The main function of language is as a communication tool, so it is not surprising that there are around 7,000 units found worldwide. However, you can also have fun with it by creating artificial languages like Game of Thrones and Arrival films. They received a bunch of awards for being able to demonstrate the fictional world as real as possible through their constructed language.
Esperanto is one of the artificial language examples developed in Poland a century ago. The thing that lies behind the making is influenced by great history. Its popularity is still maintained nowadays since people who like unique languages are considered worthy of study. Please continue reading to discover more!
What is Esperanto?
It was coined by a medical doctor, Ludwik Lejzer Zamenhof, in the late 1800s. Through his book entitled Unua Libro, you can find out how this language works. He used the pseudonym ‘Doktoro Esperanto’ which means Doctor Hopeful. Hence, that motivates him to name the language Esperanto.
Esperanto has 920 word roots and 16 simple grammatical rules. This basis can later form a lot of new words. Although it was developed in Poland, its word roots are also influenced by Latin, Russian, English, and German.
In forming language formulas, Zamenhof has a goal to make it easier for descendants of Latin to learn it. Moreover, a mass of Esperantists hoped that simple grammar and phonetic spelling that they are familiar with will be a very helpful initial step in mastering this language.
Zamenhof allows anyone to provide constructive input as a complement to the language he creates. He also used it and ensured that his invention would last until he died thanks to the flexible principle.
Esperanto pronunciations remind you of faintly Spanish, Italian, and all that can be found in Europe. This has led to comments that the language is bereft of “neutrality” and contains a Western bias, as Asians will need more effort to learn it. Although the formula is kept as simple as possible, there is great diversity around the world to consider.
Why Was Esperanto Invented?
Although Zamenhof worked in the medical field, he had a fairly good knowledge of the language. Russian was his mother tongue since some areas of Poland where he lived belonged to the Russian Federation. However, in his daily life, he used Polish to communicate.
Yiddish was another language that he learned from his mother. There were also Italian, German, English, French, Spanish, and Lithuanian. The other classical languages he studied at school included Hebrew, Latin, and Aramaic.
Esperanto was not Zamenhof’s first constructed language, but Volapük, which developed in Germany almost a decade before this one. Thanks to his expertise in languages, Esperanto was actually the 14th language he mastered.
The main reason Zamenhof created Esperanto was for a peace mission. As a Jew in Poland, Russia’s pogroms and antisemitism raised high tension in the society. He hoped that it could become one of the artificial international languages that brought people together.
Artificial international languages were proposed to enable people in a country not to communicate in their mother tongue, but with a second language as a lingua-franca. From this function, it can be concluded that Esperanto was not intended to replace other languages, but only as a support.
You may wonder why not use English as the lingua-franca at that time. Many people already understand it, but there are other issues to consider; political and cultural. Esperanto is a creation that will represent neutrality in language.
The publication of the Unua Libro book became a milestone in Esperanto’s success. In fact, Neutral Moresnet, a small principality between Belgium and Germany, made it their official language. Interestingly, the government of those regions changed the language to ‘Amikejo’ which means friendship.
When World War I happened, Esperanto was not used by many people since they considered this language a failure in carrying out peace missions. However, Belgium took over the copyright by force.
Zamenhof died in 1917 which was the height of the war. The good news is, there is an effort to empower Esperanto through the League of Nations organization which registered it as an official language. However, in World War II, the previous problem occurred.
Esperanto’s existence was increasingly threatened when Adolf Hitler expressed his disapproval through the book he wrote, Mein Kampf. He considered that this language was used by the Jews as a way of dominating the world. On the other hand, Stalin from Soviet Russia who became his opponent made efforts to maintain by sending speakers to the Gulags.
Things got worse when three of Zamenhof’s children were killed during the Holocaust. The reason was that they were of Jewish descent. However, Esperanto was maintained in such a way by learning in concentration camps and being used by the disenfranchised.
The end of World War II marked the decline of Esperanto where it was almost extinct. So, its existence survived well in the 20th century thanks to the small group that maintained it. Currently, its outsider status is not a major concern anymore, but fortunately, it is not completely gone.
How Was Esperanto Used?
Since 1905, Zamenhof had hosted at the Universala Kongreso for Esperanto socialization. By now, the agenda is still held as a forum for speakers’ discussion. Although ultimately it does not have official status in any country, its success is marked by its use which can be found in books, music, and other forms of entertainment.
There are approximately two million people who use Esperanto to date as an artificial language and 1,000 of them even make it their first language. George Soros is a Hungarian-American billionaire philanthropist who popularized it in the modern era. In fact, at the previous occasion, his father was a devotee of this language.
Zamenhof’s mission of peace through this language seems to be growing in the modern era since a bunch of communities is promoting it. There is even the Pasporta Servo website which gathers its members online. Interestingly, Esperantists have solidarity with their fellow nations by offering cheap or free lodging when they travel.
Esperanto is an artificial language that was coined by Zamenhof in Poland. As the goal was to carry out a peace mission, it was not surprising that historical elements were very attached to this language. After experiencing hard times, its existence nowadays is maintained and even motivates a number of communities to preserve it through fun activities.