There is a thing about Esperanto's special characters (with accents) that I do not understand.

On the one side we have the characters ĝ and ĵ. As far as I understand, ĝ and ĉ are pronounced as follows [1]:

  • ĝ -> dĵ
  • ĉ -> tŝ

So, technically, we wouldn't need the characters ĝ and ĉ, we could just write them in the long form 'dĵ' and 'tŝ'.

On the other side we have expressions that do not have a separate character, but are composed by two characters. For example: 'ks' seems to be used in replacement of 'x' like in teksto (text) or ekster (external).

Is there a reason, why 'ĝ/dĵ' and 'ĉ/tŝ' do have separate characters, but 'ks' does not?

[1] http://www.fact-index.com/e/es/esperanto_orthography.html

  • 2
    I used to wonder why we have the letter "c" since, to my ears it sounds just like "ts". But I was told (by a Polish guy actually) that the two sounds are not entirly the same. I still don't hear it, I hope people understand what I say. Commented Apr 4, 2017 at 8:48
  • The basic difference between C and TS is that TS allows you to make a short pause between T and S if you want to, while C must be pronounced all at once even when speaking slowly.
    – marcus
    Commented May 2, 2018 at 14:06
  • This video nicely demonstrates the differences in pronunciation between "c" vs. "ts", "ĝ" vs. "dĵ" and "ĉ" vs. "tŝ".
    – das-g
    Commented Feb 14, 2019 at 20:23

3 Answers 3


In short: ĝ and ĉ are not the same as and , but it does not really matter.

Long version: There is a a class of consonants called affricates: they consist of a plosive (e.g. t) and a sibilant (e.g. s) with same place of articulation and same voicing. In Esperanto the affricates are c, ĉ, ĝ, German for instance has pf. ks is not an affricate, but two different consonants. It is by chance of tradition that for ks there is a letter x in the Latin alphabet.

There are languages where affricates are significantly different from accidental combinations of their components. One of them - and this is important here, as it is one of the languages influencing Esperanto quite a lot - is Polish:

  • czy 'whether' (Esp. ĉu) [ʧɨ]
  • trzy 'three' [tʃɨ]

Other languages like German do not distinguish phonetically between real affricate /ʧ/ and accidental /t/+/ʃ/.

Happily for speakers of such languages and in contrast to e.g. Polish, in Esperanto there are hardly any non-affricate combinations, in fact only in compound words (e.g. tut-simple), where such a distinction would be necessary. So at the end it doesn't matter whether you can distinguish e.g. ĉ and t+ŝ in hearing or articulating.

See also the relevant section in PMEG, if you can read Esperanto.

  • 1
    There is more info here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Affricate_consonant Notice that even in IPA there are several ways to represent affricates, with tie bars, ligatures (they have been removed from IPA), superscripts or simply two separate consonants. It seems that not even IPA can decide how these sounds are best represented...
    – marcus
    Commented Apr 5, 2017 at 21:54

Short answer: 'ks' is not a single sound, 'ĝ' and 'ĉ' are.

'ks' is two different sounds, 'k' and 's'. They might even go to separate syllables, like in ik-so-do.

'dĵ' is only an approximation of 'ĝ'. Here I disagree with your source, in that 'ĝ' is not pronounced as 'dĵ', even though English tends to merge the two. Go to google translate and translate "adjunct" from English to Portuguese. You have on the page the option to listen to both pronunciations; the English uses the same sound as in 'age', whereas the Portuguese clearly has two different sounds, 'd' and 'ĵ'.

Same goes for 'tŝ' and 'ĉ', 'tŝ' is two sounds, 'ĉ' is a single sound. Trivia: the Serbian language has two different variants of the sound: 'Č' and 'Ć' Examples here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b6WRxxqi96Y - I can't hear any 't' sound in the pronunciation.

  • In Portuguese the pronunciation of "adjunto" (the one you hear in Google Translate) is in fact a-ĝi-ĵun-to. Not a great example to explain the dĵ sound.
    – marcus
    Commented Apr 14, 2017 at 0:06

There are a few good answers pointing out that ĝ and ĵ are each single sounds while "X" is not. To that, I would add that in Esperanto, many words which are spelled with X in other languages are not only spelled and pronounced ks (ekster), but also kz (ekzameno).

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