Esperanto
Author: David Poulson


Esperanto - Origin of Esperanto

Author: David Poulson
Published on: Jul 10, 1998

When he was still quite young, Zamenhof's family moved from Bialystok to Warsaw and he began to attend a special school which specialised in the teaching of languages. From the beginning, Zamenhof learned Russian (of course; all important business had to be conducted in Russian at that time), French, German, Latin and Greek. As well as history, geography, mathematics and science.

He was a very gifted student and also an extremely hard worker. (I am reminded of the old saying that "genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration"). And, as he was impressed by the qualities of classical Latin prose and remembered that Latin had once been a medium of international communication, he naturally wondered if it could be revived to do the job again. It wasn't long, however, before he realised that Latin just would not do. It was a dead language. It had ceased to evolve and, consequently, could not serve as a vehicle by means of which to communicate the needs of our modern world. Also, it was very difficult to learn, requiring an excellent memory and a real talent for languages. (Having studied Latin myself for five years, at a time when my memory was very good, I can confirm that Zamenhof was absolutely correct.)

At this point, Zamenhof began to have real doubts as to whether his aim was achievable. The grammar of all the languages he had learned so far was too difficult for the ordinary person. But it was precisely the "ordinary person" who needed a common language in order to achieve a better understanding of his fellow man.

Let us not blame Zamenhof, at the age of fourteen, for not having the sad understanding that racial hatred can survive even when a common language does exist. Black people in the USA and Irish people in Great Britain can attest to that. That understanding came to him later and he understood that possession of a common second language would not, in fact, be the complete solution to inter-racial animosity.

But, as a teenager, he thought that the need for mutual comprehension at the linguistic level was of primary importance, and as modern communication technology makes it easier and easier for us to make contact with people from any part of the world, we too are confronted with the evidence of the difficulties and expense which result from linguistic diversity. The idea of a second language which has the benefits of political neutrality and relative simplicity is still an attractive one today.

Zamenhof was beginning to think that the complexities of grammar, as demonstrated in all of the languages he had learned so far, was an insurmountable problem. And then, at the age of fifteen, he had a stroke of luck. He was required to learn English.

Why was this a stroke of luck ? If you ask most people who have had to learn English as a second language, they will smile politely and tell you "It's SO hard." Well it is. And one of the reasons it's so hard is that - if you will permit the expression of an extreme point of view - English does not have any grammar. Don't let the hundreds of books published pretending to be books of English grammar persuade you differently. English, strictly speaking does not, repeat not, have a grammar. It only has "usage."

Well. I'm talking about Modern English. I studied Old English at university and that, let me tell you, has a ferociously difficult grammar. Several, as a matter of fact, depending on whether or not you are talking about West Saxon, or Mercian, or Anglian or Northumbrian. And Middle English is not that much easier and also has a complicated grammar. Or two. But after Celtic, Norse, Scandinavian, Teutonic, and Gallic elements were all tossed into the linguistic soup pot of Great Britain, and given a good stir, it was "Goodbye grammar" and "Hello usage." No way could the grammars of five individual language families be reconciled. Lucky us!

The knowledge was a revelation for the young linguist, Zamenhof. So a language could exist without a complicated grammar!

Unfortunately, although the learner of English does not have to worry about the declension of nouns and the conjugation of verbs, he or she is faced with difficulties of a different kind. We will be confronted with tragedy and bitterness enough in our later explorations of the history and development of Esperanto, so next week I will take time out for a lighthearted look at the crazy English language in which quicksands can lead to a slow death, where boxing rings are square, where public bathrooms have no baths at all, public or private, and where guinea pigs are emphatically not pigs and - do they come from Guinea? Fat chance! Which means just about the same as "a slim chance." Don't overlook next week's article: make sure you find the chance to look it over (oh dear! how can "overlook" mean the opposite of "look over"?) and I'm sure you'll find it entertaining.

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ARTIKOLOJ PRI ESPERANTO
"" PRI "KONKURENTOJ" DE ESPERANTO
LECIONOJ DE ESPERANTO
.KONSULTOJ DE E-INSTRUISTOJ
ESPERANTOLOGIO KAJ INTERLINGVISTIKO
TRADUKO DE MALSIMPLAJ FRAZOJ
TRADUKOJ DE DIVERSAJ VERKOJ
FRAZEOLOGIO DE ESPERANTO
, . VERKOJ DE ZAMENHOF KAJ PRI LI
, PROKSIMAJ MOVADOJ
ELSTARAJ PERSONOJ KAJ ESPERANTO
PRI ELSTARAJ ESPERANTISTOJ
. EL HISTORIO DE RUSIA E-MOVADO
KION ONI SKRIBAS PRI ESPERANTO
ESPERANTO EN LITERATURO
. KIAL E-MOVADO NE PROGRESAS
HUMURO PRI KAJ EN ESPERANTO
- ESPERANTO POR INFANOJ
DIVERSAJHOJ
INTERESAJHOJ
PERSONAJHOJ
/ DEMANDARO / RESPONDARO
UTILAJ LIGILOJ
IN ENGLISHPAGHOJ EN ANGLA LINGVO
PAGHOJ TUTE EN ESPERANTO
NIA BIBLIOTEKO


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