Learn more about Esperanto
|Created by:||L.L. Zamenhof||1887|
|Setting and usage:||International auxiliary language|
|Total speakers:||Native: approx. 1000;|
Fluent speakers: est. 100,000 to 2 million
|Category (purpose):|| constructed language|
International auxiliary language
|Category (sources):||vocabulary from Romance and Germanic languages; phonology from Slavic languages|
|Regulated by:||Akademio de Esperanto|
|Note: This page may contain IPA phonetic symbols in Unicode. See IPA chart for English for an English-based pronunciation key.|
constructed international language. The name derives from Doktoro Esperanto, the pseudonym under which L. L. Zamenhof first published the Unua Libro in 1887. The word itself means 'one who hopes'. Zamenhof's goal was to create an easy and flexible language as a universal second language to foster peace and international understanding.is the most widely spoken
Although no country has adopted the language officially, it has enjoyed continuous usage by a community estimated at between 100,000 and 2 million speakers and it is estimated that there are about a thousand native speakers.<ref>Esperanto page at ethnologue.com </ref>
Today, Esperanto is employed in world travel, correspondence, cultural exchange, conventions, literature, language instruction, television (Internacia Televido) and radio broadcasting. Some state education systems offer elective courses in Esperanto; there is evidence that learning Esperanto is a useful preparation for later language learning (see Esperanto and education).
Esperanto was developed in the late 1870s and early 1880s by ophthalmologist Dr. Ludovic Lazarus Zamenhof, a Polish Jew from the West of the Russian Empire (now Poland). After some ten years of development, which Zamenhof spent translating literature into the language as well as writing original prose and verse, the first 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 and 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 on five continents every year except during the two World Wars, and have been attended by up to 6000 people (typically 2000-3000).
Esperanto has no official status in any country, but is an elective part of the curriculum in several state educational systems. There were plans at the beginning of the 20th century to establish Neutral Moresnet as the world's first Esperanto state, and the short-lived artificial island micronation of Rose Island used Esperanto as its official language in 1968. In China, there was talk in some circles after the 1911 Xinhai Revolution about officially replacing Chinese with Esperanto as a means to dramatically bring the country into the twentieth century, though this policy proved untenable. In the summer of 1924, the American Radio Relay League adopted Esperanto as its official international auxiliary language, and hoped that the language would be used by radio amateurs in international communications, but actual use of the language for radio communications was negligible. Esperanto is the working language of several non-profit international organizations such as the Sennacieca Asocio Tutmonda, but most others are specifically Esperanto organizations. The largest of these, the World Esperanto Association, has an official consultative relationship with the United Nations and UNESCO. The U.S. Army has published military phrasebooks in Esperanto,<ref>The Maneuver Enemy website</ref> to be used in wargames by the enemy (i.e. non-U.S.) forces.
 Linguistic properties
As a constructed language, Esperanto is not genealogically related to any ethnic language. Esperanto can be described as "a language lexically predominantly Romanic, morphologically intensively agglutinative and to a certain degree isolating in character".<ref>Blank, Detlev (1985). Internationale Plansprachen. Eine Einführung ("International Planned Languages. An Introduction"). Akademie-Verlag. ISSN 0138-55 X.</ref> 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 Germanic. 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.
Esperanto has 5 vowels and 23 consonants, of which two are semivowels. It does not have tone. Stress is always on the penultimate vowel, unless a final vowel o is elided (which in practice occurs most in poetry). For example, familio (family) is [fa.mi.ˈli.o], but famili’ is [fa.mi.ˈli].
The sound /r/ is usually rolled, but may be tapped ([ɾ] in the IPA). The /v/ has a normative pronunciation like an English v, but is sometimes somewhere between a v and a w (IPA [ʋ]), depending on the language background of the speaker. A semivowel [u̯] normally occurs only in diphthongs after the vowels /a/ and /e/. Common (if debated) assimilation includes the pronunciation of /nk/ as [ŋk], as in English sink, and /kz/ as [gz], like the x in English example.
A large number of possible consonant clusters can occur, up to three in initial position and four in medial position (for example, in instrui, to teach). Final clusters are uncommon except in foreign names, poetic elision of final o, and a very few basic words such as cent (hundred) and post (after).
