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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?

  • 2
    I believe the issue is that many people are not able to pronounce it. However, this also happens with r and, in this last case, Esperanto just included alternative pronounciations, so I am not sure why this did not happen with ĥ. – delCano Aug 23 '16 at 17:06
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    My theory would be that it's an unusual letter to use with that diacritic; C or G with a circumflex are more familiar to users of other languages, whereas I have not come across ĥ outside of Esperanto. – Oliver Mason Aug 23 '16 at 17:08
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    To be honest, I don't think that h is 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. – ForceBru Aug 23 '16 at 18:29
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    Hope it stays. How am I supposed to speak of my nationality without ĥ? Mi estas ĉeĥo, ne ĉeko! :-( – La Vo-o Oct 19 '16 at 14:35
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    @LaVo-o: Eble vi povus esti ĉeho? – Bjørn Feb 12 '18 at 11:48
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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). – Nathaniel is protesting Aug 24 '16 at 16:17
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    @Nathaniel: Mi komprenas Esperanton sufiĉe. Una angla resumo helpas aliajn uzantojn. – jknappen - Reinstate Monica Aug 24 '16 at 17:19
  • @Nathaniel: Povus esti, ke mi ne sufiĉe scipovas la anglan :p Fakte, mi faros tion. – Max Aug 24 '16 at 17:31
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    There'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. – marcus Aug 27 '18 at 17:32
3

Historically there was a movement to do away with ĥ as the alternative k was offered. Nowadays there are still some "difficult" letter combinations () 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.

  • As 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/ – psychoslave Oct 20 '16 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 '16 at 14:34
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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. – Max Sep 7 '16 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. – Charlotte SL Sep 8 '16 at 21:07
  • I mean, the difficulty of typing ĥ also applies to ŭ. Why did Waringhien change psiĥa and not, say, baldaŭ? – Max Sep 8 '16 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. – Charlotte SL Sep 15 '16 at 0:20

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