Dr. Esperanto’s International Language, usually referred to as Unua Libro (First Book), was first published on this this date in 1887 in Russian. It was the first publication to describe Esperanto, then called the International Language (Esperanto: Internacia Lingvo). It was first published in Warsaw by Polish oculist Ludvic Lazarus Zamenhof. Over the next few years editions were published in Polish, Russian, Hebrew, French, German, and English. This booklet included the Lord’s Prayer, some Bible verses, a letter, poetry, the 16 rules of grammar and 900 roots of vocabulary. In the book Zamenhof declared, “an international language, like a national one, is common property” and renounced all rights to the language, effectively putting it into the public domain. Zamenhof signed the work as “Doktoro Esperanto” (Doctor One-Who-Hopes). Those who learned the new language began to call it “Esperanto” after Zamenhof’s pen name, and Esperanto soon became the official name of the language.
The first English edition, entitled Dr Esperanto’s International Tongue, was translated by Julian Steinhaus. When Richard H. Geoghegan pointed out that Steinhaus’s translation was in very poor English throughout, Zamenhof destroyed his remaining copies and engaged Geoghegan to produce a fresh translation. In 1905, Zamenhof re-published the 16 rules of grammar, in combination with a dictionary and a collection of exercises, in a work entitled Fundamento de Esperanto (Foundation of Esperanto).
I can understand why Zamenhof got the idea to create a universal language (just about), but I vehemently disapprove for a host of reasons. Perhaps of greatest importance is that language and culture are so deeply entwined that they cannot, nor should, be separated. The English language, for example, contains embedded in it all the history of English-speaking peoples along with their poetry, drama, and prose, their loves, fears, and joys, and all there is that makes them who they are. Language is identity. Furthermore, every language can be broken down into dialects which root segments of the larger language family in local culture. Standardizing languages so that all speakers use one dialect (typically the dialect of the rich and powerful) is an act of tyranny that robs local populations of their specialness. Standardizing ALL languages to one, single, global language may not be as tyrannical, but it is still a horrible idea. Would you like to selectively hybridize all animals and all plants so that you have one (highly nutritious) meat and one vegetable? We should revel in linguistic diversity, not eliminate it.
I understand Zamenhof’s motives. He was born and grew up in a part of Poland where there were 4 languages used – Polish, German, Yiddish, and Russian. There were deep divisions between the 4 communities and Zamenhof thought that if they all had a common language they would get along better. He wrote:
The place where I was born and spent my childhood gave direction to all my future struggles. In Białystok 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.
He’s right that the division of people into groups who look upon each other as enemies is evil, but this state of affairs is not created by language nor will speaking a common language remove it. A modern anthropologist could have set him straight and saved him a lot of trouble.
Zamenhof equally believed that it was possible to create a language that was easy to learn by simplifying the grammar and the vocabulary. This agenda is misguided in a host of ways, although I applaud his invention of a phonetic alphabet for Esperanto. Literacy in Europe was greatly enhanced in certain regions when spelling and pronunciation were standardized by academies. English missed the boat in this regard, and it’s too late now to change it. But even here there are problems. The Esperanto alphabet could be used for English without too much hardship I suppose, but do you really want Russians, Israelis, Arabs, and Koreans to give up their alphabets? Korean Hangul is Korea’s pride. They even have a special day set aside to honor its invention. Serbs and Croats speak dialects of the same language, but Croats use the Roman alphabet and Serbs use Cyrillic and are fiercely defensive of their separate systems, and don’t want to give them up because they represent the differences between the two peoples. When you get into systems of writing that are not alphabetic or even syllabic, such as Chinese characters, things get even more complex. You can write Chinese in an alphabetic system called Pinyin, and all Chinese speakers can read Pinyin. But it is rarely used by native speakers. They prefer using Chinese characters because the characters themselves contain layered meanings which get destroyed by using Pinyin.
Esperanto should be classified as an Indo-European language, and, as such, its supposed simplicity is limited to people who speak Indo-European languages, and make it much harder for speakers from other language families. For example, Esperanto uses plurals for nouns (and adjectives), but many non-Indo-European languages do not. My Mandarin Chinese teacher once asked me what the point of plurals was. Mandarin does not use them. He asked me once, “Why say ‘one dog, two dogs’ when ‘one dog, two dog’ is perfectly understandable?” The phonology, grammar, vocabulary, and semantics are based on the Indo-European languages spoken in Europe. The sound inventory is essentially Slavic, as is much of the semantics, whereas the vocabulary derives primarily from the Romance languages, with a lesser contribution from Germanic languages and minor contributions from Slavic languages and Greek. Pragmatics and other aspects of the language not specified by Zamenhof’s original documents were influenced by the native languages of early authors, primarily Russian, Polish, German, and French.