There are six falling diphthongs: uj, oj, ej, aj, aŭ, eŭ (/ui̯, oi̯, ei̯, ai̯, au̯, eu̯/).
With only five vowels, a good deal of variation is tolerated. For instance, /e/ commonly ranges from [e] (French é) to [ɛ] (French è). The details often depend on the speaker's native language. A glottal stop may occur between adjacent vowels in some people's speech, especially when the two vowels are the same, as in heroo (hero) and praavo (great-grandfather).
Esperanto words are derived by stringing together prefixes, roots, and suffixes. This is very regular, so that people can create new words as they speak and be understood. Compound words are formed with modifier-first, head-final order, i.e. the same way as in English birdsong vs. songbird.
The different parts of speech are marked by their own suffixes: all common nouns end in -o, all adjectives in -a, all derived adverbs in -e, and all verbs end in one of six tense and mood suffixes, such as present tense -as.
Plural nouns end in -oj (pronounced "oy"), whereas direct objects end in -on. Plural direct objects end in -ojn (pronounced to rhyme with "coin"). Adjectives agree with their nouns; their endings are plural -aj (pronounced "eye"), direct-object -an, and plural direct-object -ajn (pronounced to rhyme with "fine").
The six verb inflections are three tenses and three moods. They are present tense -as, future tense -os, past tense -is, infinitive mood -i, conditional mood -us, and jussive mood -u. Verbs are not marked for person or number. For instance: kanti - to sing; mi kantas - I sing; mi kantis - I sang; mi kantos - I will sing.
Two ASCII-compatible writing conventions are in use. These substitute digraphs for the accented letters. The original "h-convention" (ch, gh, hh, jh, sh, u) is based on English 'ch' and 'sh', while a more recent "x-convention" (cx, gx, hx, jx, sx, ux) is useful for alphabetic word sorting on a computer (cx comes correctly after cu, sx after sv, etc.) as well as for simple conversion back into the standard orthography. See Esperanta klavaro, keyboard layout, Latin-3 and Unicode.
 Useful phrases
Here are some useful Esperanto phrases, with IPA transcriptions:
 The Esperanto speaker community
 Geography and demography
Esperanto speakers are more numerous in Europe and East Asia than in the Americas, Africa, and Oceania, and more numerous in urban than in rural areas.<ref name=Sikosek_2003>Sikosek, Ziko M. Esperanto Sen Mitoj ("Esperanto without Myths"). Second edition. Antwerp: Flandra Esperanto-Ligo, 2003.</ref> Esperanto is particularly prevalent in the northern and eastern countries of Europe; in China, Korea, Japan, and Iran within Asia; in Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico in the Americas; and in Togo and Madagascar in Africa.
An estimate of the number of Esperanto speakers was made by Sidney S. Culbert, a retired psychology professor of the University of Washington and a longtime Esperantist, who tracked down and tested Esperanto speakers in sample areas of dozens of countries over a period of twenty years. Culbert concluded that between one and two million people speak Esperanto at Foreign Service Level 3, "professionally proficient" (able to communicate moderately complex ideas without hesitation, and to follow speeches, radio broadcasts, etc.).<ref name=Culbert>Culbert, Sidney S. Three letters about his methodology for estimating the number of Esperanto speakers, scanned and HTMLized by David Wolff</ref> Culbert's estimate was not made for Esperanto alone, but formed part of his listing of estimates for all languages of over 1 million speakers, published annually in the World Almanac and Book of Facts. Culbert's most detailed account of his methodology is found in a 1989 letter to David Wolff. Since Culbert never published detailed intermediate results for particular countries and regions, it is difficult to independently gauge the accuracy of his results.
In the Almanac, his estimates for numbers of language speakers were rounded to the nearest million, thus the number for Esperanto speakers is shown as 2 million. This latter figure appears in Ethnologue. Assuming that this figure is accurate, that means that about 0.03% of the world's population speaks the language. This falls short of Zamenhof's goal of a universal language, but it represents a level of popularity unmatched by any other constructed language. Ethnologue also states that there are 200 to 2000 native Esperanto speakers (denaskuloj), who have learned the language from birth from their Esperanto-speaking parents (this happens when Esperanto is the family language in an international family or sometimes in a family of devoted Esperantists).
