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Esperanto uses the comma in sentences like Nun mi scias, kio estas amo, where English would not use it. (Italian would not use a comma either.)

Does that mean I should use the Oxford comma by default? Translating the following sentence in Esperanto, should I put a comma before kaj?

I like to eat bagels, waffles, and English muffins, but not in that order.

Is the Oxford comma optional, but used to make the sentence clearer? For example, in American English, I would write To my parents, the Pope, and Mother Theresa because To my parents, the Pope and Mother Theresa would have a different meaning.

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  • I've read (I have no reference) that the punctuation in Esperanto (and commas in particular) is similar to the punctiuation of the Slavic languages. In those (my reference is Bulgarian, which I speak natively), you don't put a comma before "and" when listing things, and you always surround subclauses with a comma on both sides, which differs from English (and as it seems Italian too). – Lyubomir Vasilev Sep 13 '16 at 13:26
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From the Plena Manlibro de Esperanta Gramatiko

Komo estas uzata ene de frazoj en lokoj, kie povas esti nature iom paŭzi, ekz. antaŭ subfrazo, kaj anstataŭ la vortoj kaj kaj en elnombrado de pluraj aferoj. Komo estas iafoje uzata anstataŭ punkto inter ĉeffrazoj, kiuj iel kunapartenas. Komo estas ankaŭ uzata antaŭ decimaloj en nombroj: 3,14 (= “tri komo unu kvar”, “tri kaj dek kvar centonoj”). [emfazo estas mia]

Translation:

A comma is used inside sentences in places where it can be natural to somewhat pause, for example before a subclause, and instead of the words kaj and in listing of several things. A comma is sometimes used instead of a period between main sentences, which are in some way dependent on each other. A comma is also used before decimals in numbers: 3,14 (="three comma one four", "three and fourteen hundredths"). [emphasis is mine]

Note the word "anstataŭ" ("instead of"). A comma before a conjunction is not "instead of", thus we conclude that it is standard not to use the Oxford Comma. However, some Esperantists (including myself) do use it, and I have never seen a miscomprehension, or even a flamewar, result from such usage.

In summary, if you want to follow the PMEG, don't use the Oxford Comma. But if you do it's not a big deal.

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