Esperanto is one of the long-standing artificial languages. Usually, artificial languages are in most cases not a very successful affair. It is hard for them to spread as they don’t have a specific native speaker base. Still, some of them stick around because they find a common ground with some users. That is the case with Similish, an artificial language used in Sims, one of the most popular series of video games.
But, Esperantocame to life at the end of the 19th century (1887) for a completely different purpose, and it is still in use. As Britannica notes, “Esperanto is probably the most successful of the artificial international languages. The estimated number of Esperanto speakers is at more than 100,000.” The Universala Esperanto-Asocio (founded 1908) has members in 83 countries. There are 50 national Esperanto associations and 22 international professional associations that use Esperanto. There is an annual World Esperanto Congress, as well as more than 100 periodicals in the language. More than 30,000 books exist in Esperanto (same source).
One of the reasons Esperanto is still around may lie in the fact that Esperanto is relatively simple for Europeans to learn. “Orthography is phonetic, and you spell all words as pronounced. Grammar is simple and regular; there are characteristic word endings for nouns, adjectives, and verbs.” There are a few other linguistic characteristics of Esperanto that should make it easy to use.
Esperanto’s USA branch adds that for over 130 years, Esperanto has maintained a vibrant international community of active speakers. “Esperanto is not intended to replace any other language and has no official status in any country. It is used as a neutral working language by individuals and by international cultural, political, and educational organizations.”
The roots of Esperanto
People who use Esperanto as “a neutral working language” have diversified their linguistic experience. As the USA Esperanto branch also notes, they translate and produce poetry, novels, plays, films, music, games, videos. This includes other works in the language.
“Thousands of speakers of all ages and backgrounds enjoy each other’s company in local, national, and international events each year. They also use the language to see the world for free with Pasporta Servo, a travel community with hosts around the world.” The latter is probably one of the most popular Esperanto activities.”
The Internet has been a boon to Esperanto’s popularity, with speakers communicating through social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Major websites such as Google and Wikipedia are available in the language. More than a million people took the Esperanto course on Duolingo the popular language-learning site since its launch in 2015 (same source).
But what are the roots of Esperanto, and how did it come into existence? Britannica above, notes that Esperanto was the construction of L.L. Zamenhof, a Polish oculist. “Zamenhof’s Fundamento de Esperanto, published in 1905, lays down the basic principles of the language’s structure and formation.”
According to linguistic specialists Omniglot, the majority of Esperanto’s roots are based on Latin. “Some vocabulary stems from modern Romance languages, and from English, German, Polish and Russian. You can combine roots with affixes to form new words, for example: lerni = to learn, lernejo = a school, lernanto = a pupil/student, lernejestro = a headmaster. The affixes can also stand alone: ejo = place, estro = leader/head, etc. The grammar has many influences from Slavic languages, although it is greatly simplified in comparison to them (same source).
More on Esperanto’s linguistics
For its part, Britannica explains that in Esperanto, nouns have no gender and end with an o. You indicate the plural with an -oj (pronounced -oy), and the objective (accusative) case by -on, plural ojn: amiko “friend,” amikoj “friends,” amikon “friend (accusative),” amikojn “friends (accusative).” There is only one definite article, la (e.g., la amiko “the friend”), and no indefinite article. Adjectives end in -a (e.g., bona amiko “good friend”) and take plural and objective endings to agree with nouns.
“Verbs are all regular and have only one form for each tense or mood. They do not change for person or number (mi havas, vi havas, ŝi havas, ili havas). There is an extensive set of suffixes that you can add to word roots to allow various shades of meaning. Esperanto also uses compound words.”
Omniglot adds that “spelling conventions are somewhat similar to Polish, though Zamenhof came up with some new letters for Esperanto (Ĉĉ, Ĝĝ, Ĥĥ, Ĵĵ, Ŝŝ, Ŭŭ). These letters are often replaced with ch, gh, jh or cx, gx, jx, or c’, g’, j’, etc. Zamenhof recognized this problem and favored using ch, gh, etc when the special letters were not available.”
For its part, Lernu.net also adds that Esperanto was created on the basis of the vocabulary of Indo-European languages. The intention was to make Esperanto easy to learn.
For this reason, its grammar is agglutinative, a characteristic feature of Turkic and Finno-Ugric languages, and at a deeper level, it is isolating, as in Mandarin Chinese and Vietnamese. This means that you can use morphemes as independent words. It has a completely regular grammar and allows the creation of a large number of words by combining lexical roots and about forty affixes.
As Learnu.net (above) explains, “the basic idea of Esperanto is about tolerance and respect for people of diverse nations and cultures. Communication is indeed the essential part of understanding each other, and if that communication happens through a neutral language, that can help the feeling that we ‘meet’ on equal grounds and help create respect for one another.”
