Esperanto Language

Esperanto is a planned language invented in the late 19th century by Dr. L.L. Zamenhof. He grew up in a very multi-ethnic section of Poland, where each ethnic group hated the other ethnic groups because they didn't share a common language.
Actually, that probably wasn't the reason at all; plenty of folks who hate each other share a common language. As Tom Lehrer said, "To hate all but the right folks is an old established rule."

No, that is why he did it. He later gave a speech where he said that Esperanto only helped the problem of hate, but didn't solve it. After all you can't be friends with people if you can't talk to them.

We are not so naïve as some think of us; we do not believe that a neutral base will turn men into angels, but we do know that evil people will always be evil; but we believe that communication and knowledge based upon a natural tool will prevent at least the great quantity of brutality and crimes which happen not because of ill will, but simply because of lack of knowledge and oppression. -- L. L. Zamenhof (1906)
He sought to create a language that anybody could learn, so that such situations need not exist in the future. Today, Esperanto is the most widely-spoken planned language worldwide, and many great works of literature have been translated into it.

The vocabulary is small, and new words are often created by adding suffixes and prefixes to root words. Though this sounds a little like NewSpeak, it's actually quite the opposite. Any thought that can be expressed in a natural language can be expressed in Esperanto, and the affixes make it easier for someone with a small vocabulary to circumlocute. Likewise, the affixes and grammatical endings can give inexperienced listeners vital hints that can help them learn new words in context.

Except for prepositions, some adverbs, and other special words, a word's ending usually identifies its grammatical function. This acts as a sort of HungarianNotation for words. For example, nouns end in -o, plurality adds -j, and the accusative case adds -n. Adjectives end in -a, and take the same inflections as nouns to agree with them. Pronouns end in -i, and take the same -n ending (mi = I, min = me). Adverbs end in -e, and converting from adjectives is as easy as you think it is. Verbs end in -i for the infinitive, -as for present tense, etc. All verbs. Even "to be" (esti, estas ...)

Esperanto uses the Latin alphabet with a few unique diacritical marks, so this language still presents some encoding problems. Web pages that use UniCode look just fine, but encoding problems can still occur on old pages.

Also, there's no standard keyboard for Esperanto, is there? Well, I've seen a proposed one but it's so unlike our usual QWERTY layout that it'd be pretty difficult for a touch typist to learn. It makes a little sense, since the letters Q, W, and Y aren't in the Esperanto alphabet, but it's strange enough to negate the ease of learning and use that Esperanto boasts, so therefore everyone just uses the standard keyboard in their country and gets along fine.

Esperanto speakers get around this problem by typing the special characters as regular English characters followed by the letter X. For example: La cxevalo mangxas la pomon. This actually works quite well for purposes of computer sorting, since X is so close to the end of the alphabet. i.e. "cigaro" < "cxevalo" < "cxu" < "doni". As long as the letter Z doesn't throw a wrench into things, and you don't mind the aesthetic difference, you might consider this a case of EscalatorTemporarilyStairs. Other languages have similar problems, such as Chinese.

A contrary view of the language:

There's also a great critique of esperanto at

Ouch. I made the effort to read the first, which admits it was inspired directly by the second, but I wasn't able to finish it the first time through. In fact I had to skim after the first few screens. It is clearly deliberately hateful, repeatedly inaccurate about basic facts and grossly biased in its opinions. It does have some interesting points, and could serve as the basis for useful discussion, but it's hard to know where to start in criticizing it. Sigh. What really was the author hoping to accomplish? -- PeterHansen

There was a feature on the TV about Esperato a few weeks back where they snidely mentioned that more people speak KlingonLanguage than speak Esperanto. I don't know if that's correct, but the TV droids seemed to get off on it.

That's entirely incorrect, but it seems to stick in journalists' heads because it sounds like a refutation. When the BBC announced this, they later had to retract it and said roughly, "We're sitting on a stack of letters here from Esperantists all over the world."

In fact there are probably more native Esperanto speakers (200-2000 people according to the Ethnologue who learned Esperanto from birth, along with a local language) than fluent KlingonLanguage speakers. Klingon was deliberately designed to be as unlike human languages as possible.

(Remainder moved to KlingonLanguage - Let's avoid a SpokenLanguagePissingMatch here. Try ChoosingaConLang.) -- NickBensema

The movie "Incubus" (recently issued on DVD) has its dialogue entirely in Esperanto. (Watch the DVD with WilliamShatner's commentary track turned on for best results.)

Arnold Rimmer kept trying (unsuccessfully) to learn it on RedDwarf. One of the resulting gags is only apparent to those who know that Esperanto got its word for "yes" from English. Also there are signs on the walls in both English and Esperanto "Level/Nivelo 34".

Esperanto has a simple grammar that leaves a lot of liberty to the speaker, as well as many suffixes and prefixes that can be used to either build new words. I wonder how an Esperantist who knows Perl might abuse these rules into creating obfuscated Esperanto? Any lawyer will tell you that creating obfuscated English is easy enough, but any language can be verbose. In Esperanto, you could probably apply the PerlGolf rules and see if you can optimize the entire Gettysburg Address into ten fifteen-syllable words without losing any meaning.

Some recent gems from an Esperanto Scrabble game ( include "sved'ig'ad'a" (continuously making things Swedish) and "pagx'bat'gxu'ec'" (the joy one feels upon striking a page).

There are several wikis in Esperanto, the largest presently being the Esperanto version of WikiPedia: See EsperantoWiki.

See also: LojbanLanguage, KlingonLanguage, ConLang.

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