|Flag of Esperanto||
|Created by||L. L. Zamenhof|
|Setting and usage||International auxiliary language|
|Total speakers||Native: 200 to 2000 (1996, est.);
Fluent speakers: est. 100,000 to 2 million (in about 115 countries)
|Category (purpose)||constructed 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.|
Esperanto (help·info) is the most widely spoken constructed international auxiliary language. Its name derives from Doktoro Esperanto, the pseudonym under which L. L. Zamenhof published the first book detailing Esperanto, the Unua Libro, in 1887. The word esperanto means "one who hopes" in the language itself. The language's original name was "La Internacia Lingvo." Zamenhof's goal was to create an easy to learn and politically neutral language that would serve as a universal second language to foster peace and international understanding. Esperanto has between 100,000 and 2 million speakers in about 115 countries, and approximately one thousand native speakers, i.e. people who learned Esperanto as one of their native languages from their parents. Although no country has adopted the language officially, Esperanto did get official recognition by UNESCO in 1954. Today, Esperanto is employed in world travel, correspondence, cultural exchange, conventions, literature, language instruction, television, movies, and radio broadcasting. The first international Esperanto congress was organized in France, Boulogne-sur-Mer, in 1905. Since then international conferences and meetings have been organized around the world with Esperanto every year. At least one major search engine, Google, offers searching of Esperanto-related websites via an Esperanto portal.
There is evidence that learning Esperanto may provide a good foundation for learning languages in general. Esperanto is also the language of instruction in one university, the Akademio Internacia de la Sciencoj in San Marino.
Esperanto was created in the late 1870s and early 1880s by Dr. Ludovic Lazarus Zamenhof, a Jewish ophthalmologist from Bialystok, at the time part of the Russian Empire. According to Zamenhof, he created this language to foster harmony between people from different countries. His feelings and the situation in Bialystok may be gleaned from an extract from his famous letter to Nikolai Borovko:
The place where I was born and spent my childhood gave direction to all my future struggles. In Bialystok the inhabitants were divided into four distinct elements: Russians, Poles, Germans and Jews; each of these spoke their own language and looked on all the others as enemies. In such a town a sensitive nature feels more acutely than elsewhere the misery caused by language division and sees at every step that the diversity of languages is the first, or at least the most influential, basis for the separation of the human family into groups of enemies. I was brought up as an idealist; I was taught that all people were brothers, while outside in the street at every step I felt that there were no people, only Russians, Poles, Germans, Jews and so on. This was always a great torment to my infant mind, although many people may smile at such an 'anguish for the world' in a child. Since at that time I thought that 'grown-ups' were omnipotent, so I often said to myself that when I grew up I would certainly destroy this evil.—L. L. Zamenhof, in a letter to one N. Borovko, ca. 1895
After some ten years of development, which Zamenhof spent translating literature into Esperanto as well as writing original prose and verse, the first book of 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, 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 in different countries every year, except during the two World Wars. Since the Second World War, they have been attended by an average of over 2,000 and up to 6,000 people.
As a potential vehicle for international understanding, Esperanto attracted the suspicion of many totalitarian states. The situation was especially pronounced in Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan and the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin.
In Germany, there was additional motivation to persecute Esperanto because Zamenhof was Jewish. In his work, Mein Kampf, Hitler mentioned Esperanto as an example of a language that would be used by an International Jewish Conspiracy once they achieved world domination. Esperantists were killed during the Holocaust, with Zamenhof's family in particular singled out for murder.
In the early years of the Soviet Union, Esperanto was given a measure of government support, and an officially recognized Soviet Esperanto Association came into being. However, in 1937, Stalin reversed this policy. He denounced Esperanto as "the language of spies" and had Esperantists exiled or executed. The use of Esperanto was effectively banned until 1956.
Esperanto has never been an official language of any recognized country. However, there were plans at the beginning of the 20th century to establish Neutral Moresnet as the world's first Esperanto state. Qian Xuantong, a Chinese linguist, promoted the replacement of Chinese with Esperanto. In addition, the self-proclaimed artificial island micronation of Rose Island used Esperanto as its official language in 1968.
