Komputilo o Komputatoro?

I have been wondering for a while what word should we use for computer. Many—including Esperantists—have suggested that we should simply import it as komputero or komputoro (1, 2, 3). Additionally, the Akademio’s suggestion was abandoned in favour of the more popular komput-ilo. Furthermore, I noticed that the creators of Ido were very etymologically consistent, and that taking a look at other words could give us a better clue as to whether we should follow Esperanto’s route or create our own word. Since computer comes from the (Latin) verb compute + the suffix –er, I made a list of English words that follow a similar pattern.

adapter: adapt-ilo (from Latin adaptare).
: ampl-ig-ilo (from Latin amplus).
boiler: kaldiero. — FIS (from  Latin caldaria)
blender: mix-ilo.
broiler: gril-ilo.
charger: charj-ilo (from Latin carricare).
computer ?
condenser: kondensatoro (from Latin condensare).
controller: (gaming) govern-ilo di videoludo* [cf. ludo, preludo].
converter: konvert-ilo (from Latin convertere).
cruiser: kroz-navo (from Latin crux).
emitter: emis-ilo (from Latin emittere).
equalizer: equal-ig-ilo (from Latin aequalis).
extinguisher: exting-ilo (from Latin extinguere).
freezer: frost-ig-ilo.
glider: glit-aero-navo.
grinder: grind-ilo (from Old English grindan).
highlighter: atenc-ig-ilo.
icebreaker: glaci-rupto-navo.
inverter: invers-ig-ilo (from Latin inversus).
lighter: acend-ilo.
printer: imprim-ilo.
propeller: propuls-ilo.
receiver: recev-ilo (from Latin recipere).
sharpener: akut-ig-ilo.
signaler: signal-ilo.
speaker: laut-parol-ilo.
steamer: (steamship) vapor-navo; (instrument for steaming) vapor-ag-ilo.
synchronizer: sinkron-ig-ilo.
synthesizer: sintez-ilo.
toaster: rost-ilo.
trailer: remork-veturo.
transformer: transformatoro (from Latin transformare).
transmitter: transmis-ilo (from Latin transmittere).
tumbler: glaso, gobleto (vitra).
tuner: akord-ig-ilo, sintona* [cf. sinkrona] → sinton-ig-ilo.
typewriter: mashin-skrib-ilo.

As you can see, this list is very diverse, and I even included a few neologisms in order to follow Idistic logic in the same way that scientists nowadays complete the periodic table. However, I noticed something very surprising when doing the exercise: words ending in -ero are nowhere to be found, except in the sole case kaldiero which doesn’t originate from English anyway. Indeed, there is a very consistent method in which the English -er, when referring to objects rather than persons, is always translated to -ilo except for the rare occasions in which other languages support the -atoro ending. That is the case for kondensatoro (DFISR) and for transformatoro (DFISR). In fact, -atoro is found in many other words such as akumulatoro, desikatoro, elevatoro, generatoro, indikatoro, karburatoro, kolimatoro, manipulatoro, radiatoro, regulatoro and ventilatoro.

Another thing: most words come from Latin verbs, which would explain why they are themselves verbs to which we add the suffix -er-.

Now, computer presents an interesting problem. Before we start, the root comput- is obviously the most international part of the word (DEISR), largely thanks to the influence of the English word. Thus, our word should definitely begin with komput-. The bigger problem is in the ending: should it be -ilo or -atoro? German adopted Komputer, Russian adopted компью́тер ‎(kompʹjúter) and Italian adopted computer. However, the latter pronounces computer like a foreign word—by doing the same, we would simply use computer in Ido as well—but it also created the homegrown elaboratore, thus supporting the -atoro ending. Similarly, French rejected computer for ordinateur, again supporting the -atoro ending. As for Spanish, it hispanicized computer into computadora, supporting once again -atoro. On the other hand, komput-ilo would require of komputar* to be an international verb just like telefonar. Yet, is it? English has compute; French, computer; Italian, computare; Spanish, computar. It’s not as international as telefonar, and certainly not as specific (it’s pretty much synonimous with kalkular), but it’s quite close.

Thanks to this research, I can coin new roots that could be useful:

bulldozer: bull (bul-, buldogo) + dose (dozo) + er (-ero) = buldozero*.
scanner: scan (skan-) [cf. skandar] = skanar* (tr.) → skan-ilo.
sequencer: sequenc-ar* (tr.) → sequenc-ilo.
teleporter: tele- + -port (-portar) = teleportar* (tr.) → teleport-ilo.
transducer: trans- + -duce (-duktar) = transduktar* (tr.) → transdukt-ilo.

