various rules of thumbs can be drawn up that require us to speak of "adjective roots", "noun roots", and so on. In the real world that's not always the whole story, but it's a very good start.

  • Right, that's more or less what I figured, although for some of these others (notably the ĝoj/i I mentioned before) it seems less obvious that the base form should be what it is. It feels like from word to word there would be a spectrum of arbitrariness, which makes it an unappealing model to me. I still wonder whether the matter is just that people naturally interpret one word type as the most obvious for any given root, or whether there are actual linguistic underpinnings to this analysis (or the other). I suppose your last paragraph speaks to that a little. Thanks for your reply :) – Vincent Oostelbos Jan 23 '17 at 19:06
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    Well, again, it comes down to the meaning. Martelo, sxraubo, and pomo are primarily nouns, but there are actions associated with the first two objects that make it natural to form verbs out of them. I would treat ĝoj' in the same way. There are adjectives, nouns, verbs, and so forth associated with ĝoj' that makes it natural to form ĝoja, ĝoje, ĝoji, and ĝojo with their customary meanings. – Tomaso Alexander Jan 23 '17 at 19:20
  • Alright, okay. I recognize such tendencies for roots to be associated with a most salient form—a verb when an action is salient, an adjective when a quality is salient, etc.—but personally I prefer to think of these as inherent not to the root form itself (which after all lacks any morpheme characterizing such parts of speech, and in some cases it may well be less than wholly obvious) but as something on discourse/usage level. It just seems more elegant of an analysis to me, that way. However, I do understand your point with regards to such salience, and I appreciate that input. Thanks again. – Vincent Oostelbos Jan 23 '17 at 19:29
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    I'm familiar with the article you just referenced. My take is that too much fuss about this either way ultimately comes down to hair splitting. Language is not math, and often times the rules of thumb do not apply to all cases. To speak of "adjective roots", "verb roots", and so on is very common in Esperanto and also very helpful. – Tomaso Alexander Jan 23 '17 at 19:35
  • I agree with Tomaso on this. I think that what "base word" means to you is much less important than how it is actually applied. In Spanish, the root word is pretty much the same as I described it above, but with many more exceptions. Whereas Esperanto has no exceptions.... – Karlomanio Jan 23 '17 at 20:11

There is no doubt that the roots can be classified. To take a classic and slightly annoying example: komb' refers to an action, while bros' refers to a thing; thus oni brosas per broso, sed kombas per kombilo. The act of brushing must be brosado, but the act of combing (if brief, or a single pass) could just be kombo.

There is, however, disagreement about what form the classification should take. In the late 1960s, the Academy of Esperanto accepted the traditional divisions of noun, adjective, verb, and other, and over the next few years developed the Baza Radikaro Oficiala using those categories. Several esperantologists have challenged this procedure: for example, Wim Jansen has argued in favour of a system of ten semantic categories, better preserving the neutrality of the roots. The explanation is fairly complicated but you can find it here (in the sixth issue of Esperantologio).

Sendube oni povas klasifiki la radikojn. Jen tipa kaj iomete agacanta ekzemplo: komb' aludas agon, sed bros' aludas aĵon; do oni brosas per broso, sed kombas per kombilo. La unua ago devas esti brosado, sed la alia (se mallonga, aŭ unumova) povus esti simple kombo.

Ekzistas, tamen, malkonsento pri la ideala naturo de la klasifikado. Fine de la 1960-aj, la Akademio akceptis la tradician dividon: substantivo, adjektivo, verbo, kaj aliaj, kaj dum la sekvaj jaroj disvolvis la Bazan Radikaron Oficialan per ĝi. Pluraj esperantologoj kontestis la metodon: ekzemple, Wim Jansen prezentas sistemon de dek semantikaj kategorioj, por pli bone konservi la neŭtrecon de la radikoj. La klarigado estas certe komplika, sed vi povas trovi ĝin ĉi tie (en la sesa kajero de Esperantologio).