This source also presents a handy list of Esperanto’s other main traits:
- International – Esperanto is most useful for communicating among people of diverse nations who do not have a common mother tongue.
- Neutral – It doesn’t belong to one person or country, so it works as a neutral language.
- Equal – When you use Esperanto, you feel more equal from a linguistic standpoint than when, for example, you speak Spanish with a native Spanish speaker.
- Relatively easy to use – Thanks to the structure of Esperanto, it’s usually much easier to master than other foreign languages.
- Living – Esperanto evolves and lives just like other languages, and you can use it to express the most varied facets of human thought and emotion.
- Just – Everyone who learns Esperanto has a good chance of reaching a high level in it, and later, from a linguistic standpoint, of speaking it on a similar level as others, independently of linguistic background.
Esperanto’s regularity makes it particularly easy to learn. Its streamlined capacity to create new words make it one of the most productive languages, with a potentially unlimited number of words, it is capable of expressing all new ideas or states. For example, it is possible to write a novel about fictional table-shaped Martians and to call them tablo (“table”), tablino (“female table”), tablido (“table offspring”)… We can imagine a man who walks backward ( inversmarŝanto , “reverse-walker”), a remedy against dogmatism ( maldogmigilo , “undogmatizer”), etc (same source).
Worldatlas.com presents some additional interesting facts about Esperanto and has listed 10 of them:
- It confirms the fact that Esperanto is the most widely used constructed language in the world. A constructed language is simply an artificial language whose vocabulary and grammar are designed rather than evolving naturally over a period. Therefore, Esperanto has not undergone any historical change that is common in other languages. There are approximately 40 constructed auxiliary languages. Most of these languages have insignificant speakers and some exist just by name. Esperanto is the most popular of them all with its 2 million worldwide speakers.
- They teach Esperanto in some Schools – There are over 20,000 original and translated books in Esperanto and hundreds of magazines. They use some of these books to teach the language in schools. The International Academy of Science in San Marino uses Esperanto as a language of instruction and administration.
- Esperanto alphabet has 28 letters – Its alphabet borrows heavily from the Latin script. It has 28 letters, including six-letter with diacritics. It omits four letters from the alphabet; q, w, x, and y and are only used when writing unassimilated words or terms. The 28 letters of the Esperanto alphabet are; a, b, c, ĉ, d, e, f, g, ĝ, h, ĥ, i, j, ĵ, k, l, m, n, o, p, r, s, ŝ, t, u, ŭ, v, and z.
- There Are Esperanto Speakers On Every Continent – Esperanto has been in continuous use since its creation. However, it is not an official secondary language by any country. The majority of the 120 countries that are members of the World Esperanto Association are in Europe, Asia, and South America. That is where the language is most popular. But there are speakers on the other continents as well, notably Africa, where the country Togo has the most speakers.
More on Esperanto facts
- Esperanto’s Creator’s Nickname Was Doktoro Esperanto – L.L. Zamenhof also studied classical languages such as Greek, Latin, Aramaic, and Hebrew. Zamenhof’s desire to create a new language instead of pursuing his career in ophthalmology came from the many quarrels among the groups that lived in Bialystok. Those groups spoke different languages.
- Before creating Esperanto, Zamenhof tried to revive Latin. But, he came to the conclusion that Latin was much too complicated to be a common language for international communication. After learning English, he thought that he can make the grammatical system much simpler. According to Zamenhof, the new language was to help reduce the time and energy spent on learning a foreign language.
- There are at least 1,000 native Esperanto speakers – The World Esperanto Association has a membership of 120 countries. But, no country has officially adopted the language. Two million people worldwide speak the language. This number includes at least 1,000 native speakers who learned the language from birth. The popular language-learning app Duolingo has an Esperanto course, and over 1 million people have started it.
- Literature In Esperanto got nominations for The Nobel Prize – The United Nations gave it official support in 1954. One of the writers who has contributed to the growth of this language is William Auld whose literary work has received three nominations for the Nobel Prize in Literature: 1999, 2004, and 2006.
- Zamenhof spent about ten years translating literature into the language, leading to the publishing of the first book of Esperanto grammar on July 26, 1887. The first language conference for speakers took place in 1905 in France. Since then, such world congresses have been held every year.
- Zamenhof hoped that speakers would be able to learn and use Esperanto as a living language. “Esperanto” translates to “one who hopes.”
Even though Esperanto is an artificial language, it has found its use in a wide range of linguistic activities. There is also quite a number of translators who work with this language. References are there, so is detailed research. For translators and other linguists, it turns out to be one of the easier languages to learn. It also gives the translators a chance to show their knowledge by presenting detailed translator’s notes. Also, it is good to note that BunnyStudio is in a position to help with any Esperanto needs you might have.