The U.S. Army has published military phrasebooks in Esperanto, to be used in wargames by mock enemy forces. 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 its actual use for radio communications was negligible.
Esperanto is the working language of several non-profit international organizations such as the Sennacieca Asocio Tutmonda; 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. Esperanto is also the first language of teaching and administration of one university, the International Academy of Sciences San Marino.
As a constructed language, Esperanto is not genealogically related to any ethnic language. It has been described as "a language lexically predominantly Romanic, morphologically intensively agglutinative, and to a certain degree isolating in character". 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 the Germanic languages. 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.
Typologically, Esperanto has prepositions and a free pragmatic word order that by default is subject-verb-object. Adjectives can be freely placed before or after the nouns they modify, though placing them before the noun is more common. New words are formed through extensive prefixing and suffixing.
Esperanto is written with a modified version of the Latin alphabet, including six letters with diacritics: ĉ, ĝ, ĥ, ĵ, ŝ (with circumflex) and ŭ (with breve). The alphabet does not include the letters q, w, x, or y except in unassimilated foreign names.
The 28-letter alphabet is:
All letters are pronounced approximately as in the IPA, with the exception of c and the letters with diacritics:
The letters with diacritics (found in the "Latin-Extended A" section of the Unicode Standard) once caused problems with printing and computing. This was particularly true with the five letters with circumflexes, as they do not occur in any other language. The diacritics are normally only a problem now with computing situations such as internet chat groups and databases that are limited to ASCII characters.
There are two principal workarounds to this problem, which substitute digraphs for the accented letters. Zamenhof, the inventor of Esperanto, created an "h-convention", which replaces ĉ, ĝ, ĥ, ĵ, ŝ, and ŭ with ch, gh, hh, jh, sh, and u, respectively. A more recent "x-convention" has gained ground since the advent of computing. This system replaces each diacritic with an x after the letter, producing the six digraphs cx, gx, hx, jx, sx, and ux. This latter system is useful for automated alphabetic word sorting, as each letter with a diacritic is ordered correctly after the preceding letter: for example, cxa comes correctly after cu, just as ĉa would. This system is also useful for simple computerized conversion back into the standard orthography, as there is no ambiguity.
There are computer keyboard layouts that support the Esperanto alphabet, and some systems use software that automatically substitutes x- or h-convention digraphs with the corresponding diacritic letters. One example of this is EK for Microsoft Windows.
Esperanto has 22 consonants, 5 vowels and 2 semivowels that combine with the vowels to form 6 diphthongs. (The consonant [j] and semivowel [i̯] are both written with the letter j.) Tone is not used to distinguish meanings of words. Stress is always on the penultimate vowel in fully Esperanto words unless a final vowel o is elided, a practice which occurs mostly in poetry. For example, familio "family" is [fa.mi.ˈli.o], with the stress on the i, but when the word is used without the final o (famili’), the stress remains on the i: [fa.mi.ˈli].
The 22 consonants are:
The sound [r] is usually rolled, but may be tapped [ɾ]. The [v] is normally pronounced like an English v, but may be pronounced [ʋ] (between English v and w) or [w], depending on the language background of the speaker. A semivowel [u̯] normally occurs only in diphthongs after the vowels [a] and [e], not as a consonant [w]. Common, if debated, assimilation includes the pronunciation of nk as [ŋk] and kz as [ɡz].
A large number of consonant clusters can occur, up to three in initial position (as in stranga, which means "strange") and four in medial position (as in instrui, meaning "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 also two semivowels, [i̯] and [u̯], which combine with the cardinal vowels to form six falling diphthongs: aj, ej, oj, uj, aŭ, and eŭ.
Since there are only five vowels, a good deal of variation in pronunciation is tolerated. For instance, e commonly ranges from [e] (French é) to [ɛ] (French è). These 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" ([he.ˈro.o] or [he.ˈro.ʔo]) and praavo "great-grandfather" ([pra.ˈa.vo] or [pra.ˈʔa.vo]).
