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Topic: Awesomesauce Esperanto problem (Read 2390 times)

  • ersi
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Awesomesauce Esperanto problem
(A new topic in the hope of attracting an Esperanto community here, the way we already have Otter community.)

What ticked me off is that you wrote "you mean Y." You can say what amounts to the exact same thing inoffensively by prefixing "if I understand you correctly."

  • If I understand you correctly, you mean Y.
  • Did you mean Y?
  • Could you clarify what you meant by X?
I sincerely apologise for ticking you off. Sometimes I upset people deliberately in order to beat some topic dead more thoroughly (I like them dead, so I can say they are properly settled), but it was not so in this case. I was not really interested in what you were saying, except that it reminded to me that I had that obscure page about Esperanto in my bookmarks. And another apology for that I lack proper internet manners. I hope I'm not too bad though.

However, now I've become a bit interested in this topic and after reading and re-reading I find your attempts to clarify yourself woefully inadequate. Should I analyse this? Maybe just a little bit.

The fact that I didn't simply mean lingua franca should reveal itself from the nonsensical resulting phrase "hoping to attain the status of [a lingua franca], but with a slightly different language emphasis." In which case you should ask, a slightly different language emphasis that what?
True, that would have been my next question, had it turned out that by the latter part of the sentence ("but with...") you meant anything serious. Since the first part of the sentence appeared dilettantish to me and called for an immediate correction, I ignored the latter part for the time being.

Let's recall the first part of your sentence: "...[Esperanto is] an artificially created pidgin/creole hoping to attain the status of an English or French..."

Two immediate things here prompted me to suggest "lingua franca" instead of "English or French".

First, you had already used "pidgin/creole" in the same sentence. You were saying that the pidgin/creole was hoping to attain something. In order for the pidgin/creole to hope to attain something reasonably attainable, the goal should be something of its own class. Pidgin/creole and lingua franca are, in terms of linguistic terminology, animals of kin, while English and French inhabit a different conceptual category in linguistics.

This impression was amplified by the fact that you said "an English or French". If you put an actual meaning behind the article, then you didn't really mean English or French, but something like English or French, whatever it may be (not a specific language at any rate). Without letting you walk deeper into the woods, I suggested you must have meant lingua franca. But now you have chosen to take a deeper walk in the woods.

Second, you didn't say that the pidgin/creole was hoping to replace English or French (which would have been so hopelessly dilettantish that I would have declined to comment on it). Instead, you opted for a slightly more technical-sounding "to attain the status of an English or French". So, another possible emphasis is the word "status". What status do English and French have? The one I could think of was that they are both lingua franca, i.e. current in many countries among people who use it for communication beyond their own native languages. English and French are examples of lingua franca par excellence in that non-native speakers decisively outnumber native speakers.

But possibly you meant a different status. Unfortunately your latest clarifications don't clarify what status that would be. Instead, your clarifications seem to fall back to English and French specifically as English and French (which should be impossible, if "an" had a meaning in the original sentence).

In your clarification, you say "English is a Germanic language, possibly a creole, with a particularly strong Romance substrate, while French is the Romance language with the strongest Germanic substrate." Are you saying both are mixed to a high degree? Why would you say that? Let's try to put it in the original sentence: "[Esperanto is] an artificially created pidgin/creole hoping to attain the status of an English or French [as mixed language]..." Well, why would Esperanto hope to attain the status of mixed language when it was most obviously created as a language mix? It doesn't need to hope to attain what it already is. "Lingua franca", i.e. spreading all over the world as a universal means of communication, would make more sense here as something to be attained.

All this said, could you please clarify what you mean by the latter part of the sentence? I'm not sure what "a different language emphasis" could mean. Was the whole sentence meant to convey something like Esperanto is hoping to attain the status of a mixed language like English or French, but drawing material from languages other than English and French...?

To sum up, I replied because your strategic use of "an" and "status" were interesting. I was hoping that the rest of the sentence would also be interesting and meaningful. To be honest, I am quite positive that you had a really good idea in your mind at first, but it unfortunately withered away in the process of writing. Happens to some of my own ideas too. When that happens and it still was an idea truly worth sharing, then the thing to do is to re-think it and re-formulate it.



