5

If I'm not mistaken, the two distinct English questions

(a) How many workers need that much work?

and

(b) How many workers does that much work need?

would in Esperanto both be rendered as

Kiom da laboristoj bezonas tiom da laboro?

which is thus ambiguous: Either "Kiom da laboristoj" could be the subject and "tiom da laboro" the object or vice versa. As "kiom" and "tiom" both don't take the accusative ending "-n" and as "da" is a preposition and thus neither it, nor the noun phrases following it take an accusative marker, there seems to be no way to tell the difference.

Although this is a constructed example, I imagine that (probably rarely, but still) this can occur in cases and situations, where context alone doesn't sufficiently help to distinguish which the intended meaning is.

Thus my questions:

  1. Is that ambiguity actually there, or am I missing something?
  2. What is the recommended way to avoid this ambiguity? (If possible without completely rephrasing the question.)
  3. Is there a deeper reason why the Fundamento doesn't allow for an accusative marker for the "...iom" tabelvortoj, in contrast to the "...io" tabelvortoj, which all have corresponding "...ion" variants? (Other than "...iomn" being hard to pronounce for some and even harder for probably most to auditorily distinguish from "...iom" or "...ion".)

For avoiding the ambiguity without too much rephrasing, should the "na" preposition be used here as an accusative marker, albeit being unofficial? If so, would the following be the right way to phrase the questions?

(a) Kiom da laboristoj bezonas na tiom da laboro?

(b) Na kiom da laboristoj bezonas tiom da laboro?


La du malsamaj demandoj

(a) Kiom da laboristoj bezonas na tiom da laboro?

kaj

(b) Na kiom da laboristoj bezonas tiom da laboro?

sen la neoficiala prepozicio "na" ambaŭ iĝus

Kiom da laboristoj bezonas tiom da laboro?

kio konsekvence estas ambigua: Aŭ "Kiom da laboristoj" estas la subjekto kaj "tiom da laboro" la objekto, aŭ inverse "Kiom da laboristoj" la objekto kaj "tiom da laboro" la subjekto. Ĉar kaj "kiom" kaj "tiom" ne ricevu la akuzativan markilon "-n" kaj ĉar "da" estas propozicio kaj do nek ĝi, nek la frazpartoj post ĝi ricevu la akuzativan markilon, ŝajnas ne esti eblo distingi inter la du sencoj.

Kvankam tio estas konstruita ekzemplo, mi imagas ke (verŝajne malofte, sed tamen ja) tio povas okazi en okazoj kaj situacioj, en kiuj nur kunteksto ne sufiĉe helpas determini, kiu estus la intencata senco.

Do jen miaj demandoj:

  1. Ĉu tio vere estas ambiguo aŭ ĉu mi malpravas?
  2. Kiel eviti tiun ambiguon? (Se eblas, sen tute reformuli la demandon.)
  3. Ĉu estas profunda kialo, kial la Fundamento de Esperanto ne enhavas akuzativan markilon por la "...iom"-aj tabelvortoj? Ĝi ja havas por ĉiuj la "...io"-aj tabelvortoj laŭajn "...ion"-ajn tabelvortojn. (Kompreneble, "-n" ne tre taŭgus, ĉar "...iomn" estus al iuj malfacile prononci kaj al la plejmultaj malfacile aŭde distingi de "...ion" kaj "...iom".)

Ĉu, por eviti la ambiguon, la prepozicio "na" estas uzema kiel akuzativa markilo, kvankam esti neoficiala? Se jes, ĉu la formulaĵo supre ĝustas?

2

I agree with the other answers that the question seems very unnatural in both Esperanto and English and it would probably be better to just rephrase it. However, assuming you do want to use those words for some reason, there are two rules that come in to play and conflict a little:

  1. When the accusative can’t be marked, stick to the default SVO order to make the meaning clear.
  2. Always put the question part of the sentence at the beginning.

I think to translate (a) from your English example the two rules don’t conflict and you would indeed end up with your suggested translation.

However, to translate (b), if you try to stick to SVO as closely as possible without disobeying rule 2, you would end up with the order OSV whereas you have chosen OVS. I think this might be due to influence from the word order in English which has an extra rule that the subject and the verb are inverted in a question. This rule doesn’t exist in Esperanto, so perhaps the more natural formulation of (b) would be:

Kiom da laboristoj tiom da laboro bezonas?

