There is a strong tendency in Esperanto to replace the letter ĥ by different means (e.g. arĥitekto becomes arkitekto). What happened to the letter ĥ? Why is it singled out as a target for replacement?
What happened to the letter ĥ during the evolution of Esperanto from Zamenhof to our times?
The letter ĥ is extremely rare, and for that reason, people tend to eliminate the few words (none of them very common) were it does appear. Esperanto learners who struggle with it get little chance to practice it. On the other hand, one cannot simply tolerate a variant pronunciation (as one does for r) because the two most similar sounds, k and h, already exist in Esperanto.
La litero ĥ emas malaperi pro ĝia ekstrema malofteco. Opinias la PMEG:
Ĥ estas la plej malofta el la Esperantaj sonoj. Multaj opinias, ke ĝi estas tro malfacila, ĉar ĝi mankas en kelkaj lingvoj. La vera kaŭzo, ke Ĥ estas malfacila por iuj, estas ĝia maloftegeco en Esperanto. Se oni havas malfacilojn pri Ĥ, oni preskaŭ neniam havas okazon ekzerci sin pri ĝi.
Jam en la Zamenhofaj verkoj ĝi estis la plej malofta litero. En la Fundamenta Vortaro aperis nur 13 radikoj kun ĥ:
arĥitektur' eĥ' ĥaos' ĥemi' ĥimer' ĥoler' ĥor' iĥtiokol' meĥanik' monaĥ' monarĥ' paroĥ' traĥe'
Fakte malpli radikoj enhaves ĵ (nur ok), sed iuj el tiuj radikoj estas tre oftaj:
aĵ' deĵor' ĵaluz' ĵaŭd' ĵet' ĵongl' ĵur' ĵus
Ekzemple, en la Dua Libro de l' Lingvo Internacia ĥ aperis nur kvinfoje. Eĉ y, kio tute ne estas esperanta litero, aperis dufoje (en anglaj nomoj). La sekve plej malofta litero estas ĵ, kio aperis dekope pli ofte.
8521 11.81% a 7367 10.21% i 6697 9.29% e 6395 8.87% o 5929 8.22% n 4559 6.32% l 4362 6.05% s 4183 5.80% r 3995 5.54% t 2478 3.44% k 2380 3.30% m 2352 3.26% u 2274 3.15% j 2127 2.95% d 1775 2.46% p 1603 2.22% v 837 1.16% g 757 1.05% b 727 1.01% f 721 1.00% ĉ 512 0.71% ĝ 500 0.69% c 415 0.58% ŭ 243 0.34% h 213 0.30% z 139 0.19% ŝ 52 0.07% ĵ 5 0.01% ĥ 2 0.00% y
delCano komentis, ke ĉe r oni simple akceptis la aliajn elparolojn; ĉe ĥ tio ne eblas, ĉar la proksimaj konsonantoj estus k kaj h, kiuj jam estas esperantaj literoj. Tamen, oni ofte kreis/kreas alternativajn vortojn sen ĥ per anstataŭigo de ĥ per k, se tia vorto ne jam ekzistas.
You might consider including an English summary of this answer, since the question was asked in English (in case jknappen doesn't speak Esperanto as well as you do). Aug 24, 2016 at 16:17
2@Nathaniel: Mi komprenas Esperanton sufiĉe. Una angla resumo helpas aliajn uzantojn. Aug 24, 2016 at 17:19
@Nathaniel: Povus esti, ke mi ne sufiĉe scipovas la anglan :p Fakte, mi faros tion. Aug 24, 2016 at 17:31
1There's a note in the Russion version of the Fundamento akademio-de-esperanto.org/fundamento/gramatiko_rusa.html that gets very little attention and says: (according to Google Translate) “Persons who do not know any other alphabet of Russian, can at the beginning pronounce h as Russian х, and ŭ as Russian у.” (russian х is ĥ). While it's aimed only at beginners, we can deduce that Zamenhof thought about it and decided not to overemphasize the difference between H and Ĥ and that could explain why it's so rare.– marcusAug 27, 2018 at 17:32
Historically there was a movement to do away with ĥ as the alternative k was offered. Nowadays there are still some "difficult" letter combinations (rĥ) for some language speakers (French?). Nowadays one is a bit more relaxed and the letter has made a come-back. As native Dutch I very much like the letter. And it can be found in many European languages: Bulgarian, Dutch, Greek, Russian.
So the reformistic (ĥ-to-k) phase passed, and now both forms live together.
1As a French native, despite I personaly do love to use /x/ (ĥ) and /r/ which aren't used in French, I must admit that according to my experience French speakers generally don't like /x/ Oct 20, 2016 at 11:32
@psychoslave There ere some almost French critical comments in the forum, but seen in the light that the French esperantist have contributed much / were quite successfully active (PIV, SAT) and were a welcome counterweight to the German central European influence (tago, monato, jaro - lundo, mardo, ...) one cannot be too thankful. I wonder how the sound û (fr), uu (nl), ü (de) would have fared if it would have been in Esperanto.– Joop Eggen ♦Oct 20, 2016 at 14:34
If I can't write a letter, I prefer using a letter I can use. Now most modern computers seem to have some kind of Esperanto keyboard, but when there isn't…
That personal reflection aside, here is a practical example from the history of Esperanto, where a word was deliberately changed. Gaston Waringhien, in his Plena Ilustrita Vortaro (PIV) changed the words psiĥologie and psiĥa to psikologie and psika. In the Fundamento de Esperanto, these are written with the ĥ. Source: La bona lingvo, Piron, C. s. 9
Why change ĥ and not ŭ? My guess would be the sound it makes. Ĥ and k are different. It might be because of the influence of a native language, where the k-sound is expected.
This doesn't explain why only ĥ and not, for example, ŭ, disappeared. Sep 7, 2016 at 11:34
The example I used is specifically hx. Maybe I can clarify it, but it seems to me as if Waringhien targeted hx. I'd have to read more about it, though. Sep 8, 2016 at 21:07
I mean, the difficulty of typing ĥ also applies to ŭ. Why did Waringhien change psiĥa and not, say, baldaŭ? Sep 8, 2016 at 21:12
Yeah. I agree with you. But I guess you'd have to ask Waringhien. 😆 maybe he just didn't like hx? It probably didn't relate to typing. I'll change my answer to make that clearer. Sep 15, 2016 at 0:20
Because the letter Ĥ itself is already very rare and the least common in Esperanto. Most words containing it are Greek origin. With that said, also H is not a common letter to be seen with a diacritic. For the reasons above, people tend to substitute the Ĥ with the closest letter possible, usually K. As with R, R is already very common in Esperanto so subbing it with another letter would cause too much change in the language. Ux is also fairly common an subbing it with U could also cause some change in Esperanto. But because already there are very few words with Ĥ, none of them really common, it’s easy to sub these words with another letter K.
his a good tag as it's cumbersome and doesn't add information by itself. We could create a whole lot of (totally useless) tags for each letter of the alphabet, which will be ridiculous. I suggest removing it.