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Is one of the two following sentences good Esperanto?

  1. La patrino lavas al la infano la harojn.
  2. La patrino lavas la harojn al la infano.

Note that I am not keen on the word order here, but my main concern is the phrase al la infano.

Background: The German sentence Die Mutter wäscht dem Kind die Haare. "The mother washes the child's hair" is the standard example sentence for a linguistic feature that Martin Haspelmath calls Dative external possessor (it really needs a typologist to come up with such a designation!). This construction is wide-spread in European languages (German, Italian, French, Spanish, ...), but absent in English and in most other languages of the world. It is one of the defining features for a Sprachbund called Standard Average European or Charlemagne Sprachbund centered around German and French and extendening to the South and East of Europe.

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1 Answer 1

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The general idea of using al instead of a possessive is attested in PMEG:

En iaj frazoj pri ies korpoparto, vestaĵo aŭ simile, oni kutimas uzi al-komplementon anstataŭ poseda pronomo: Mi lavis al mi la manojn. = Mi lavis miajn manojn. Ili disŝirus al si la vestojn = Ili disŝirus siajn vestojn.

There are examples in the Tekstaro with both word orders:

La faraono:

Konforme al la ordono de via ekscelenco, ŝi lavis la piedojn al sia nova sinjorino — respondis la oficisto.

Proverbaro Esperanta:

Mi lavas al mi la manojn

Nova testamento:

Sinjoro, ĉu vi lavas al mi la piedojn?

So I would say that yes, both 1. and 2. are fine.

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