If you follow that convention then there isn’t actually any ambiguity.

I think that answers parts 1 and 2 of your question. For part 3, I think the reason is that the -iom correlatives work more like adverbs than nouns and adverbs don’t take the accusative. They take the same place in a sentence as multe, so trying to add the accusative to them would be like saying “li havas multen da terpomoj”. I think in practice apart from contrived examples like this one, the ambiguity really doesn’t cause a problem.

I would avoid using the unofficial preposition na unless you are very sure that the person you are speaking to understands it, because it is not very well known and is likely to just cause confusion.

  • SVO is not the default word order just because it is in English. The PMEG people seem to think that English is the measure of all things. There is no rule for word order in the Internacia Lingvo. There are rules for marking the object. Word order is none of it. Die Katze frisst die Maus. Wen frisst die Katze? Die Maus frisst die Katze. Meaning through word order doesn't work in German, doesn't work in any none-SVO-language and it doesn't work in Esperanto. – Olafant Oct 9 '19 at 13:13
  • Although SVO is the most common word order in Esperanto, it is not suffcient to show subject and object, as it serves for the expression of topic, comment, or focus. – Cyril Robert Brosch Oct 13 '19 at 19:52
2
  1. Yes, the ambiguity of accusative is there. The ambiguity of the subject and object is not exclusive to kiom/tiom. PMEG writes

Sufiĉe ofte la rekta objekto de frazo estas io, kio ne povas havi N-finaĵon, ekz. ne-Esperantigita nomo aŭ alia fremda vorto, citaĵo, kvanta vorteto, kvanta E-vorto, ambaŭ, I-verbo, ke-frazo aŭ demanda subfrazo. En tiaj okazoj oni devas el la kunteksto kompreni, kio estas objekto.

The solution (as indicated by PMEG) is to only construct sentences where the ambiguity is not there for the recipient.

  1. To avoid ambiguity without changing the meaning, I recommend substituting the "tiom/kiom" with kiu(n) kvanto(n) or kiu(n) amaso(n) or whatever fits the situation. Here, for example:

Kiom da laboristoj bezonas tiun amason da laboro?

Kiun kvanton da laboristoj bezonas tiom da laboro?

I would only use na as a last resort.

  1. Actually the tiom/kiom words used to accept the n-ending; Hence you could say "Kiom laboristojn bezonas tiom da laboro?". However it is no longer used and people now use the da-format (kiom da laboristoj). I think it changed because it was confusing that the modifier kiom didn't have the n-ending. One could theoretically find a way to add the n-ending to kiom, but I am not sure it is worth it, because it is so easy to say kiu(n) kvanto(n), which can substitute most uses of kiom.
  • Thank you! I assume with "Actually the tiom/kiom words used to accept the n-ending" you're referring to the third section Malnova A-vorteca uzo de OM-vortoj of that grammar chapter? – das-g Oct 8 '19 at 17:11
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    Aliaj ebloj por la senco (a): Kiom da laboristoj bezonas tioman laboron? Al kiom da laboristoj necesas tiom da laboro? – Vidamuzo Oct 8 '19 at 18:32
  • @das-g, yes exactly! – svendvn Oct 8 '19 at 21:59
1

I'm not sure, whether I understand your sentences correctly. English is known for lack of role marking (which word is subject, object and so on) by other means than word order. It seems to me, that the Esperanto translation suffers from that.

If you are asking, how many workers are needed for a certain amount of work, then an unambiguous translations could be:

  • Kiom da laboristoj oni bezonas por tiom da laboro?
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    Actually, the English questions here are (supposed to be) completely unambiguous, despite the lack of role markings and despite questions in English tending towards a word order that puts the question word ("how") first, regardless of whether it is part of the object or subject. Because of number agreement between subject and verb, "how much workers" is must be subject of question (a), and "that much work" must be subject of question (b). – das-g Oct 7 '19 at 18:59
  • (Also, I first constructed the ambiguous Esperanto question and then tried to translate the two possible meanings unambiguously to English, not the other way around. So the Esperanto question shouldn't suffer from being being a translation of maybe poorly worded English. Rather it was deliberately constructed to be ambiguous for the sake of serving as a specific example within this grammar question.) – das-g Oct 7 '19 at 21:07
  • Bone, while the Esperanto sentence might technically be correct (I'm not skilled enough to judge that), I have a gut feeling, that something is off in it. Since Esperanto is aimed to ease communication between people, one should avoid such ambiguities and make roles visible. – Juha Metsäkallas Oct 8 '19 at 7:02
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La ekzemplo estas iom stranga. Oni ne povas trudi kaj vortojn kaj strukturon al frazo kaj peti klarigon pri la rezulto. Kion vi volas demandi, esperantlingve, mi demandus jene:

kiom da laboristoj bezonatas por tiom da/tia/tiel multe da laboro?

aŭ ion kiel

kiom da ni bezonatas por tiom da laboro?