Esperanto words are derived by stringing together prefixes, roots, and suffixes. This process is regular, so that people can create new words as they speak and be understood. Compound words are formed with a modifier-first, head-final order, as in English (compare "birdsong" and "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 in one of six tense and mood suffixes, such as the present tense -as.
Plural nouns end in -oj (pronounced like English "oy"), whereas direct objects end in -on. Plural direct objects end with the combination -ojn (pronounced to rhyme with "coin"); -o- indicates that the word is a noun, -j- indicates the plural, and -n indicates the accusative. Adjectives agree with their nouns; their endings are plural -aj (pronounced "eye"), accusative -an, and plural accusative -ajn (pronounced to rhyme with "fine").
The suffix -n, besides indicating the direct object, is used to indicate movement and a few other things as well.
The six verb inflections consist of 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 (used for wishes and commands). Verbs are not marked for person or number. For instance, kanti means "to sing", mi kantas means "I sing", vi kantas means "you sing", and ili kantas means "they sing".
Word order is comparatively free. Adjectives may precede or follow nouns; subjects, verbs and objects may occur in any order. However, the article la "the", demonstratives such as tiu "that" and prepositions (such as ĉe "at") must come before their related nouns. Similarly, the negative ne "not" and conjunctions such as kaj "and" and ke "that" must precede the phrase or clause that they introduce. In copular (A = B) clauses, word order is just as important as it is in English: "people are animals" is distinguished from "animals are people".
The core vocabulary of Esperanto was defined by Lingvo internacia, published by Zamenhof in 1887. This book listed 900 roots; these could be expanded into tens of thousands of words with prefixes, suffixes and compounding. In 1894, Zamenhof published the first Esperanto dictionary, Universala Vortaro, which had a larger set of roots. The rules of the language allowed speakers to borrow new roots as needed; it was recommended, however, that speakers use most international forms and then derive related meanings from these.
Since then, many words have been borrowed, primarily (but not solely) from the Western European languages. Not all proposed borrowings become widespread, but many do, especially technical and scientific terms. Terms for everyday use, on the other hand, are more likely to be derived from existing roots; komputilo "computer", for instance, is formed from the verb komputi "compute" and the suffix -ilo "tool". Words are also calqued; that is, words acquire new meanings based on usage in other languages. For example, the word muso "mouse" has acquired the meaning of a computer input device based on a parallel usage in English. Esperanto speakers often debate about whether a particular borrowing is justified or whether meaning can be expressed by deriving from or extending the meaning of existing words.
Some compounds and formed words in Esperanto are not entirely straightforward; for example, eldoni, literally "give out", means "publish", paralleling the usage of certain Western European languages (such as German). In addition, the suffix -um- has no defined meaning; words using the suffix must be learned separately (such as dekstren "to the right" and dekstrumen "clockwise").
There are not many idiomatic or slang words in Esperanto, as these forms of speech tend to make international communication difficult—working against Esperanto's main goal.
Below are listed some useful Esperanto words and phrases along with IPA transcriptions:
|Good morning||Bonan matenon||[ˈbo.nan ma.ˈte.non]|
|Good evening||Bonan vesperon||[ˈbo.nan ves.ˈpe.ron]|
|Good night||Bonan nokton||[ˈbo.nan ˈnok.ton]|
|Goodbye||Ĝis revido||[dʒis re.ˈvi.do]|
|What is your name?||Kiel vi nomiĝas?||[ˈki.el vi no.ˈmi.dʒas]|
|My name is John||Mi nomiĝas Johano||[mi no.ˈmi.dʒas jo.ˈha.no]|
|How are you?||Kiel vi fartas?||[ˈki.el vi ˈfar.tas]|
|Do you speak Esperanto?||Ĉu vi parolas Esperanton?||[ˈtʃu vi pa.ˈro.las es.pe.ˈran.ton]|
|I don't understand you||Mi ne komprenas vin||[mi ˈne kom.ˈpre.nas vin]|
|I love you||Mi amas vin||[mi ˈa.mas vin]|
|One beer, please||Unu bieron, mi petas||[ˈu.nu bi.ˈe.ron, mi ˈpe.tas]|
|What is that?||Kio estas tio?||[ˈki.o ˈes.tas ˈti.o]|
|That is a dog||Tio estas hundo||[ˈti.o ˈes.tas ˈhun.do]|
The following short extract gives an idea of the character of Esperanto. (Pronunciation is covered above; the main thing for English speakers to remember is that the Esperanto letter j has the sound of the English letter y.)