Esperanto words are mostly derived by stringing together roots, grammatical endings, and at times prefixes 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,” and Esperanto, birdokanto and kantobirdo). Speakers may optionally insert an o between the words in a compound noun if placing them together directly without the o would make the resulting word hard to say or understand.
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. Nouns and adjectives have two cases: nominative for grammatical subjects and in general, and accusative for direct objects and (after a preposition) to indicate direction of movement.
Singular nouns used as grammatical subjects end in -o, plural subject nouns in -oj (pronounced [oi̯] like English “oy”). Singular direct object forms end in -on, and plural direct objects with the combination -ojn ([oi̯n]; rhymes with “coin”): -o- indicates that the word is a noun, -j- indicates the plural, and -n indicates the accusative (direct object) case. Adjectives agree with their nouns; their endings are singular subject -a ([a]; rhymes with “ha!”), plural subject -aj ([ai̯], pronounced “eye”), singular object -an, and plural object -ajn ([ai̯n]; rhymes with “fine”).
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. Thus, kanti means “to sing”, mi kantas means “I sing”, vi kantas means “you sing”, and ili kantas means “they sing.”
To give you the “flavor” of Esperanto, in a figurative as well as a literal sense, here’s a recipe in Esperanto taken from this site — http://apetito.ikso.net If you are at all conversant with Romance or Slavic languages you’ll get the drift. My Google translator will help you if you are stuck. It’s basically eggplant Parmesan. Full pictures can be found here — http://apetito.ikso.net/recepto/parmigiana
Parmigiana estas tre bongusta itala plado simila al lasanjoj, sed kun tranĉaĵoj de panumita melongeno anstataŭ pastaĵoj. Ĝi ne estas tre malfacila, sed la preparado povas esti sufiĉe longa (ĝis du horoj). Eblas panumi la melongenon, konservi ĝin en fridujo kaj daŭrigi la preparadon poste.
Ingrediencoj por 8 personoj (konvertilo)
1,5 aŭ 2 kg da melongenoj aŭ celeria tubero (prefere havu tro multe ol ne sufiĉe)
Por la saŭco:
1 L da tomata saŭco
Iom da olivoleo (aŭ alia oleo)
250 g da fromaĝo (eblas uzi ekzemple mocarelon kun parmezano; en la fotoj ni uzis oštiepok, slovakan ŝafan fromaĝon)
Salo, se vi ne uzas tre salan fromaĝon
Paŝo 1 Tranĉu la cepon en etajn pecojn kaj metu ilin en poton kun oleo.
Paŝo 2 Kiam la cepoj flaviĝas, aldonu la tomatan saŭcon. Lasu la saŭcon kuiriĝi sur malforta fajro dum duonhoro (aŭ dum vi faros la ceteron de la recepto).
Paŝo 3 Senŝeligu kaj tranĉu la celerion aŭ melongenon en maldikajn tranĉaĵojn (1 cm aŭ malpli).
Paŝo 4 Ĉar celerio estas iom malmola, ni metis ĝin en bolantan akvon dum kelkaj minutoj (sufiĉe por moligi ĝin, sed ne tro longe por ne forigi la guston). Kun melongenoj tio ne necesas.
Paŝo 5 Preparu la lokon por panumado: en profundan teleron miksu la du ovojn (eblas aldoni iom da lakto por havi pli da likvaĵo). Metu sur du aliajn telerojn farunon kaj panerojn. Varmigu en pato sufiĉe multe da oleo, por povi komplete mergi la legomtranĉaĵojn.
Paŝo 6 Por ĉiu peco de legomo: metu ĝin en farunon, poste en ovaĵon, poste en panerojn. Ili devas esti bone kovritaj ambaŭflanke.
Paŝo 7 Fritu la panumitajn legompecojn en oleo.
Paŝo 8 Kovru la fundon de plado per iom da tomata saŭco. Poste faru tavolon da legomaj tranĉaĵoj. Ne lasu tro grandajn truojn inter la pecoj, bezonkaze vi povas tranĉi ilin.
Paŝo 9 Kovru tion per tomata saŭco. La frititaĵoj devas esti bone kovritaj, sed ne naĝi en tomata saŭco. Ne hezitu ŝmiri per kulero. Aldonu pinĉaĵon da salo, se vi ne uzas tre salan fromaĝon.
Paŝo 10 Aldonu tavolon da fromaĝo (depende de la fromaĝo, ĝi estu raspita aŭ maldike tranĉita).
Paŝo 11 Rekomencu la paŝojn 8 ĝis 10 por fari 3 aŭ 4 etaĝojn, depende de la kvanto da ingrediencoj.
Paŝo 12 Enfornigu por 20 aŭ 25 minutoj.