  • Barulheira
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Re: Awesomesauce Esperanto problem
Reply #1
Esperanto is not a problem - irrelevant as it is.

  • ersi
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Re: Awesomesauce Esperanto problem
Reply #2
To recap how the topic got started, Frenzie linked to a book. The book was Bridge of Words: Esperanto and the Dream of a Universal Language.

Esperanto in there caught my attention. Next, I linked to a webpage that lists good reasons for a low view of Esperanto. I happen to have a low view of Esperanto ever since my first encounters with it when I was ten or a bit more. Two relevant incidents here. My father, noticing my early interest in languages, bought me, at random, a grammar of Esperanto (he knew nothing about languages himself, but he thought he was encouraging my interest, which he did). And there was a reference to Esperanto in one of my storybooks as a kid.

Doing some of my little research back then, I found out that the main aspects of Esperanto (vocabulary, morphology and syntax) seemed to be relying on Italian and Greek, while the alphabet had all the unnecessary characteristics of Slavic-on-Latin, specifically the u-breve must be from Belarusian because there's no other evident source to it. Eventually I have come to appreciate real Greek and Latin and I find constructed languages a wonderful exercise, but I have always had a low view of Esperanto in every way, in pragmatic terms, in terms of beauty and elegance, as an exercise or entertainment.

Now, instead of the grammar, the book (Bridge of Words) seems to be more about the ideology behind and the history around Esperanto. For example this review says:

Meant to be a bridge, Esperanto soon became a source of division, as followers of Zamenhof sought to seize power over the dissemination of the language and align it with their own widely dissonant political views, including imperialism, isolationism, socialism, anarchism, and communism. Multiculturalism, meant to be "the lifeblood of Esperanto," was not easily achieved.
All that would be interesting, if it were unique to Esperanto. Or if Esperanto were an ingenious invention tragically misused. Neither is the case. Esperanto contains obvious seeds of dissent in itself: It's half-baked, suggesting by its own appearance simple immediate improvement and simplification, but different people would want to improve it differently, so fights would be guaranteed. The tragedy of Esperanto is that while its inventor may have had noble ideas, the implementation was poor and the result is impractical and safely ignorable.

Probably Frenzie agrees with all this. So, where's the disagreement? Nowhere really. There's just my terminological quibble about artificial language/Esperanto/pidgin/English/lingua franca/French/creole, which is not one single fluid interchangeable thing, but he seemed to use the words this way. Linguistics is a science of distinctions and comparisons.
  • Last Edit: 2016-08-30, 20:38:18 by ersi

  • Belfrager
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Re: Awesomesauce Esperanto problem
Reply #3
A matter of attitude.

  • OakdaleFTL
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Re: Awesomesauce Esperanto problem
Reply #4
Certainly an interesting and fruitful application, Bel!

I'm reminded of a reminiscence of Alfred North Whitehead about the teaching of English grammar when he was a lad: It simply wasn't done! If a student wanted to know if his English construction was grammatical, he'd translate it into Greek or Latin; if it still had the sense intended, the English was grammatical... Of course, this was in the latter half of the 19th century!

I'm surprised that this use of Esperanto been all-but abandoned here... And yet an obvious failure such as the New Math -where the focus was upon set theory- persists. :sigh:
进行 ...
"Humor is emotional chaos remembered in tranquility." - James Thurber
No one listens to me as much as I do and even I have my limits...
"Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts!" - Richard Feynman

  • ersi
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Re: Awesomesauce Esperanto problem
Reply #5
Propaedeutic value of Esperanto
It in fact has worked out this way in my life, but I suggest classical Latin is more useful for this purpose (if you are European, I should add). I have studied both Esperanto and Latin, so I should know.

Latin may have little currency at the moment (though certainly more than Esperanto, heh) but it has a tremendous history and several lovely grown-up daughters.