The majority of Esperanto speakers learn the language through self-directed study, online tutorials, and correspondence courses taught by volunteers. In more recent years, teaching websites like lernu! have become popular.
Esperanto instruction is occasionally available at schools, including four primary schools in a pilot project under the supervision of the University of Manchester, and by one count at 69 universities. However, outside China and Hungary, these mostly involve informal arrangements rather than dedicated departments or state sponsorship. Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest had a department of Interlinguistics and Esperanto from 1966 to 2004, after which time instruction moved to vocational colleges; there are state examinations for Esperanto instructors. In Brazil, an effort is being made to approve a law to teach Esperanto in public schools.
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. Claude Piron, a psychologist formerly at the University of Geneva and Chinese-English-Russian-Spanish translator for the United Nations, argued that Esperanto is far more intuitive than many ethnic languages. "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."
The Institute of Cybernetic Pedagogy at Paderborn (Germany) has compared the length of study time it takes Francophone high school students to obtain comparable 'standard' levels in Esperanto, English, German, and Italian. The results were:
It should be noted, however, that these figures can only reflect the respective learning difficulty of these languages for native French speakers. They should be compared to figures from other countries to allow for a more general perspective on the learning difficulty of Esperanto. It should be noted in the chart above, Italian would naturally be easier for French speakers to learn since they are both Romance languages, where German is a Germanic language, for example.
Four primary schools in Britain, with some 230 pupils, are currently following a course in "propedeutic Esperanto"—that is, instruction in Esperanto to raise language awareness and accelerate subsequent learning of foreign languages—under the supervision of the University of Manchester. Studies have been conducted in New Zealand, United States, Germany, Italy and Australia. The results of these studies were favorable and demonstrated that studying Esperanto before another foreign language expedites the acquisition of the other, natural, language. This appears to be 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, a group of European secondary 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 have been found for other combinations of native and second languages, as well as for arrangements in which the course of study was reduced to two years, of which six months is spent learning Esperanto.
Esperanto is by far the most widely spoken constructed language in the world. Speakers are most numerous in Europe and East Asia, especially in urban areas. 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 in Africa.
An estimate of the number of Esperanto speakers was made by Sidney S. Culbert, a retired psychology professor at the University of Washington and a longtime Esperantist, who tracked down and tested Esperanto speakers in sample areas in 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.). 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 isn't Zamenhof's goal of a universal language, but it represents a level of popularity unmatched by any other constructed language.
Marcus Sikosek (now Ziko van Dijk) has challenged this figure of 1.6 million as exaggerated. He 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. Van Dijk 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.
Finnish linguist Jouko Lindstedt, an expert on native-born Esperanto speakers, presented the following scheme 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:
In 2009 Lu Wunsch-Rolshoven used 2001 year census data from Hungary and Lithuania as a base for an estimate, resulting in approximately 160,000 to 300,000 to speak the language actively or fluently throughout the world, with about 80,000 to 150,000 of these being in the European Union.
Ethnologue relates estimates that there are 200 to 2000 native Esperanto speakers (denaskuloj), who have learned the language from birth from their Esperanto-speaking parents. This usually happens when Esperanto is the chief or only common language in an international family, but sometimes occurs in a family of devoted Esperantists.
The most famous native speaker of Esperanto is businessman George Soros. Teodoro Schwartz, his father, was an Esperantist. Also notable is young Holocaust victim Petr Ginz, whose drawing of the planet Earth as viewed from the moon was carried aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia in 2003 (STS-107).