I have made an exception to bulldozer, considering it does not come from Latin and the verb bulldoze is almost a back-formation.

In sum, komput-ilo and komputatoro* are two very good candidates for translating computer. If they are not, then we always have the possibility of using computer as a foreign word, just like we use pizza and sushi, but that would be odd for such an everyday item. What do you think? Please leave your opinion in the comments below! 🐮

Aktualigo ye la 22-ma di decembro 2016: Me riorganizis la artiklo por esar plu klara e por aktualigar mea vidpunto.

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Gilles-Philippe Morin

Saluto! Me nomesas Gilles-Philippe. Me evas 19 yari. Me esas viro. Me habitas Kanada. Me studias medicino. Me parolas la Franca e la Angla. Me pleas piano. Pro quo vu duras lektar co? Bonvenez!

4 thoughts on “Komputilo o Komputatoro?”

  1. The root “comput” is in most of the source languages. The affix “ilo” means tool. By applying the rules of word building in Ido would not the “tool for computing”, ie a computer, be a “komput-ilo”?

    1. Thank you for commenting. You are right that comput- is an internationally valid root: that is why I suggested that our word should begin with komput-. You are also right that the affix -ilo means tool: that can easily be seen in the examples above, and that is why I noted komput-ilo as a good and valid word. However, the problem is the verb whence komput-ilo would be derived: komputar*. In its international (and etymological) sense, komputar* is synonymous with kalkular. Thus, komput-ilo would logically be synonymous with kalkul-ilo unless we would deform the international meaning of komputar* in order to be specific to computer usage. Some technological devices did not present this problem back when Ido was created. For instance, telefonar comes from tele- (remote) and fono (sound), so telefonar makes etymological sense; fonografar comes from fono- (sound) and -grafo (writing), so it is also logical; etc. Now, let’s try to find an instance that parallels the issue: kondensatoro was created even though kondens-ilo already existed (and was logically valid to a certain extent). In fact, both words translate as condenser in English. Yet, the -atoro ending was adopted because a kondensatoro is specific to electricity (and not to density nor to states of matter). In the same way, our computers are way more than just kalkul-ili or komput-ili (calculators). That’s why we have to choose between kalkulatoro or komputatoro—or even kontatoro if we want to be methodically consistent and consider that the Latin verb computare is already translated as kontar in Ido, but that would conflict with counter. Nevertheless, the choice is already made: komputatoro is the one with the international root we’re looking for.

      1. I cannot dispute your logic. However I feel uncomfortable with the idea that we can have two suffixes that have very similar meanings, this just leads to uncertainty. Could we not make a distinction between calculator “kalkul-ilo” and computer “komput-ilo” ?
        Unfortunately your example of “kondens-atoro” vs “kondens-ilo” demonstrates that the problem is more widespread than just one or two words. Perhaps it’s time the language committee actually did something, like establish guidelines on how to create words with different meanings from similar roots.

        1. Thank you for your reply! I will now try to convince you that you should not feel any discomfort.

          We don’t have two suffixes, and we should never write «kondens-atoro»: it is kondensatoro and kondens-ilo. Indeed, kondensatoro in no way derives for the verb kondensar: both come from the Latin verb condensare, so it is just an etymological coincidence (i.e. cognates). We have only one etymological suffix (-ator-) and only one practical suffix (-il-). They do not conflict, since -ator- is not an affix you can freely use in Ido (it is part of the roots), and since the practical suffix (-il-) only applies to tools that accomplish no more than the task indicated by the verb it is derived from, and I highlight: no more. This specificity is why Esperanto has arb-aro while Ido forbids arbor-aro (which literally means a group of trees) and imposes foresto. This specificity is also why we use kondensatoro instead of kondens-ilo: kondensatoro is a technical term specific to the science of electronics (also known as a capacitor in English), while kondens-ilo is a general word (that in science applies to a apparatus for condensing vapour). Also, consider this: an electronic machine (like a condenser unit from 2016) could, in theory, contain both a kondens-ilo and a kondensatoro (I think most do in fact, but I’m no engineer). That is why I believe that the pioneers made the distinction, and they were right in doing so—look at how complex and combined technology has become!

          As for computer, the exact same applies: it comes from the Latin verb computare, which is synonymous with kalkular. A computer is an electronical device that does more than just calculate! Otherwise I would not be writing this message.

          So really, you should feel comfortable with the idea that we have an etymological distinction between -ator- and -il-: modern Idists have introduced even more etymological suffixes—-er- and -or-—that are inconsistent with the pioneers’ logic and make the matter even worse. That is why I consider that only komputatoro is truly valid.