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Part I: Esperanto Grammar

Chapter 2: Alternative Spellings

The circumflex accent over the Esperanto letters Ĉ, Ĝ, Ĥ, Ĵ, and Ŝ is often called a ĉapelo = “hat” in Esperanto, and they are referred to collectively as ĉapelitaj literoj = “letters with hats.” The breve accent over Ŭ is usually called a hoko = “hook.” Because typefonts of his day often did not include the letters Ĉ, Ĝ, Ĥ, Ĵ, Ŝ, or Ŭ, Zamenhof provided that the sounds represented by these letters could, in a pinch, be spelled CH, GH, HH, JH, and U, respectively. The proposal is rarely acted upon, and the alternative spellings, although understood, are usually experienced as distracting. (Some printers substitute Ù for Ŭ. Unlike Ŭ, Ù is in many European typefonts, and of course the trivial substitution causes no confusion.)

Ghi apenau shanghighis!
= Ĝi apenaŭ ŝanĝiĝis!
= It scarcely changed at all!

These days of computers and telecommunications, however, have seen a revival of these alternative spellings, as well as some other new conventions:

(1) For purposes of telecommunications, the letter X is today often used to represent the diacritical mark, producing CX, GX, HX, JX, and SX. In this usage Ŭ is usually spelled UX (or occasionally W).

Gxi apenaux sxangxigxis!
= Ĝi apenaŭ ŝanĝiĝis!
= It scarcely changed at all!

(2) A few writers, usually in Email, place the circumflex before or after the relevant letter, or adopt other relatively obvious but unusual conventions, such as doubling any letter that should have a circumflex.

G^i apenau^ s^ang^ig^is!
= ^Gi apena^u ^san^gi^gis!
= GGi apenauu ssanggiggis!
= Ĝi apenaŭ ŝanĝiĝis!
= It scarcely changed at all!

The advantage of X over other conventions is that it produces correct Esperanto alphabetical ordering of lists, and facilitates global substitutions if the text is reconverted to standard Esperanto spellings. The international Unicode standard for computing includes the Esperanto letters, so we can probably expect the need for alternative representations to vanish in the next few years.

(The Internet provides various tools for on-line or off-line use. On this web site the Mad Hatter converts to and from X and XX conventions.)

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