Esperanto speakers can access an international culture, including a large body of original as well as translated literature. There are over 25,000 Esperanto books, both originals and translations, as well as several regularly distributed Esperanto magazines. Esperanto speakers use the language for free accommodations with Esperantists in 92 countries using the Pasporta Servo or to develop pen pal friendships abroad through the Esperanto Pen Pal Service.
Every year, 1,500–3,000 Esperanto speakers meet for the World Congress of Esperanto (Universala Kongreso de Esperanto). The European Esperanto Union (Eŭropa Esperanto-Unio) regroups the national Esperanto associations of the EU member states and holds congresses every two years. The most recent was in Maribor, Slovenia, in July-August 2007. It attracted 256 delegates from 28 countries, including two members of the European Parliament, Ms. Małgorzata Handzlik of Poland and Ms. Ljudmila Novak of Slovenia.
Historically, much Esperanto music, such as Kaj Tiel Plu, has been in various folk traditions. In recent decades, more rock and other modern genres have appeared, an example being that of the Swedish band Persone. There is also a variety of classical and semi-classical choral music, both original and translated, as well as large ensemble music that includes voices singing Esperanto texts. Lou Harrison, who incorporated styles and instruments from many world cultures in his music, used Esperanto titles and/or texts in several of his works, most notably La Koro-Sutro (1973). David Gaines used Esperanto poems as well as an excerpt from a speech by Dr. Zamenhof for his Symphony No. 1 (Esperanto) for mezzo-soprano and orchestra (1994–98). He wrote original Esperanto text for his Povas plori mi ne plu (I Can Cry No Longer) for unaccompanied SATB choir (1994).
Detractors of Esperanto occasionally criticize it as "having no culture". Proponents, such as Prof. Humphrey Tonkin of the University of Hartford, 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 national culture." The late Scottish Esperanto author William Auld has written extensively on the subject, arguing that Esperanto is "the expression of a common human culture, unencumbered by national frontiers. Thus it is considered a culture on its own." Others point to Esperanto's potential for strengthening a common European identity, as it combines features of several European languages.
Some of the best-known authors of works in Esperanto are:
Esperanto has been used in a number of films and novels. Typically, this is done either to add the exotic flavour of a foreign language without representing any particular ethnicity, or to avoid going to the trouble of inventing a new language. The Charlie Chaplin film The Great Dictator (1940) showed Jewish ghetto shops designated in Esperanto, each with the general Esperanto suffix -ejo (meaning "place for..."), in order to convey the atmosphere of some 'foreign' East European country without referencing any particular East European language.
Two full-length feature films have been produced with dialogue entirely in Esperanto: Angoroj, in 1964, and Incubus, a 1965 B-movie horror film. Canadian actor William Shatner learned Esperanto to a limited level so that he could star in Incubus. In Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927) shop and road signs in Esperanto appear in many background scenes.
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 (1997), in which Esperanto can be overheard on the public address system. In the 1994 film Street Fighter, Esperanto is the native language of the fictional country of Shadaloo, and in a barracks scene the soldiers of villain M. Bison sing a rousing Russian Army-style chorus, the "Bison Troopers Marching Song", in the language. Esperanto is also spoken and appears on signs in the film Blade: Trinity.
In the British comedy Red Dwarf, Arnold Rimmer is seen attempting to learn Esperanto in a number of early episodes, including Kryten. In the first season, signs on the titular spacecraft are in both English and Esperanto. Esperanto is used as the universal language in the far future of Harry Harrison's Stainless Steel Rat and Deathworld stories.
Musician Stephen Kellogg has acknowledged that his song "Shady Esperanto and the Young Hearts" from his 2009 album "The Bear" is a reference to the language of Esperanto. In his song, though, Shady Esperanto is a character.
The opening song 'Memoro de la Ŝtono' in the popular Video Game Final Fantasy XI was written in Esperanto. This was the first game in the series that was online and the composer Nobuo Uematsu felt that Esperanto was a good language to symbolize worldwide unity. It has been performed worldwide.
