Pros and Cons of Esperanto as a World Language

Term Paper, 2002
16 Pages, Grade: 1,3



1. Introduction

2. L.L. Zamenhof and the Development of Esperanto

3. The Fundamento
3.1 Parts of Speech
3.2 General Principles

4. Psychological Aspects of Esperanto
4.1 Esperanto and Identity
4.2 Esperanto- A Monster?
4.3 Esperanto and Freedom

5. Linguistic Aspects of Esperanto
5.1 The Grammatical Rules
5.2 Accented Letters
5.3 Morphology

6. Cultural Aspects of Esperanto
6.1 Education
6.2 Esperanto vs. the Variety of Cultures?
6.3 Esperanto and Global Communication
6.4 Esperanto- A Purely European language?
6.5 Esperanto and the Church
6.6 Political Aspects of Esperanto

7. Conclusion

8. Bibliography

1. Introduction

Esperanto is a planned language[1] which was designed in 1887 by L.L. Zamenhof, an . ophthalmologist from Bialystock, Poland.

In his childhood and youth, he was confronted with several different ethnic groups and consequently, he also got in contact with the different languages of those groups. Because of this circumstance, he realised that multilingualism causes several problems which I will write about in this paper.

By creating Esperanto as an international communication medium Zamenhof wanted to overcome the misunderstandings caused by the variety of existing languages. With the help of Esperanto, he wanted to ease global communication.

In this paper, I want to give a short overview about the life of Zamenhof and the development of Esperanto. I will then turn towards the Fundamento, which contains the 16 rules the users of Esperanto have to consider.

Afterwards, I will look at Esperanto under consideration of the psychological, linguistic and cultural aspects of Esperanto and show some of the advantages and disadvantages it has.

It is not the aim of this paper to decide whether Esperanto is fits to the needs of a world language. What I want is to give some food for thoughts for further discussions.

2. L.L. Zamenhof and the Development of Esperanto

L.L. Zamenhof was born on December 15 1859 in the town of Bialystock which now belongs to Poland and is situated close to the border with Belarus. During his childhood there were people of four different nations around him: Russians, Poles, Germans and Jews. For this reason, he used Russian at home and Polish on the streets. At school, he was brilliant in German, French, Latin and Greek. With the help of his father, he worked on the improvement of his Hebrew and some say that he also spoke some Lithuanian. But despite of his linguistic abilities and knowledge, the occupation with languages was not a pleasure for him(cf. Janton 1978: 21, 22).

Before leaving school in 1879, his first attempt of a world language was finished. That he knew the pain caused by communication problems between different social groups will always characterize Zamenhof among the authors of planned languages. For him, developing an international language was one step on the way to global understanding between people with different cultural backgrounds. (cf. Janton 1978: 22)

In 1886, Zamenhof specialised in ophthalmology and in 1887, the year when he married Clara Zilbernick, he published his first brochure Lingvo Internacia which contained a detailed introduction, in which Zamenhof pointed out how much time and work it means to learn foreign languages and how much misunderstandings are caused by the variety of different languages in the world. In his introduction, he also explained his reasons for developing an international planned language and the advantages such a language would have in many fields of life. (cf. Janton 1978: 23)

Lingvo Internacia also contained the Fundamento, which I will write about in section 3 of this paper. The Fundamento consists of the “16 Rules of Grammar fundamental to the International Language”(Ulrich 2002: par. 3.1) and of some examples for the different rules ”(cf. Ulrich 2002: par. 3.1).

The Fundamento still exists in the same way it was published by Zamenhof in 1887. In the 90s, there was a voting in which the subscribers of the magazine La Esperantisto decided that there should not be any changes in the Fundamento in the future (cf. Von Wahl: par. 7).

3. The Fundamento

As I already mentioned in section 2 of this paper, the Fundamento consists of 16 rules. Rules 1-8 concern the parts of speech in Esperanto. Rules 9-16 are about the general principles of Esperanto (cf. Gledhill 1998: 9).

All of the following rules are taken from the book “Einführung in die Esperantologie” by Pierre Janton, pages 38-39.

3.1 Parts of Speech

1. There is only one article, the definite, invariable article la.
2. The noun is defined by the ending –o (urbo: town). The plural ends in –j (urboj: towns) The accusative case ends in –n (urbon, urbojn)
3. The adjective is characterised by -a (primitiva: primitive) and does not change depending on gender . The plural ends in –j and the accusative in –n (primitivaj, primitivan, primitivajn). The comparative is expressed with the help of pli...ol (pli primitiva ol: more primitive than) and the superlative by plej...el (plej primitiva el: the most primitive of)
4. The numerals are: unu, du, tri, kvar, kvin, ses, sep, ok, na ǔ , dek (10), cent (100) and mil (1000).They are invariable.
5. The pronouns are: mi, vi, li (used for male persons), ŝ i (for female persons), ĝ i (“it”), si (“himself/herself/itself”), ni, vi, ili and oni (expressing the impersonal pronoun). The accusative case is formed by adding the ending –n. To form possessive pronouns that are used as adjectives or nouns, –a is added and then, they can be declined like adjectives.
6. The verb changes neither in gender nor in number: -as expresses present tense, -is past tense and -os stands for future tense.
7. The ending of the adverbs is –e (bone: good).
8. All prepositions require the nominative.

3.2 General Principles

9. Every word is pronounced in the same way it is spelled.
10. When words have more than one syllable, the accent is placed at the penultimate syllable.
11. To form compound words it is possible to add their roots. The headword is at the end of the compound word (buterpano: a slice of bread and butter).
12. There is no double negation. Negation is expressed by the ending –ne.
13. Words expressing a direction, the way where one goes, are used in the accusative case (Mi iras Parizon.: I go to Paris.).
14. Every preposition has a certain meaning. In case of doubt the preposition je is used, which has no certain meaning.
15. Foreign words that are taken over into Esperanto get the inflection and spelling of the International Language.
16. It is possible to replace the final vowels –o (nouns) and -a (definite article la) by an apostrophe (de l´mond=de la mondo).

4. Psychological Aspects of Esperanto

Nowadays language is not only an important part of communication in our everyday life but also a part of our personality.

In this part of my paper I want to show that Esperanto influences our psyche in many ways. There are different attitudes towards the psychological effects of Esperanto.

My aim is to write about some of them now.


[1] A planned language is a project to develop a new language on the basis of existing languages, and whose aim is to create an international medium of communication. (Gledhill 1998: 3)

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Pros and Cons of Esperanto as a World Language
Technical University of Chemnitz
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Pros, Cons, Esperanto, World, Language
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Nadine Pagel (Author), 2002, Pros and Cons of Esperanto as a World Language, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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