  • OakdaleFTL
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Re: Awesomesauce Esperanto problem
Reply #6
ersi, I'm grateful for the opportunity to agree with you... !
进行 ...
"Humor is emotional chaos remembered in tranquility." - James Thurber
No one listens to me as much as I do and even I have my limits...
"Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts!" - Richard Feynman

  • Belfrager
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Re: Awesomesauce Esperanto problem
Reply #7
It in fact has worked out this way in my life, but I suggest classical Latin is more useful for this purpose (if you are European, I should add). I have studied both Esperanto and Latin, so I should know.
In my times of student, the teaching system was divided into two areas, "Humanities" (Literature, History, Languages, etc) and "Sciences".
Latin discipline was mandatory to the "Humanities" students, the others got free of it, so it was my case being of "Sciences". Got rid of it at school but not in my parent's home with home lessons.

Latin teaching at the time was very scholastic, almost medieval,  tremendously boring and, besides the etymological knowledge of words meaning, not of great utility.

I agree that, if taught in a modern way, with a defined purpose of being a support for Latin-like languages, it's something of the most importance for educate the elites.
Language knowledge shapes the ability of reasoning.
A matter of attitude.

  • OakdaleFTL
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Re: Awesomesauce Esperanto problem
Reply #8
[...] it's something of the most importance for educat[ing] the elites.
Language knowledge shapes the ability of reasoning.
I'm not sure I agree; but I'm not sure I disagree either.
From what I've seen here and there, a "wide" experience -linguistic or otherwise- leads to...nothing a focused mind wouldn't find easier and earlier.
I'll readily admit the advantage of being familiar with other languages (French, Spanish/Portuguese, Russian, Greek, Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, Korean -- and some few others, spoken mostly on islands none of us will ever visit...except for jax!); but, really, one language is enough. And most people can hardly manage that.
You go too far proclaiming that reasoning -as a skill, for such it is!- is enhanced by more and more varied words! Were that the case, you'd have to acclaim American English as the best language... :)
(Somehow, I doubt you'd want to do that!) And admit that those who speak, read and write it natively, reason more naturally and, perhaps, better? :)
(I'd argue against that point, if you take it as a thesis! But you know that's what I do... :) )
进行 ...
"Humor is emotional chaos remembered in tranquility." - James Thurber
No one listens to me as much as I do and even I have my limits...
"Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts!" - Richard Feynman

  • Belfrager
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Re: Awesomesauce Esperanto problem
Reply #9
You go too far proclaiming that reasoning -as a skill, for such it is!- is enhanced by more and more varied words! Were that the case, you'd have to acclaim American English as the best language...
The number of words it's important but at a second level.
In the first place, a language it's a mechanism that allows you to conceptualize the inner and external world and to transmit it to others either in a written way or directly by speech. It works by encoding reality into a formal, transmissible system.

The better you know the encoding rules and structure the better you can think, you can rationalize (or transmit it). It's clear now that language knowledge molds people's capacity of abstraction and consequent reasoning.

Naturally, the more different words (with different meanings) you have more subtleness you can use. English is not, by any way, the language with more different words as some articles in the media tries to convince people. There you have a link for an interesting table about it.

A different problem is to decide if there are languages better than others.
A matter of attitude.

  • ersi
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Re: Awesomesauce Esperanto problem
Reply #10
Latin teaching at the time was very scholastic, almost medieval,  tremendously boring and, besides the etymological knowledge of words meaning, not of great utility.

I agree that, if taught in a modern way, with a defined purpose of being a support for Latin-like languages, it's something of the most importance for educate the elites.
Language knowledge shapes the ability of reasoning.
When I officially studied Latin - in secondary school at first - it was boring and medieval as you say, but I still drew much benefit and found it interesting, simply because I am inclined that way. My first Latin teacher was so dry and boring she didn't say that Latin had evolved into French and Italian and there's much common vocabulary, etc. Instead, she presented us with the conjugations and declinations and we had to learn the first page of De Bello Gallico by heart and lots of other stuff by heart. Still, I valued the learning because I already knew about language families and that historical linguistics would be great and Latin would be a necessary pain to go through, if I wanted to claim any expertise later in life. I happen to be a man of humanities. You are not, so all the potential of Latin didn't present itself to you so easily.