In 1921 the French Academy of Sciences recommended using Esperanto for international scientific communication. A few scientists and mathematicians, such as Maurice Fréchet (mathematics), John C. Wells (linguistics), Helmar Frank (pedagogy and cybernetics), and Nobel laureate Reinhard Selten (economics) have published part of their work in Esperanto. Frank and Selten were among the founders of the International Academy of Sciences in San Marino, sometimes called the "Esperanto University", where Esperanto is the primary language of teaching and administration.
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", or pracelistoj, from pracelo, meaning "original goal". 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.
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. It was proposed to Zamenhof by Irishman Richard Geoghegan, author of the first Esperanto textbook for English speakers, in 1887. The flag was approved in 1905 by delegates to the first conference of Esperantists at Boulogne-sur-Mer. A version with an "E" superimposed over the green star is sometimes seen. 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 1987, a second flag design was chosen in a contest organized by the UEA celebrating 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 the "melono" (melon) because of the design's elliptical shape. It is still in use, though to a lesser degree than the traditional symbol, known as the "verda stelo" (green star).
Esperanto has been placed in many proposed political situations. The most popular of these is the Europe – Democracy – Esperanto, which aims to establish Esperanto as the official language of the European Union. The Irish political party Éirígí has recently adopted the green star as its emblem partly in support of Esperanto as an international language instead of English.
Various volumes of the Bahá'í literatures and other Baha'i books have been translated into Esperanto.
In 1908, spiritist Camilo Chaigneau wrote an article named "Spiritism and Esperanto" in the periodic "La Vie d'Outre-Tombe" recommending the use of Esperanto in a "central magazine" for all spiritists and esperantists.
Esperanto then became actively promoted, at least in Brazil, by spiritists. The Brazilian Spiritist Federation publishes Esperanto coursebooks, translations of Spiritism's basic books, and encourages Spiritists to become Esperantists.
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 by a group of British clergy and scholars before its publication 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, the Internacia Asocio de Bibliistoj kaj Orientalistoj tried to organize a new, ecumenical Esperanto Bible version. Since then, the Dutch Remonstrant 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 have appeared in recent editions of the Londona Biblio.
Christian Esperanto organizations include two that were formed early in the history of Esperanto:
Individual churches using Esperanto include:
Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran called on Muslims to learn Esperanto and praised its use as a medium for better understanding among peoples of different religious backgrounds. After he suggested that Esperanto replace English as an international lingua franca, it began to be used in the seminaries of Qom. An Esperanto translation of the Qur'an was published by the state shortly thereafter. In 1981, Khomeini and the Iranian government began to oppose Esperanto after realising that followers of the Bahá'í Faith were interested in it. The founder of 'Pakistana Esperanto-Asocio' Prof. Allama Muztar Abbasi from Murree Pakistan wrote several books on Esperanto and compiled the Esperanto-Urduo Vortaro (Esperanto-Urdu dictionary). Moreover, he is the first Pakistani who translated Qur'an from its original text into Esperanto. The translation of Qur'an with the name of Vera Libro was published in 2000.
Esperanto was conceived as a language of international communication, more precisely as a universal second language. Since publication, there has been debate over whether it is possible for Esperanto to attain this position, and whether it would be an improvement for international communication if it did; Esperanto proponents have also been criticized for diverting public funds to encourage its study over more useful national languages.
Since Esperanto is a planned language, there have been many criticisms of minor points. An example is Zamenhof's choice of the word edzo over something like spozo for "husband, spouse", or his choice of the Classic Greek and Old Latin singular and plural endings -o, -oj, -a, -aj over their Medieval contractions -o, -i, -a, -e. (Both these changes were adopted by the Ido reform, though Ido dispensed with adjectival agreement altogether.) Some more common examples of general criticism include the following:
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 Universal, were based on Esperanto.
In modern times, attempts have been made to eliminate perceived sexism in the language. One example of this is Riism. However, as Esperanto has become a living language, changes are as difficult to implement as in ethnic languages.
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