Marcus Sikosek has challenged this figure of 1.6 million as exaggerated. Sikosek estimated that even if Esperanto speakers were evenly distributed, assuming one million Esperanto speakers worldwide would lead one to expect about 180 in the city of Cologne. Sikosek finds only 30 fluent speakers in that city, and similarly smaller than expected figures in several other places thought to have a larger-than-average concentration of Esperanto speakers. He also notes that there are a total of about 20,000 members of the various Esperanto organizations (other estimates are higher). Though there are undoubtedly many Esperanto speakers who are not members of any Esperanto organization, he thinks it unlikely that there are fifty times more speakers than organization members.<ref name=Sikosek_2003/> Others think such a ratio between members of the organized Esperanto movement and speakers of the language is not unlikely.
The Finnish linguist Jouko Lindstedt, an expert on native-born Esperanto speakers, presented the following scheme<ref name=Lindstedt_1996>Lindstedt, Jouko. "Re: Kiom?" (posting). DENASK-L@helsinki.fi, 22 April 1996.</ref> to show the overall proportions of language capabilities within the Esperanto community:
In the absence of Dr. Culbert's detailed sampling data, or any other census data, it is impossible to state the number of speakers with certainty. Few observers, probably, would challenge the following statement from the website of the World Esperanto Association:
Esperanto is often used to access an international culture, including a large corpus of original as well as translated literature. There are over 25,000 Esperanto books (originals and translations) as well as over a hundred regularly distributed Esperanto magazines. Many Esperanto speakers use the language for free travel throughout the world using the Pasporta Servo. Others like the idea of having pen pals in many countries around the world using services like the Esperanto Pen Pal Service. Every year, 1500-3000 Esperanto speakers meet for the World Congress of Esperanto (Universala Kongreso de Esperanto).
Historically most of the music published in Esperanto has been in various folk traditions; in recent decades more rock and other modern genres have appeared.
To some extent there are also shared traditions, like the Zamenhof Day, and shared behaviour patterns, like avoiding the usage of one's national language at Esperanto meetings unless there is good reason for its use.
Two full-length feature films have been produced with dialogue entirely in Esperanto, namely Angoroj in 1964 and Incubus starring William Shatner in 1965. Other amateur productions have been made, such as a dramatisation of the novel Gerda Malaperis (Gerda Has Disappeared). A number of "mainstream" films in national languages have used Esperanto in some way, such as Gattaca.
Esperanto is frequently criticized for "having no culture". Proponents observe that Esperanto is culturally neutral by design, as it was intended to be a facilitator between cultures, not to be the carrier of any one culture. (See Esperanto as an international language.)
Nearly from the beginning Esperanto was used for scientific papers; the Fundamenta Krestomatio of 1903 contains a section El la vivo kaj sciencoj (from life and sciences). A few scientists, such as Maurice Fréchet, have published part of their work in Esperanto. In articles on interlinguistics the use of Esperanto is not uncommon.
Esperanto is the first language for teaching and administration of the International Academy of Sciences San Marino, which is sometimes called an "Esperanto University", although it does not teach the language, but in the language. It is not to be confused with the Akademio de Esperanto (Academy of Esperanto).
 Goals of the Esperanto movement
Zamenhof's intention was to create an easy-to-learn language to foster international understanding. It was to serve as an international auxiliary language, that is, as a universal second language, not to replace ethnic languages. This goal was widely shared among Esperanto speakers in the early decades of the movement. Later, Esperanto speakers began to see the language and the culture that had grown up around it as ends in themselves, even if Esperanto is never adopted by the United Nations or other international organizations.
Those Esperanto speakers who want to see Esperanto adopted officially or on a large scale worldwide are commonly called finvenkistoj, from fina venko, meaning "final victory". Those who focus on the intrinsic value of the language are commonly called raŭmistoj, from Rauma, Finland, where a declaration on the near-term unlikelihood of the "fina venko" and the value of Esperanto culture was made at the International Youth Congress in 1980. These categories are, however, not mutually exclusive. (See Finvenkismo)
 Symbols and flags
In 1893, C. Rjabinis and P. Deullin designed and manufactured a lapel pin for Esperantists to identify each other. The design was a circular pin with a white background and a five pointed green star. The theme of the design was the hope of the five continents being united by a common language.