Moreover, how would you teach Latin in a modern way? Do you mean a quick conversational crash course? Who will you go converse with in Latin? Do you mean material presented as if in tourist phrasebook? Where would you need "What time does the next train leave?" in Latin? Actually, my teacher did something modern. At the time, Finnish radio presented news in Latin (hey, they still do) and that was part of our study material.

Latin is good almost exclusively for reading up on old dusty books. Only antisocial hypernerdy people like me do it. Latin is also compulsory for doctors, but I guess for them it's indeed just a silly ancient relic that should have been dropped a few centuries ago. Come to think of it, had it been dropped from doctors' curriculum, Zamenhof probably would not have gotten his ideas for Esperanto. The way Zamenhof originally presented his thing very likely reflects the little he could remember from his own Latin and Greek studies, dumbed down and cast as if a new language.

Zamenhof's work is a case study of how to not approach a language, whether constructed or natural. Keeping away from Esperantist errors is a good step towards real linguistics.

  • Barulheira
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Re: Awesomesauce Esperanto problem
Reply #11
but, really, one language is enough.
When it's English. :left:

  • Belfrager
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Re: Awesomesauce Esperanto problem
Reply #12
Moreover, how would you teach Latin in a modern way?
As a subsidiary study of the native language.

I do read some medieval texts written in so called "barbarian Latin"  which was used before the usage of native languages writing around the XI and XII centuries. It's a bit easier, for example Horse (Cavalo in Portuguese) is not equus anymore but cavallus. Course that if you know Latin, you know the root meaning of equine, therefore you know an equus to be an horse.

But more than the linguistic aspects I'm interested in the mentality and life of those that have written those texts, language is just a tool.

Besides, I declare Dr Zamenhof not guilty of your accusations.
Ego Belfrager Portugalensis Rex.
A matter of attitude.

  • Belfrager
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Re: Awesomesauce Esperanto problem
Reply #13
hey, they still do
:) Fantastic. She has clearly a Finnish accent in her Latin....
A matter of attitude.

  • ersi
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Re: Awesomesauce Esperanto problem
Reply #14
Moreover, how would you teach Latin in a modern way?
As a subsidiary study of the native language.
That's not modern. That's advanced level, expanded studies, deep-dive exploration.

  • Belfrager
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Re: Awesomesauce Esperanto problem
Reply #15
That's not modern. That's advanced level, expanded studies, deep-dive exploration.
My fault, I forgot you are not a modernist.  :lol:

Course not, maybe to you there's a need for an extra effort to connect Latin to your language, I can assure you that's something any child speaking natively a Latin like language can do if supported by a good teaching system that makes the child understand and satisfy her natural curiosity about "why?".
A matter of attitude.

  • ersi
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Re: Awesomesauce Esperanto problem
Reply #16
...maybe to you there's a need for an extra effort to connect Latin to your language...
There's no connection. To me Latin was at first about as exotic as Turkish, no preference between the two. Now having studied Latin, there's still no connection, just a sense of accomplishment for having studied it. My sister studies Turkish...

  • ersi
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Re: Awesomesauce Esperanto problem
Reply #17
You go too far proclaiming that reasoning -as a skill, for such it is!- is enhanced by more and more varied words! Were that the case, you'd have to acclaim American English as the best language... :)
I don't think Bel said that. I'm still unsure what his approach to language is. If he sees it like an inherited chest of treasure, then added language skills would feel to him like growth in riches, some words/meanings would be like especially wonderful gems. Something like that.

English has a potentially endless vocabulary, just like Chinese has a potentially endless set of hieroglyphs, to be learned throughout one's life, first about a thousand for the beginner/commoner, then adding to it as one's education progresses (or noblesse obliges) until the edge of human capacity is reached. A person within in such a culture is like a growing/ripening fruit, sometimes identifying with a specific branch/storey, while some more holistic souls have affinity to the entire tree/house. In old classy times, Western European people educated themselves in a similar tree-manner towards Latin, deeper towards their roots so to say. A tree may not necessarily be viewed as a strictly structured system for a defined purpose, but more like a living thing and therefore valuable as such.

