Esperanto

Article

August 14, 2022

Esperanto (originally Lingvo Internacia - "international language") is the most widely used international planned language. The name Esperanto is derived from the pseudonym under which the Polish Jewish doctor Ludvík Lazar Zamenhof published the basics of this language in 1887. The creator's intention was to create an easy-to-learn neutral language, suitable for use in international communication; however, its aim was not to replace other national languages. Although no officially recognized country has adopted Esperanto as an official language, it is used by a community of an estimated 100,000 to 2,000,000 speakers, of which about a thousand are native speakers. It has also achieved some international recognition, such as two UNESCO resolutions and the support of well-known public figures. Currently, Esperanto is used for travel, correspondence, international meetings and cultural exchanges, congresses, scientific discussions, original and translated literature, theater and cinema, music, print and Internet news, radio and television broadcasting. Esperanto's vocabulary comes mainly from Western European languages, while its composition and morphology point to a strong Slavic influence. Morphemes are invariant and can be combined into a variety of words almost without restriction; Esperanto therefore has much in common with isolating languages ​​such as Chinese, while the internal structure of its words resembles agglutinating languages ​​such as Japanese, Swahili or Turkish.

History

Zamenhof's childhood

Ludvík Lazar Zamenhof was responsible for the birth of Esperanto. He grew up in the multilingual, then part of the Russian Empire, now Polish city of Białystok, where he witnessed frequent conflicts between individual ethnic groups (Russians, Poles, Germans, Jews). Since he considered the lack of a common language to be one of the main causes of these conflicts, he started working on the project of a new suitable language that could fulfill this role even as a schoolboy. It should be – unlike national languages ​​– neutral and easy to learn, i.e. also acceptable as a second language for everyone, a language taught together with national languages ​​and used in situations requiring understanding between nations.

First attempts

Zamenhof first considered reviving the Latin he had learned at school, but decided that it was unnecessarily complex for ordinary communication. When he studied English, he noticed that the tenses of verbs according to person and number were not necessary and that the grammatical system of the language could be much simpler than he had previously thought. However, there still remained the obstacle of learning a large number of words by heart. Zamenhof once caught the attention of two Russian inscriptions: швейцарская [швейцарская] (gatekeeper, derived from швейц [свейцар] – porter) and кондитерская [кондитерская] (confectionery, derived from кондитер [confectioner] – confectioner). These words of the same ending gave him the idea that the use of regular prefixes and suffixes could significantly reduce the number of word roots necessary for understanding. In order to make the roots as international as possible, he decided to adopt the vocabulary mainly from the Romance and Germanic languages, i.e. those that were taught most often in schools around the world at the time.

Emergence of the final version

Zamenhof's first project, called Lingwe Uniwersala, was more or less finished already in 1878, but the author's father, a language teacher, considered this work futile and utopian, which is why he apparently destroyed the manuscript entrusted to him. In 1879–1885, Zamenhof studied medicine in Moscow and Warsaw. By this time, he had started working on an international language again. He taught the first updated version to his friends in 1879. After a few years he was already translating poetry to the language as much as possible