The earliest flag, and the one most commonly used today, features a green five-pointed star against a white canton, upon a field of green. In 1905, delegates to the first conference of Esperantists at Boulogne-sur-Mer, unanimously approved  a version, differing from the modern only by the superimposition of an "E" over the green star. Other variants  include that for Christian Esperantists, with a white Christian cross superimposed upon the green star, and that for Leftists, with the color of the field changed from green to red.
In 1997, a second flag design was chosen in a contest by the UEA for the first centennial of the language. It featured a white background with two stylised curved "E"s facing each other. Dubbed the "jubilea simbolo" (jubilee symbol) , it attracted criticism from some Esperantists, who dubbed it "melono" (melon) because of the design's eliptical shape. It later fell into disuse, and the traditional flag, known as "verda stelo" (green star), is still in use today. 
 Esperanto and education
Relatively few schools teach Esperanto officially outside of China, Hungary, and Bulgaria; the majority of Esperanto speakers continue to learn the language through self-directed study or correspondence courses. Several Esperanto paper correspondence courses were early on adapted to e-mail and taught by corps of volunteer instructors. In more recent years, teaching websites like lernu! have become popular. Various educators have estimated that Esperanto can be learned in anywhere from one quarter to one twentieth the amount of time required for other languages. Some argue, however, that this is only true for native speakers of Western European languages.
Claude Piron, a psychologist formerly at the University of Geneva and Chinese-English-Russian-Spanish translator for the United Nations, argued that it is easier to think clearly in Esperanto than in many ethnic languages (see Sapir-Whorf hypothesis for an explanation on this theory). "Esperanto relies entirely on innate reflexes [and] differs from all other languages in that you can always trust your natural tendency to generalize patterns. [...] The same neuropsychological law [— called by] Jean Piaget generalizing assimilation — applies to word formation as well as to grammar."<ref name=Piron>Piron, Claude: "The hidden perverse effect of the current system of international communication", published lecture notes</ref>
Several research studies demonstrate that studying Esperanto before another foreign language speeds and improves learning the other language. This is presumably because learning subsequent foreign languages is easier than learning one's first, while the use of a grammatically simple and culturally flexible auxiliary language like Esperanto lessens the first-language learning hurdle. In one study,<ref name=Williams_1965>Williams, N. (1965) 'A language teaching experiment', Canadian Modern Language Review 22.1: 26-28</ref> a group of European high school students studied Esperanto for one year, then French for three years, and ended up with a significantly better command of French than a control group, who studied French for all four years. Similar results were found when the second language was Japanese, or when the course of study was reduced to two years, of which six months was spent learning Esperanto. See Propaedeutic value of Esperanto for other relevant studies.
 Esperanto and religion
LL Zamenhof promoted a religion of his own called Homaranismo, but was concerned this could taint his earlier work in establishing Esperanto. He proposed abandoning his public role as an Esperantist to avoid confusion.
The Oomoto religion encourages the use of Esperanto among their followers and includes Zamenhof as one of its deified spirits.
The Bahá'í Faith encourages the use of an auxiliary international language, and, while endorsing no specific language, sees Esperanto as having great potential in this role.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>
Lidja Zamenhof, daughter of Esperanto's founder, became a Bahá'í.
Various volumes of the Bahá'í scriptures and other Baha'i books have been translated into Esperanto.