To me it's completely different. Another language, being normally quite unrelated to my own, is another distinct asset, a tool, like buying a new mobile phone or a bicycle. A different bicycle is different, some are worse, some are better, but it's awesome to have several to suit different purposes and circumstances. When I eventually get tired of riding, I'll just let it rust in the basement or throw it away. But the one thing I cannot throw away is my own native language. It would be like throwing away myself.

Languages are all different instances of formal systems. Acquiring another language has, first, a pragmatic value in that it enables reading literature in that language or communicating with those people, connecting with them relatively closely, enabling an insight into their world almost as if from the inside. Which is cool.

Second, it adds more intellectual/metaphysical light. A new language does not add simply more words. Vocabulary of any language is a structured system. Another vocabulary of another language is another structured system shaped out of the same semantic field. Acquiring multiple vocabularies means illuminating the metaphysical world of knowables from multiple angles. A single vocabulary would be like a static diamond, but multiple vocabularies enables turning it, viewing the diamond whichever way one wishes. That diamond is the cosmos and the vocabulary is light on it.

  • Frenzie
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  • Administrator
Re: Awesomesauce Esperanto problem
Reply #18
I sincerely apologise for ticking you off.
The problem is mine, really. I don't think my response was entirely unwarranted, but it was certainly disproportional.

Two immediate things here prompted me to suggest "lingua franca" instead of "English or French".
You are correct. The entire sentence should be drastically rewritten for the second draft. It would in fact also be perfectly fine if it simply said "lingua franca" (with the remainder deleted), but it wouldn't have been what I actually meant at the time of writing. But what I responded to wasn't so much what I did or didn't mean as that turn of phrase, "you mean X."

Anyway, "English or French" wasn't something I put there just because I couldn't think of the term lingua franca. Of course you shouldn't have to perform a close reading of my text to interpret it as if it were literature, wondering if "English or French" was simply the first lingua franca to come to mind or if there was a deeper meaning behind using those two specifically. There were two ideas stuck in that sentence, one of which didn't show clearly. The solution in editing is simple: either remove the background idea, or split it up into two sentences so both ideas shine as brightly as possible. To clarify hopefully once and for all what I meant when I wrote that sentence, while (perhaps unwisely) retaining most of the original sentence to show how it fits in:

Esperanto is something of an artificially created pidgin/creole [purporting universality], hoping to attain the status of a lingua franca. However, it would still be a [distinctly European] lingua franca like English or French, but with a slightly different language emphasis.

  • Belfrager
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Re: Awesomesauce Esperanto problem
Reply #19
Esperanto is something of an artificially created pidgin/creole [purporting universality], hoping to attain the status of a lingua franca. However, it would still be a [distinctly European] lingua franca like English or French, but with a slightly different language emphasis.
Have you done better? Has Ersi done better?
Can you both point out a better constructed language?
A matter of attitude.

  • ersi
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Re: Awesomesauce Esperanto problem
Reply #20
Can you both point out a better constructed language?
I have greatly enjoyed exploring the conlang section of Mark Rosenfelder's website. An excerpt:

Caďinor is a highly inflected, rich, sophisticated language, a language of empire. An example of classic Caďinor, circa Z.E. 1600:

[...]

What has changed in these two thousand years? Phonologically, Verdurian has lost three consonants, ť, kh and h', and has gained four new ones (č, š, ř and ž). It has developed three new vowels (î, ü, and ö). It has simplified word endings and consonant clusters, and monophthongized diphthongs: sautem --> säte, aeďie --> aďië, ctanen --> žanen.

