Skip to main content

Is Esperanto dead?

Esperanto is an artificial or created language, developed in the 19th century by Dr. Ludwig L. Zamenhof of Poland. He hoped to eliminate antagonisms among nations by having people adopt a common language for such purposes as commerce, shortwave radio broadcasts, international gatherings, and even world government. As a step toward realizing this aim, Dr. Zamenhof, who called himself Dr. Esperanto, ("one who is hoping"), created a simple language that could be learned easily. He based it on elements of the chief European languages.

Many features make Esperanto easy to learn. It has only 16 rules of grammar, and the rules have no exceptions. Each word is pronounced exactly as it is spelled, and the accent always falls on the next to the last syllable. Esperanto is written in the Roman alphabet, but it does not use the letters Q, W, X, and Y. It has six additional accented letters, C, G, H, J, S, and U, with their own pronunciations.

Each part of speech in Esperanto can be clearly identified. The ending "-o" designates a singular noun; "-i," an infinitive; "-a," an adjective; and "-e," an adverb. Thus the Esperanto word "varmo" is a noun, and it means "warmth." "Varmi" is the infinitive "to warm." The adjective "varma" means "warm," and the adverb "varme" means "warmly." With the use of a set of prefixes, suffixes, and infixes it is possible to construct many words from a comparatively small number of basic roots or words.

Dr. Zamenhof presented Esperanto to the public in 1887 and thoroughly revised it in 1894. Since then, Esperanto has been adopted by 6 to 8 million speakers throughout the world and has been widely used in international conferences. A large body of literature, including translations and original works, has been published in the language, and today more than 100 Esperanto periodicals are published all over the world. The language is especially popular in small European countries, such as the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, and Switzerland. Of the several hundred artificial languages constructed during the last 300 years, Esperanto has been the most successful.

Scroll to Continue

Related Articles