  • I must admit the evidence for classifications of roots seems convincing, which bugs me slightly because I would find it a very inelegant and unappealing aspect of the language, and I want to like Esperanto as much as possible. That said, I must of course follow the evidence. That said again, if I have a chance later on I will investigate some of the analyses people have come up with—such as Wim Jensen, perhaps, whom you mentioned—to see if those seem more pleasing while still making sense and being convincing. Thank you very much for your reply. – Vincent Oostelbos Jan 25 '17 at 0:51
  • You can look at Ido, which tried to get rid of the lexem classes: They have to use a plethora of affixes in order to compensate the semantic fuzziness of the root. This may be appealing for a logical-minded person, but still is a certain hindrance for language production. – Cyril Robert Brosch May 18 '17 at 8:44
  • Without looking at all this analyzes, you can be sure that all roots have some etymologies where they do pertain more likely to some category. Also even there, this is all a question of habit, people will match a root to a category (if they do, afterall you don't need grammar theory to use a language) because they more often encounter it with this or that role in language constructions. – psychoslave Feb 19 '18 at 8:19

Roots aren't classified as nouns, adjectives or any other class. Instead, I'd say that they have a certain characher, a certain tendency. The first word on each page of vortaro.net represents whether a root is of the noun-, adjective- or verb-type etc. This comes very handy when dealing with compunds, like Tomaso mentioned, but also in general conjugation. Here's an example:

  • Verbs can be derived from adjectives: beli means "esti bela". Grava, gravi, necesa, necesi follows the same pattern. Many are confused by the correlation between veka and veki. The important difference here is that vek is a verb root, and that the adjective is actually derived from the verb, not the other way around. Therefore veki doesn't equal esti veka.
  • It's an oversimplification to say that beli means esti bela. It is well established that verbs have to do with actions associated with the root. This is true for adjective-roots too. So, rapida gives us rapidi which means to hurry (not simply "to be fast.") There is no obvious action associated with bel-, so if we contrived a word like beli the only plausible meaning would be "to exude beauty" - an unusual thing to say, but useful in some contexts for special effect. (PMEG says similar). – Tomaso Alexander Jan 24 '17 at 12:37
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    Vek- is a tricky example because it doesn't fit the verb pattern either, and I think is what Vincent was getting at. The rule of thumb would tell us that that veka, formed from a transitive verb, would mean "related to waking someone up." This is exactly parallel to korekti except people debate whether korekta means "correct" or "correctional" and "veka" is not debated because everybody uses it to mean "awake." – Tomaso Alexander Jan 24 '17 at 12:44
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    @TomasoAlexander PIV begs to differ: “veka. Rilata al la veko, kapabla veki: la veka trumpetado; amorveka sinteno.”. – Joffysloffy Jan 25 '17 at 22:45
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    Which, really, is exactly my point. The rules of thumb (and, it seems, PIV as well) says that expressions like veka kaj freŝa or veka kaj konscia are wrong - and yet any fluent user of the language knows that they are common - which is why vek- is a tricky example, as I said. – Tomaso Alexander Jan 26 '17 at 16:54

I'm not quite sure what you are referring to as the base form of a word in Esperanto. All words in a Esperanto have a base form. That is the form without an ending.

Base form
ĝoj- refers to happiness, joy

Adjective form
ĝoja- La homo estas ĝoja- The person is happy.

Adverb form
ĝoje- Li laboras ĝoje. He works happily.
ĝoji- to be happy.

Verb form
ĝojis- Ni ĝojis- We were happy.
ĝojas- La homo ĝojas- The person is happy.

From what I understand of your question, I believe you misunderstand what is the base form of the word. Let me know if you need more examples or I misunderstood your question.

  • I understand that each word has a root the way you describe it. However, I have often heard it suggested that the root plus one particular ending (perhaps the adjectival -a ending or the nominal -o ending or the verbal -i ending) forms what is the 'base form' that goes with a root. So kur- would be analyzed as being the root, but kuri would be somehow the default or basic form that goes with that root. I do prefer the way you describe it here, but again, I'm just relaying what I've heard and read. I wonder specifically about the interpretation of linguists/Esperantologists. Thank you :) – Vincent Oostelbos Jan 23 '17 at 18:57
  • The article I reference in the question may be found here, and it may clarify what I am talking about: www4.ncsu.edu/~basherwo/docs/EsperantoParolata.pdf. The relevant paragraph is the last one of section 2, to be found on page 2. – Vincent Oostelbos Jan 23 '17 at 19:04


A root is not really a noun or adjective or verb until it ends in an -o or -a or one of the verbal endings.

If we change a noun or adjective into a verb, is the verb transitive or intransitive?

Ĉu vi ĵaluzas pri mi?z = Are you jealous of me? Li ĵaluzos sian edzinon.z = He will be jealous of his wife.

  • Mi bluas = ????
  • Mi bluigas = I am making something blue.
  • Mi bluiĝas = I am becoming blue.

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