In morphology, Verdurian has lost the ablative case and the inflected comparative and superlative (e.g. vestes 'worst'), and regularized the declensional system. It has lost the remote and dynamic verbal inflections, relying more heavily on analytic forms and regularizing conjugation. Word order is no longer free, and syntax is more complex.
What I like here is the diachrony. It's pure fiction or thought exercise (like Esperanto is), but the diachrony extends the thing, gives it history and life. And the linguistics in it is sound. The presentation reveals the dynamic of both the language itself, of its structure, and of the terminology used to describe it. It's standard terminology of course.

Compare with Esperanto, which is described by sometimes flawed, sometimes unexplanatory rules like "Every word is to be read exactly as written, there are no silent letters... Grammatical terminations are considered as independent words." Basic terms are used so that it's clear there's no comprehension of their meaning.

When I write my own articles, my style is much closer to Esperanto, not to Verdurian, but I aim at flawless structure, providing definitions at every step and considering all the implications of every rule and their order, like in Panini's grammar, which is my ideal.

  • rjhowie
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Re: Awesomesauce Esperanto problem
Reply #21
'Awesome' again for goodness sake!  :irked:
"Quit you like men:be strong"

  • OakdaleFTL
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Re: Awesomesauce Esperanto problem
Reply #22
In Valley Girl-speak, it's "awesomesauce," RJ! :)
进行 ...
"Humor is emotional chaos remembered in tranquility." - James Thurber
No one listens to me as much as I do and even I have my limits...
"Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts!" - Richard Feynman

  • Frenzie
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  • Administrator
Re: Awesomesauce Esperanto problem
Reply #23
Have you done better? Has Ersi done better?
Can you both point out a better constructed language?
I haven't done better, so you've a point there I suppose although I think my criticism was mostly constructive. If you're going to design a universal language, at least pretend that you performed a token analysis of the phonological inventories of a couple of languages from every continent so as to exclude the most problematic ones if nothing else. Particularly, iirc Esperanto uses some globally rather rare Slavic phonemes. It's a bit like how I probably shouldn't include [ɣ] or [ʋ] if I were to create an artificial language, no matter how much I like them in Dutch, no matter how great I think they sound, and no matter how much I think any language without those phonemes is really lacking something in their absence.

Better is simple. Out of the big three (if they can be called big), both Ido and Interlingua look better. To be fair, they came after Esperanto, and Ido literally means child in Esperanto so even without taking a closer look I think we can assume it's probably fair to describe Ido as Esperanto with some fixes. To be even fairer, I think Interlingua may well address the universality complaint by simply not claiming any.

  • ersi
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Re: Awesomesauce Esperanto problem
Reply #24
Particularly, iirc Esperanto uses some globally rather rare Slavic phonemes. It's a bit like how I probably shouldn't include [ɣ] or [ʋ] if I were to create an artificial language, no matter how much I like them in Dutch, no matter how great I think they sound, and no matter how much I think any language without those phonemes is really lacking something in their absence.
Rather than objecting to any single phoneme or even the selected set, my objection concerns the principles of selection. I object to the sound system of Esperanto. From the systemic point of view, the sounds fill certain slots in the table and the table is either tidy or messy. Sounds form minimal pairs and sets based on distinct qualities.

For example, Esperanto makes you distinguish between the affricates [tsh] and [dzh], but there is no corresponding distinction of [ts] and [dz], there's just [ts]. A slot in the table is empty for no good reason. Or rather, a slot is filled for no good reason - I would remove [dzh]. And there's the utterly irrational and universally rare distinction of h and ĥ (both in spelling and pronunciation) and of u and ŭ (just a spelling ornament, it seems).

From the same systemic point of view, I have objections to the way the alphabet is designed. My own preference would be to have not a strictly phonemic orthography, but morphophonemic to display morphology regularly in orthography, while leaving plenty of room for natural phonotactics in pronunciation. Zamenhof showed no awareness of the existence of phonotactics, which is the thing that make people pronounce, for example, the orthographic s differently in [kats] and [dogz]. Heck, he didn't even know that n in the word "Esperanto" is a whole different sound than in "blanka".

Ultimately, I don't want to improve Esperanto. I think it's flawed too close to the foundations, incorrigible. While my criticism is utterly dismissive of Esperanto, it's quite constructive to others who would like to design a language.