La amplekso de la laboro devus esti iel evidenta/jam konata/videbla. Mi imagas kelkajn personojn, kiuj staras antaŭ rekonstruota afero, ekzemple.

Oni ĉiam povas konstrui laboratoriajn frazojn plursencajn. Tio povas esti interesa afero, trovi kaj ilin kaj la unusencigajn solvojn: did you see her dress?iom da akvo kostas iom da vino. Tamen, kelkfoje indas esplori, ĉu iu ajn dirus tion tiel, ĉar vivantaj lingvoj kutime jam trovis elturniĝojn el tiuj situacioj, kiam kunteksto ne sufiĉas.

  • All forms of the passive are rendered by the respective forms of the verb est (to be) and the participle passive of the required verb; fundamento – Olafant Oct 13 '19 at 19:20
0

It is ambiguous (hello Ido), though the multiple correlative usage is arguable. Positional (subject-verb) stress or reformulation may disambiguate.

Kiom da laboristoj bezonas tiom da laboro?             --> SVO positional
Kiom da laboristoj tiu kvanto de laboro bezonas?       --> OSV positional
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    Ĉu ne estus pli senambigue: Kiom da laboristoj bezonas tiun kvanton de laboro ? – Vidamuzo Oct 7 '19 at 11:08
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    @Vidamuzo Tute senambiguigi eblas, tamen tute senpozicia E-o fakte ne estas (multe da homoj manĝas multe da bestoj). – Joop Eggen Oct 7 '19 at 11:25
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    Mi preteratentis la rimarkon pri OSV en via dua frazo. Ĉar tiu kvanto ne havas N-finaĵon, oni logike pensus ke Kiom da laboristoj estas la objekto. Mi tamen emas eviti tiajn frazojn ĉar ili facile konfuzas min, aparte se ili ne sekvas la SVO-modelon kaj nek la subjekto nek la objekto havas N-finaĵon. – Vidamuzo Oct 7 '19 at 18:22
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    @das-g If the question starts with the object, subject+verb follows. kiom mi devas pagi? and not verb+subject. Customary though not formally regulated in the language. – Joop Eggen Oct 8 '19 at 9:20
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    @das-g I did not express myself clear enough, Subject-Verb is customary, but not formally prescribed by the language. There is some freedom to say Tagon bonan deziras al vi mi. Which actually stresses mi as opposed to say ili. – Joop Eggen Oct 8 '19 at 14:06
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Your example is already poorly constructed in English and has also poor word choice. Work doesn't need anything. So we see already: that's what passive is for.

De kiom da laboristoj estas tiom da laboro bezonata?

Kiom da laboristoj estas necesaj por tiom da laboro?

Multe da homoj manĝas multe da bestoj.

Multe da bestoj estas manĝataj de multe da homoj.

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    Can someone please edit that ugly gx? I'm on my phone. – Olafant Oct 7 '19 at 13:15
  • I think "estas necesaj" is the right way to use "necesa". You need the passive voice with bezoni, not with necesa (they are not equivalent, necesa is an adjective first and bezoni as a verb first). – marcus Oct 7 '19 at 15:19
  • @marcus Yeah, I think you're right. Little over the top with making everything passive. 🤔 – Olafant Oct 7 '19 at 15:31
  • The poor word choice might be because I'm not a native speaker of English. In German "Wieviele Arbeiter braucht diese Arbeit?" would probably be an unusual way to phrase the question of how many workers are needed for the work (i.e. to complete the work), but still AFAIK completely correct. – das-g Oct 7 '19 at 21:00
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    @das-g Maybe poor word choice is also poor word choice. I didn't mean to be unpolite. It's just extremely constructed. In German you would say Wieviele Arbeiter brauchen wir... or something like that. What I want to say is: there is no need for na to get rid of a problem that doesn't exist. – Olafant Oct 8 '19 at 2:32

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