It should be noted that before 1981 (the Bahá'í interest in Esperanto goes back over a century), the Islamic Republic of Iran through the mullahs had also encouraged the use of Esperanto.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>
Esperanto is also actively promoted, at least in Brazil, by followers of Spiritism. The Brazilian Spiritist Federation publishes Esperanto coursebooks, translations of Spiritism's basic books and encourages Spiritists to become Esperantists.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>
 Bible translations
The first translation of the Bible into Esperanto was a translation of the Tanakh or Old Testament done by L. L. Zamenhof. The translation was reviewed and compared with other languages' translations of the Bible by a group of British clergy and scholars before publishing it at the British and Foreign Bible Society in 1910. In 1926 this was published along with a New Testament translation, in an edition commonly called the "Londona Biblio". In the 1960s, Internacia Asocio de Bibliistoj kaj Orientalistoj tried to organize a new, ecumenical Esperanto Bible version.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> Since then, the Dutch Lutheran pastor Gerrit Berveling has translated the Deuterocanonical or apocryphal books in addition to new translations of the Gospels, some of the New Testament epistles, and some books of the Tanakh or Old Testament; these have been published in various separate booklets, or serialized in Dia Regno, but the Deuterocanonical books appeared in a recent new edition of the Londona Bilbio.
 Criticism and modifications of Esperanto
Common criticisms of the language are that its vocabulary and grammar are too European; that its vocabulary, accented letters, and grammar are not Western European enough (a critique addressed by Ido, Novial and Interlingua); that it is sexist, looks and sounds artificial, or has failed to meet the expectation that all people would one day use it as a second language.
Finally, proponents are often seen as exaggerating the success of Esperanto. For example, many observers question how a stable population of more than several thousand speakers can produce a modest and declining number of recent publications.
Though Esperanto itself has changed little since the publication of the Fundamento de Esperanto ("Foundation of Esperanto"), a number of reform projects have been proposed over the years, starting with Zamenhof's proposals in 1894 and Ido in 1907. Several later constructed languages, such as Fasile, were based on Esperanto.
 Esperanto in popular culture
Esperanto has been used in a number of films and novels. Typically, this is done either to add the exoticness of a foreign language without representing any particular ethnicity, or to avoid going to the trouble of inventing a new language. Filmmaker Charlie Chaplin used Esperanto for signage on storefronts and buildings in his 1940 classic The Great Dictator. In science fiction, Esperanto is often used to represent a future in which there is a more universally spoken language than exists today. Examples of this include the Riverworld series by Philip José Farmer, the UK sci-fi sitcom Red Dwarf, the Stainless Steel Rat series by Harry Harrison, and the 1997 sci-fi drama Gattaca. It is also seen and heard in the 2004 vampire film Blade Trinity.
There are two instances of feature films being entirely performed in Esperanto. Angoroj, (Esperanto for "Agonies") 1964, was the first feature film to be produced entirely in Esperanto and Incubus (with English and French subtitles), a 1965 black and white horror film, directed by Leslie Stevens and starring a pre- Star Trek William Shatner. The earliest film to incorporate Esperanto was the thriller "State Secret" 1950, with Douglas Fairbanks Jr., who starred as an American surgeon contacted by the authorities of Vosnia, an Eastern European dictatorship, to perform a rare operation on their leader. The language spoken in "Vosnia" is Esperanto. The earliest film (not of feature length, however) to utilize the language was titled Antaŭen! (Onwards!), a silent Esperanto publicity film before World War II.
More rarely, it is used jokingly, referred to as a "geek language", such as the usage seen on occasion in the animated series Danny Phantom, where the only characters who speak it are either self-described "geeks", or a particular ghost (who is apparently more fluent in the language than the human characters, as evidenced by the difficulty Tucker Foley had in translating said ghost's comments into English).
Esperanto has also been cited as a possible inspiration for George Orwell's Newspeak. Orwell had been exposed to Esperanto in 1927 when living in Paris with his aunt Nellie Limouzin, who was then living with Eugène Lanti, a prominent Esperantist. Esperanto was the language of the house, and Orwell, who had come to Paris in part to improve his French, was obliged to find other lodging.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>
Composer David Gaines' (b. 1961) Symphony No. 1 is subtitled "Esperanto", and features a mezzo-soprano soloist singing in Esperanto. It has been recorded by the Moravian Philharmonic.
The opening theme to Final Fantasy XI, "FFXI Opening Theme" ~Legend -The Crystal Theme, Memory of the People, Memoro de la Ŝtono, Memory of the Wind~ was sung in Esperanto.
 See also
 References and notes
 Further reading
 External links
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