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intentions

I can’t remember exactly when I first created the word faligi in Esperanto. It happened at some point when I was trying to think of how to say I dropped something. It came fairly quickly, that if you drop something, you’ve made something fall. And Esperanto has a way of making words become transitive.
To fall is intransitive. I fall. You fall. Someone falls. I don’t fall anything. But what if you make something fall. Well, if you drop something, you’ve made it fall. And so appears our useful little suffix -ig, which turns intransitive verbs into something transitive. Fali is to fall, faligi is to make something fall.

I hadn’t thought about that for some time, but it went through my head last night when I was trying to think a little in Esperanto. So I used a conjugation of faligi, but then wondered a bit longer about my understanding of it and how it relates to English and its counterpart, to drop. To me, there are two somewhat opposite meanings contained with to drop. I can drop something deliberately, with intent — I dropped my clothes in the hamper. But there is also the accidental drop — the right fielder dropped the fly ball. In my head, if I’m translating things, I could say this — I made my clothes fall in the hamper. It would be a bit odd to say that, as it’s not a common idiom, but it would be clear enough. But if I were to say the right fielder made the fly ball fall, it would be weird and off, almost as if to say his error were intentional. He made the fly ball fall, he did it with intent.

I went googling some and found uses of faligis, the past tense conjugation of faligi. What I found showed me that Esperanto does use faligi just like how in English we use to drop. And that tells me something more about English than it does Esperanto — that when a conscious actor makes something do something, there is an implication of intent. Notice I say conscious actor, because one of the Esperanto sentences I found with faligis was “La vento faligis arbon.” In English, the wind dropped a tree or the wind made a tree fall. If a non-conscious actor makes something fall, there can’t be intent.
It’s also important to note maybe that Esperanto has a somewhat broader meaning to things. In English, we have two words, to make and to do. Esperanto is more economical, fari is to make/do and I think -ig is also a lot like that, but it just functions as a suffix to attach to intransitive verbs or to other affixes. Pliigi, to make more. Malpliigi, to make less. French has the verb faire and Spanish hacer, both of those function as a way of saying to make or to do — although a French or Spanish speaker who never learns English or some other language which like English has two verbs (or maybe more?) will never be aware that there is any difference. But in English we do.

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I’ve been reading Kristnaska Kanto, A Christmas Carol. It’s been introducing me to few more new words, but what’s also a good challenge in it is that the translator liked to mix word order up some. Lots of the Esperanto translations of English works into Esperanto tend to be mostly SVO for sentences and adjective-noun for those pairings. But this translator mixes in a lot of sentences which begin with objects and uses noun-adjective for those pairings. It’s good for me to read things like that because it helps to reinforce how the -n acts as the accusative or object marker in Esperanto, and how nouns and adjectives are marked in Esperanto. There’s a bit of instinct in me to still think with an English language pattern. And when you’ve thought with that pattern for most of your life, maybe 40 plus years of thinking that way, it’s a stubborn stubborn thing. Afero obstina aux obstina afero.

I suppose sometimes I wonder if there is anything useful in looking at languages and trying to learn them as my relatively older age. I try to pep myself up some by saying that it might be good to help keep my thoughts from becoming too rigid. It seems sometimes that as people grow older, they become more rigid in how they think. And maybe the best way to avoid that is to try to keep learning. And how we use language is very much tied in to how we think. I’m nowhere close yet to being able to use another language with maybe even a 1/4 of the speed and skill with which I use English, but Esperanto is becoming pretty strong in comprehension and production is getting better now.  It’s almost a weird feeling sometimes when I read a lengthy passage of Esperanto and I realize that it was all Esperanto to me and it all made sense.  But I’m still humbled by those who can switch between 2 or more languages, and have only a small dropoff between their native language and the second language.

Although I suppose maybe it’ll be a bit odd that in all likelihood the large majority of my use of any other languages that I might learn to sufficient fluency will come in the form of reading or watching movies. The irony is in how language is to function as communication between people, but I won’t have that intimacy. There’ll be the separation of paper or film. Ah well. That’s okay, I guess. It’s kind of that way for me in English anyhow.

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