Monday, 2 May 2011
CASE 280 - Esperanto
Esperanto is the most widely spoken constructed international auxiliary language. Its name derives from Doktoro Esperanto (Esperanto translates as - one who hopes), the pseudonym under which L. L. Zamenhof published the first book detailing Esperanto, the Unua Libro, in 1887. Zamenhof's goal was to create an easy-to-learn and politically neutral language that would foster peace and international understanding between people with different regional and/or national languages.
Estimates of Esperanto speakers range from 10,000 to two million active or fluent speakers. Esperanto has native speakers, that is, people who learned Esperanto from their parents as one of their native languages. Esperanto is spoken in about 115 countries. Usage is particularly high in Europe, eastern Asia and North & South America. The first World Congress of Esperanto was organized in France in 1905. Since then congresses have been held in various countries every year with the exception of years in which there were world wars. Although no country has adopted Esperanto officially, Esperanto was recommended by the French Academy of Sciences in 1921 and was recognized by UNESCO in 1954. In 2007 Esperanto was the 32nd language that adhered to the "Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment (CEFR)". When counting Wikipedia articles, Esperanto is the 26th language. Worldwide, there are 6,912 recognized languages. Esperanto is currently the language of instruction of the International Academy of Sciences in San Marino. There is evidence that learning Esperanto may provide a superior foundation for learning languages in general, and some primary schools teach it as preparation for learning other foreign languages.
Esperanto was created in the late 1870s and early 1880s by Dr. Ludovic Lazarus Zamenhof, a Belarusian-Jewish ophthalmologist from Bialystok, at the time part of the Russian Empire. According to Zamenhof, he created this language to foster harmony between people from different countries. His feelings and the situation in Bialystok may be gleaned from an extract from his letter to Nikolai Borovko:
The place where I was born and spent my childhood gave direction to all my future struggles. In Bialystok the inhabitants were divided into four distinct elements: Russians, Poles, Germans and Jews; each of these spoke their own language and looked on all the others as enemies. In such a town a sensitive nature feels more acutely than elsewhere the misery caused by language division and sees at every step that the diversity of languages is the first, or at least the most influential, basis for the separation of the human family into groups of enemies. I was brought up as an idealist; I was taught that all people were brothers, while outside in the street at every step I felt that there were no people, only Russians, Poles, Germans, Jews and so on. This was always a great torment to my infant mind, although many people may smile at such an 'anguish for the world' in a child. Since at that time I thought that 'grown-ups' were omnipotent, so I often said to myself that when I grew up I would certainly destroy this evil.
—L. L. Zamenhof, in a letter to N. Borovko, ca. 1895
After some ten years of development, which Zamenhof spent translating literature into Esperanto as well as writing original prose and verse, the first book of Esperanto grammar was published in Warsaw in July 1887. The number of speakers grew rapidly over the next few decades, at first primarily in the Russian Empire and Eastern Europe, then in Western Europe, the Americas, China, and Japan. In the early years, speakers of Esperanto kept in contact primarily through correspondence and periodicals, but in 1905 the first world congress of Esperanto speakers was held in Boulogne-sur-Mer, France. Since then world congresses have been held in different countries every year, except during the two World Wars. Since the Second World War, they have been attended by an average of over 2,000 and up to 6,000 people.
Zamenhof's name for the language was simply La Internacia Lingvo "the International Language".
As a constructed language, Esperanto is not genealogically related to any ethnic language. It has been described as "a language lexically predominantly Romanic, morphologically intensively agglutinative, and to a certain degree isolating in character". The phonology, grammar, vocabulary, and semantics are based on the western Indo-European languages. The phonemic inventory is essentially Slavic, as is much of the semantics, while the vocabulary derives primarily from the Romance languages, with a lesser contribution from the Germanic languages. Pragmatics and other aspects of the language not specified by Zamenhof's original documents were influenced by the native languages of early speakers, primarily Russian, Polish, German, and French.
Typologically, Esperanto has prepositions and a free pragmatic word order that by default is subject-verb-object. Adjectives can be freely placed before or after the nouns they modify, though placing them before the noun is more common. New words are formed through extensive prefixing and suffixing.
In 2010 Obama was the first Presidential campaign to have an advertisement in Esperanto and translated all his campaign videos into Esperanto.