The Esperanto alphabet is based on the Roman alphabet (which the English alphabet is also based on). Unlike the English alphabet, it does not have the letters q, w, x or y, but it has 6 (six) letters that use a diacritic (a special mark above a letter): ĉ, ĝ, ĥ, ĵ, ŝ and ŭ.
Alternative writings[change | change source]
Because Esperanto uses letters with diacritics, there was (and sometimes still is) the need to write text in Esperanto even if the special letters are not available.
L. L. Zamenhof, the creator of Esperanto, proposed the so-called h-system (h-sistemo in Esperanto). Instead of diacritics, the letter h is added, with the only exception being ŭ. For example, ĝ becomes gh, ĥ becomes hh and ŭ becomes u. Words which appear to have a diacritic but do not actually can be "broken" with a hyphen or an apostrophe. For example, flughaveno (airport) becomes flug-haveno or flug'haveno.
Another system used to replace diacritics is the x-system (x-sistemo in Esperanto). The letter x is not used in the Esperanto alphabet, but it can be used to write diacritics. The x-system, unlike the h-system, does not treat ŭ differently from the other letters. For example, ĝ becomes gx, ĥ becomes hx and ŭ becomes ux. flughaveno remains the same, as there is no ambiguity.
Another system that can eliminate all diacritics is the qwxy-system (qwxy-sistemo in Esperanto). Diacritics are replaced by the 4 letters that are not used in the Esperanto alphabet but are present in the international keyboards, q, w, x, y. In this system, ĥ becomes q, ĵ becomes y, ŝ becomes x, ŭ becomes w, ĉ becomes tx and ĝ becomes dy. Texts in this system require less characters than with the x-system or h-system. It presents no ambiguity and among all systems, including the Esperanto original writing system, it is the one that requires the least amount of key strokes while typing, therefore being the fastest one.
Unicode and HTML[change | change source]
Criticism[change | change source]
Some people say that use of the diacritics (the letters ĉ, ĝ, ĥ, ĵ, ŝ, ŭ) makes the language less natural than it would be using only the basic letters of Latin alphabet. The letters ĉ, ĝ, ĥ, ĵ are not used in any other language in the world.
Several people consider using the Latin alphabet not to be neutral. In fact, many native languages on each continent (except for Antarctica) use the Latin alphabet to write: for example, German (Europe), Swahili (Africa), Vietnamese (Asia), Tahitian (Oceania), Cree (North America) and Apalaí (South America).